All disasters are local, and community groups form the backbone of response. Scientific research is critical for understanding the characteristics of a disaster, documenting adverse outcomes, and testing strategies for preventing disasters and reducing their harms. Disaster science has typically been performed by professional researchers. But, today, the public has a much bigger role to play. The field of citizen science may hold the key to performing better research and delivering better results for communities everywhere. Citizen science, also sometimes called community science or street science, is public engagement in scientific research as scientists rather than study subjects. When applied to disasters, the field is called disaster citizen science. With the invention of new technologies, scientific knowledge, tools, and methods have become accessible to everyone in ways that did not exist before. By harnessing these advancements, community groups could obtain data that answer critical questions while using an approach that is inherently designed to promote public participation, education, and understanding of science. Everyone benefits.

The authors designed this toolkit to provide guidance to a broad range of community groups (e.g., volunteer or faith-based institutions, social service organizations, private or other nonprofit organizations) on designing and implementing disaster citizen science projects. It is primarily directed toward groups that are interested in creating and leading their own projects, small or large, rather than supporting projects carried out by others.

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The research described in this report was prepared for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted by the Community Health and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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