Relationships in Scientist-Teacher Partnerships Built Around Citizen Science Projects

In school-based citizen science, students participate in the scientific research processes as part of their school curricula, often as part of a scientists-led research and under the guidance of their teachers. Such projects are often dependent on a fruitful establishment of a scientist-teacher partnership, through which scientists and teachers co-lead the project, with or with the support of citizen science specialists.

The ultimate goal of the partnership is to produce mutual benefits and a positive impact on both scientific research and student learning. However, scientists and teachers may find that achieving this goal is challenging. Both sides bring to the relationship their own professional expertise, yet are faced with roles and tasks they are not accustomed to – teachers are not familiar with a particular scientific domain’s body of knowledge and methodology, while scientists are not used to working with school systems and school children. Their capacity to navigate these untreaded waters, as well as their partners’ evaluation of this capacity, are part of the delicate balance of considerations that directs the design and implementation of the project, ultimately determining the affordances provided to all participants.

School-based citizen science inherently blurs traditional roles within both scientific research and school-based education. This is reflected in the scientist-teacher partnerships that are built around them, bringing forward questions regarding hierarchies of knowledge and expertise, distribution of roles, and who holds power in the knowledge creation process. This study contends with such questions by examining what motivates scientists and teachers to take part in school-based citizen science, and how scientists and teachers involved in such projects perceive their relationships, their roles within them, and the benefits they produce.


Nine cases of scientist-teacher partnerships built around nine different citizen science projects were examined, each case represented by one of the teachers and one of the scientists that collaborated in a mutual project. A questionnaire was constructed to examine motivations, perceived costs and benefits, and perceived power relations within the partnerships, towards the ultimate goal of examining relationships between the schools and the scientists and determining what may support the establishment of mutualistic partnerships. The results of the study are to be published in two upcoming papers.

Project Members

Osnat Atias
Prof. Ayelet Baram-Tsabari
Prof. Ayelet Shavit
Prof. Yael Kali (University of Haifa)


Accepted for publishing: Atias, O., Baram-Tsabari, A., Kali, Y., Shavit A. (forthcoming). In pursuit of mutual benefits in school-based citizen science: Who wins what in a win-win situation? Instructional Science.

Atias, O., Baram-Tsabari, A., Kali, Y., & Shavit, A. (2022, March). Scientists’ and Teachers’ Perceptions of Costs and Benefits in School-Based Citizen Science [Poster presentation]. 2022 NARST Annual International Conference, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Poster (PDF)    Short Video

Atias, O., Baram-Tsabari, A., Kali, Y., & Shavit, A. (2022, March). Motivations of Scientists and Teachers to Collaborate in School-Based Citizen Science Projects [Paper presentation]. 2022 NARST Annual International Conference, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Short Article    Presentation (PDF)    Presentation (Video)

Atias, O., Kali, Y., & Baram-Tsabari, A. (2022, February). Equals in Partnership? Perceptions of Expertise in Teacher-Scientist Partnerships Built Around Citizen Science Projects (Short Paper) [Paper presentation]. The 17th Chais Conference on the Study of Innovation and Learning Technologies: Learning in the Digital Era, Ra’anana, Israel.

Short Article (In Hebrew)        Presentation (PDF, In Hebrew)