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OPAL explore nature: citizen science initiative

OPAL explore nature: citizen science initiative

The project: The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network is a UK wide citizen science initiative that allows people to get hands-on with nature, whatever age, background or level of ability.

Funded by the Big Lottery Fund it began in 2007, operating across England. Since January 2014, it has begun expanding into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland thanks to a further grant. The OPAL network is led by Imperial College London and includes leading museums, universities and environmental organisations across the UK. Glasgow City of Science is one of the partners. For further information on OPAL see

The challenge: Citizen science can broadly be defined as the involvement of volunteers in science. Citizen science projects like OPAL play a vital role in scientific research and education, and the potential to help meet some of the challenging demands of environmental monitoring on a national scale.

The purpose: To increase public engagement in science and promote behaviour change in relation to environmental sustainability. Scientists will work with local people to carry out a major study of the outdoor environments where they live and work.

Over the three years of the project Glasgow City of Science is charged with reaching 9000 local people including primary school children, young offenders, community groups from disadvantaged communities, and providing training for a number of teachers and community workers.

The people and partners: The OPAL UK portfolio is led by Imperial College, London and Glasgow City of Science is a new partner in this project and will work with its own partner organisations to deliver the project.

The outcomes: This is a three year project and is currently in its first year. So far (May 2014) we have employed Joanne Dempster as our OPAL Community Scientist and introduced OPAL products to over 350 members of uniformed groups (scouts, guides, boys and girls brigade).

The proposed impact: It is hoped that the impact of massive and collaborative "crowdsourcing" for scientific and educational endeavours through the OPAL project will boost understanding and conserving what we can of the natural world. The long term outcomes for the Glasgow City of Science project will be to:

  • get more people outside observing and recording the world around them.
  • develop an innovative educational programme to provide the tools and support needed for biological recording.
  • inspire a new generation of environmentalists.
  • support and encourage collaboration between the voluntary, statutory and community sectors and
  • gain a greater understanding of the state of the environment, thus contributing to research and policy development.

This case study was published in July 2014.



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