A recursive research process for citizen science?

In the citizen science approach, the type of research process should be able to support different types of disciplines working together to achieve some kind of positive change in society. Design research as a participation methodology could possible support the shaping of a citizen science project.

When you look at the discipline of design the iterative process​ ​has become ​mainstream. From every step or phase​ like ​empathize, discover, test or ideate, the best options are incorporated into the next step. Inevitable this ​means you leave some of the knowledge in the previous steps behind. In transdisciplinary cooperation using different the types of expertise knowledge, which is typically for citizen science, the ‘leaving behind’ of insights might weaken the solution or outcome instead of strengthening it. In a worst-case scenario one discipline could disappear completely.

Using the waterfall model means that the project is divided into different phases beforehand. When an error is discovered in one of the stages, you go back to correct that stage and repeat the subsequent steps. ​This error is recognizable because this process is mostly used, as far as I have been able to identify, in the field of developing software programming codes. Working in a fixed frame where something works yes or no is, although the code itself has its quality, is different compared to a design process where the requirements for the solution are more open ended and discovered during the process itself. This makes it almost impossible to detect an ‘error’ before the testing or validation phase.

Another important condition of the waterfall model is that ​you would have to have a clear view on the steps to be taken and the preferred outcome. ​In a citizen science approach ​​to ​pre-defin​e​ steps​ ​for cooperative research between citizen scientists and academic scientist is very hard and maybe these steps shouldn’t be defined at all to give room to an equal cooperation between different kind of experts.

On the other hand, in a recursive process you go back to the beginning a few times, errors or not. Working in a recursive way is more like an ongoing process​ using all the knowledge and insights concerning an issue​​. In a recursive process you could ‘stack knowledge’. For this type of ‘stacking knowledge process’ you necessarily would need stop-moments to reflect, describe, combine and re-negotiate type of methods, tools, time, roles and provisional outcome(s), to make the research project manageable. At the same time you could keep track of the knowledge arising from working together during these so-called stop-moments or even better touchpoints. Subsequently deciding on the steps of the research process could be part of the research project itself, using design methodology and tools.

A recursive design process in a citizen science approach would prevent different types of knowledge from getting lost in the process, pre-fixed steps that might not work for all disciplines involved and on the other hand could support an open-ended outcome or different type of outcomes.