IIASA researchers have contributed to a new global campaign that illustrates the centrality of data to sustainable development with a project that uses citizen science to monitor marine litter in Ghana for official UN Sustainable Development Goals reporting.

The international data, statistics and development communities have united within the global campaign, Data for Change, to demonstrate how more and better data and statistics are an accelerator for sustainable development.

The new campaign mobilizes a broad coalition of partners to present interactive multimedia stories about how timely, high-quality, and disaggregated data and statistics are leading to life-changing policies and advancing progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

IIASA researchers worked with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics, the Ghana Statistical Service, the UN Environment Program, and other partners on the Citizen Science for the SDGs Ghana (CS4SDGs) project which uses citizen science approaches to monitor marine litter as part of SDG indicator 14.1.1b (index of plastic debris density). The project was motivated by an earlier IIASA-led systematic review mapping citizen science methodologies to the SDGs.

Marine litter inflicts enormous damage on Ghana, whose coastline stretches more than 550 kilometers and is home to an estimated 3 million people. Monitoring marine litter is important for understanding how it impacts the natural environment, for informing national policy, and for building consumer awareness of issues related to the use of plastics. However, due to the vastness of the oceans, this can prove logistically challenging and expensive.

“One of the key goals of the project was to harness existing networks and citizen science initiatives already taking place in country to foster more efficient and sustainable data collection that feeds into official SDG monitoring and reporting processes. It has been a great success; For the first time in Ghana, the country will report on SDG 14.1.1b and citizen science data will contribute to reporting an SDG indicator and help shape policies and national strategies. It shows other countries and global data and statistics communities how citizen science data can be used officially for SDG monitoring” explains Dilek Fraisl, IIASA researcher and Citizen Science for the SDGs Project Coordinator.

“We are delighted that the CS4SDGs is showcased in the Data for Change storymap campaign. To achieve global monitoring of the SDG framework, new sources of data like citizen science are essential as traditional means of data collection are too expensive to cover all 231 indicators on a regular, representative basis”, says Linda See, IIASA senior researcher.

The campaign is coordinated by the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) and financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). It aims to raise awareness in the run-up to the 2021 United Nations World Data Forum, taking place in Bern during 3-6 October 2021. The event brings together data experts and users who aim to spur data innovation, mobilize high-level political and financial support for data, and build a pathway to better data for sustainable development.

Visit the CS4SDGs project storymap and sign up for the Data for Change newsletter to stay involved.

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