Adopting a Citizen Science Approach in Translational Experimental Medicine Research in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Study Protocol
Shah SGS., Barrado-Martín Y., Marjot T., Tomlinson JW., Kiparoglou V.
Citizen science approaches are widely and successfully used in biological, environmental, and ecological sciences; however, they are rarely applied in other domains, such as translational health research, notably in the field of liver disease and metabolism. We have designed a study that aims to explore the application of the citizen science approach in a translational experimental medicine study on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and a 12-week lifestyle and weight loss program. In this methodological paper, we describe the process of involving citizen scientists in the study. We will recruit a convenience sample of 31 participants (with and without NAFLD) and a half-dozen citizen scientists (members of the public). Citizen scientists will work alongside clinical and non-clinical researchers in a translational experimental medicine study on NAFLD. Citizen scientists will be involved in the co-design and/or review of data collection tools (e.g., semi-structured open-ended questionnaire surveys and semi-structured wellbeing diaries completed by the participants), co-analysis of data on participants’ experiences and motivations, co-drafts of research findings and papers, and suggestions for policy recommendations. Citizen scientists will be trained in the research tasks they will undertake, and will be either co-authors or their names will be mentioned in the acknowledgements in research paper(s) based on the level of research contributions. Lessons learned from implementing citizen science in this study will help to reveal the advantages, limitations, and implications of involving citizen scientists in the translational medicine research. Knowing citizen scientists’ motivations, expectations, training needs, and overall experience of involvement in this study could provide insights, which could inform the planning and conduct of future translational research studies. Involving citizen scientists in translational medicine research is an important step in extending research opportunities for members of the public; however, there may be methodological challenges, which may be identified and resolved by more research studies.