Deepani JAYANTHA, Elemotion Foundation, United States
Sameera WEERATHUNGA, Udawalawa Elephant Research Project, Sri Lanka
Jeff BULLOCK, Royal Veterinary College, United Kingdom
Isuru JAYAMINA, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Citizen science is a research tool that engages the public in the process of scientific research. Studies from Europe and North America have shown that Citizen Science projects are an effective tool for data collection. This may advance scientific knowledge and increase the understanding of scientific issues in the wider community. Citizen scientists actively participate in data collection, regular meetings and feedback mechanisms. The positive social interactions that come from strong citizen science projects reinforce and create opportunities for learning and dissemination of public awareness about important problems. Using citizen science to address a global health challenge such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) may benefit the communities by facilitating education and behavior changes.
This study was conducted using citizen science principles for community engagement and to raise awareness of inappropriate and misuse of antibiotics leading to AMR. An online tool specifically developed for collection of data regarding wildlife was converted to an App (iNature). The App was used by volunteers in three AMR prevalence study sites to collect data regarding wildlife. In the AMR prevalence studies, wildlife samples are taken to study AMR spread and the environmental contamination by resistance bacteria. Through the involvement of ‘citizen champions’ selected using local environmental and youth clubs, women’s and farmer societies knowledge regarding antibiotics and AMR was disseminated. Educational videos and posters were also designed in local languages to stimulate interest and discussions. Quantification of change in awareness, knowledge and understanding of AMR in citizen scientists in the selected areas of study were conducted. The outcomes are linked with surveys that have been conducted to understand the baseline knowledge regarding antibiotics and AMR in the general population in the study sites. One of the main outputs is to establish a model for training ‘citizen scientists’ in the collection of environmental and population data that can be replicated in other countries in AMR prevention campaigns and other public health issues.