OPAL (OPen Air Laboratories) is a UK-based public engagement in science programme which utilises citizen science (CS) to deliver both outreach and research. It has been running since 2007 and is based at Imperial College, London. Andy Moffat has been involved with OPAL since 2012 and was a founder member of the OPAL Working Group which launched a tree health survey for public participation in 2013. The important work that OPAL does has now been published in a series of papers in a special Supplement of BMC Ecology.
One of the five papers was co-authored by Andy and discusses whether CS can really hope to make a credible contribution to research as well as help to bring science to those who are comparatively unfamiliar with it. The review identifies that trade-offs between research delivery and community outreach must be recognised and planned for before embarking on a CS project that is expected to deliver scientific outcomes. However, it concludes that well planned projects can yield valuable outputs of real value to the scientific and policy communities.