Having a well-defined research topic and question is a crucial first step for every scientific project that aims to achieve positive social, ecological, political impact in the day-to-day lives of individual and community stakeholders.
In citizen social science this specifically means identifying a research problem that takes into account, builds on, and aims to improve stakeholder experiences. This initial phase of research involves examining and learning about the research context, refining the research problem, and identifying precise research questions. It also involves building a productive network of interested and competent stakeholders who are willing to participate as co-researchers in the project. A key dimension in this step is to develop close ties among all participants and to organize diverse forms of engagement. The research and innovation action should be based on the needs, expectations, and capacities of all co-researchers involved. The building of a network of co-researchers should conform to establishing a “knowledge coalition” . A knowledge coalition is a wider network of people and institutions – decision makers, administration, professionals, civil society organisations etc. – that play a key role in the field and can act as an advisory board and alleys for deliberation, dissemination and action planning and implementation. The first step Preparing research and innovation should sufficiently answer the following guiding questions: Who are the different stakeholders? What are the social concerns present in the field? How can participating co-researchers be engaged and included in the research process? By the end of activities in this step, an agreement on precise research questions and goals for action should be reached.