Linda Andersson Burnett appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow 2019 – will study how Carl Linnaeus contributed to citizen science

Linda Andersson Burnett, researcher in history at Linnaeus University and active at the cutting-edge research centre Concurrences, has been appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow 2019. The prestigious appointment means that Andersson Burnett will now initiate a research project on how Carl Linnaeus inspired to citizen science, where people from all walks of life participated in knowledge acquisition.

The research programme Wallenberg Academy Fellows, established by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation in 2012, provide the most prominent young researchers with long-term resources to enable them to focus on their research. Linda Andersson Burnett has now been appointed a Wallenberg Academy Fellow and will receive SEK 5 million for her five-year project.

“This feels fantastic! It gives me the opportunity to study how the general public got involved in Linnaean research and collecting. My hope is that the project will contribute both to our understanding of science history and to contemporary discussions on citizen science and museum collections. I will conduct archive studies based on material from British Museum in London and the university museums in Edinburgh and Aberdeen”, says Andersson Burnett.

When researchers ask for help from the general public to, for instance, monitor changes to bird populations, this is called citizen science. The phenomenon is often described as something new, but as a matter of fact it has existed for a long time. During the 1740s and 1750s, Linnaeus wrote instructions on what procedure travelling naturalists should use when describing and classifying nature. These instructions became popular and were used internationally.

Andersson Burnett will study how Linnaean instructions, and new instructions inspired by Linnaeus, were used in Great Britain and the British Empire, where people ranging from merchants and navigators to missionaries and indigenous people in the colonies contributed to the acquisition of knowledge and items.

“Considering the global challenges society is facing today, for instance climate change and social injustice, it is clear that history research has an important role to play in order to gain a better understanding of the relationship between scientific practice and long-term development trends”, Andersson Burnett concludes.

Linda Anderson Burnet is the first researcher at Linnaeus University who has been appointed a Wallenberg Academy Fellow.

“It makes me very glad that Andersson Burnett, thanks to the appointment, will now have the long-term conditions needed to establish an international research group that will study Carl Linnaeus’s less well-known methods, here at Linnaeus University”, says Peter Aronsson, vice-chancellor at Linnaeus University.