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Apr 20, 2016 Article
Crowdsourcing the Human Gut. Is crowdsourcing also 'citizen science'?

by Lorenzo Del Savio, Barbara Prainsack and Alena Buyx

The participation of non-professionally trained people in so-called citizen science (CS) projects is a much discussed topic at the moment. Frequently, however, the contribution of citizens is limited to only a few narrow tasks. Focusing on an initiative dedicated to the study of the human microbiome, this paper describes such a case where citizen participation is limited to the provision of funding, samples, and personal data. Researchers opted for a crowdsourced approaches because other forms of funding and recruitment did not seem feasible. We argue that despite the narrow understanding of participation in the context of some CS projects, they can address some of the democratic concerns related to scientific knowledge creation. For example, CS and crowdsourcing can help to foster dialogue between researchers and publics, and increase the influence of citizens on research agenda setting.

Volume 15 • Issue 03 • 2016 • Special Issue: Citizen Science, Part II, 2016

Mar 04, 2016 Article
Media portrayal of non-invasive prenatal testing: a missing ethical dimension

by Kalina Kamenova, Vardit Ravitsky, Spencer McMullin and Timothy Caulfield

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is an emerging technology for detecting chromosomal disorders in the fetus and mass media may have an impact on shaping the public understanding of its promise and challenges. We conducted a content analysis of 173 news reports to examine how NIPT was portrayed in English-language media sources between January 1 and December 31, 2013. Our analysis has shown that media emphasized the benefits and readiness of the technology, while overlooking uncertainty associated with its clinical use. Ethical concerns were rarely addressed in the news stories, which points to an important dimension missing in the media discourse.

Volume 15 • Issue 02 • 2016

Feb 24, 2016 Article
Understanding drivers, barriers and information sources for public participation in marine citizen science

by Vicki Martin, Les Christidis, David Lloyd and Gretta Pecl

Interviews were conducted with 110 marine users to elicit their salient beliefs about recording marine species in a citizen science project. The results showed that many interviewees believe participation would increase knowledge (either scientific, the community's, or their own). While almost half of the interviewees saw no negative outcomes, a small number expressed concerns about targeting of marine species by others, or restrictions on public access to marine sites. Most of the people surveyed (n = 106) emphasised the importance of well-designed technological interfaces to assist their data collection, without which they would be unlikely to engage in the project.

Volume 15 • Issue 02 • 2016

Feb 16, 2016 Article
The extent of engagement, the means of invention: measuring debate about mirror neurons in the humanities and social sciences

by David Gruber

Mirror neurons (MN) — or neurons said to be able to "mirror" the sensed environment — have been widely popularized and referenced across many academic fields. Yet, MNs have also been the subject of considerable debate in the neurosciences. Using a criterion based sampling method and a citation analysis, this paper examines the extent of engagement with the neuroscience literature about MNs, looking specifically at the frequency of "MN debate sources" within articles published in the JSTOR and Communication and Mass Media (CMMC) databases. After reporting the results, the paper reviews characteristic examples in context and, ultimately, shows that MN debates remain largely absent from peer-reviewed articles published in JSTOR and CMMC. However, the paper suggests that this happens for good reason and that MNs retain the potential for inventive animations even though debates have gone largely unrecognized.

Volume 15 • Issue 02 • 2016

Jan 21, 2016 Article
"We're not going to be guinea pigs;" Citizen Science and Environmental Health in a Native American Community

by Elizabeth Hoover

Determined to learn the extent to which a local contaminated site was impacting community health, the Native American community of Akwesasne reached out to a research university, eventually partnering on the first large-scale environmental health community based participatory research project (CBPR). Based on interviews with scientists, community fieldworkers, and study participants, this article examines the ways in which collaborating on these studies was beneficial for all parties — especially in the context of citizen science goals of education and capacity building — as well as the challenges they faced, including communicating the limits of what scientific studies could accomplish for the community.

Volume 15 • Issue 01 • 2016 • Special Issue: Citizen Science, Part I, 2016

Jan 21, 2016 Article
Motivation and learning impact of Dutch flu-trackers

by Anne M. Land-Zandstra, Mara van Beusekom, Carl Koppeschaar and Jos van den Broek

Many citizen science projects deal with high attrition rates. The Dutch Great Influenza Survey is an exception to this rule. In the current study, we conducted an online questionnaire (N=1610) to investigate the motivation and learning impact of this loyal, active participant base. Results show that the desire to contribute to a larger (scientific) goal is the most important motivator for all types of participants and that availability of scientific information and data are important for learning. We suggest similar projects seek (social) media attention regularly, linking project findings to current events and including the importance of participants' contribution.

Volume 15 • Issue 01 • 2016 • Special Issue: Citizen Science, Part I, 2016

Jan 21, 2016 Article
Challenges and successes in engaging citizen scientists to observe snow cover: from public engagement to an educational collaboration

by Susan Dickerson-Lange, Karla Eitel, Leslie Dorsey, Timothy Link and Jessica Lundquist

Whereas the evolution of snow cover across forested mountain watersheds is difficult to predict or model accurately, the presence or absence of snow cover is easily observable and these observations contribute to improved snow models. We engaged citizen scientists to collect observations of the timing of distributed snow disappearance over three snow seasons across the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. . The primary goal of the project was to build a more spatially robust dataset documenting the influence of forest cover on the timing of snow disappearance, and public outreach was a secondary goal. Each year's effort utilized a different strategy, building on the lessons of the previous year. We began by soliciting our professional networks to contribute observations via electronic or paper forms, moved to a public outreach effort to collect geotagged photographs, and finally settled on close collaboration with an outdoor science school that was well-positioned to collect the needed data. Whereas the outreach efforts garnered abundant enthusiasm and publicity, the resulting datasets were sparse. In contrast, direct collaboration with an outdoor science school that was already sending students to make weekly snow observations proved fruitful in both data collection and educational outreach. From a data collection standpoint, the shift to an educational collaboration was successful because it essentially traded wide spatial coverage combined with sparse temporal coverage for dense temporal coverage at a single, but important location. From a public engagement standpoint, the partnership allowed for more intensive participation by more people and enhanced the science curriculum at the collaborating school.

Volume 15 • Issue 01 • 2016 • Special Issue: Citizen Science, Part I, 2016

Jan 21, 2016 Article
Cell Spotting: educational and motivational outcomes of cell biology citizen science project in the classroom

by Cândida Silva, Antonio Jose Monteiro, Caroline Manahl, Eduardo Lostal, Teresa Schäfer, Nazareno Andrade, Francisco Brasileiro, Paulo Mota, Fermin Serrano Sanz, Jose Carrodeguas and Rui Brito

Success stories of citizen science projects widely demonstrate the value of this open science paradigm and encourage organizations to shift towards new ways of doing research. While benefits for researchers are clear, outcomes for individuals participating in these projects are not easy to assess. The wide spectrum of volunteers collaborating in citizen science projects greatly contributes to the difficulty in the evaluation of the projects' outcomes. Given the strong links between many citizen science projects and education, in this work we present an experience with hundreds of students (aged 15–18) of two different countries who participate in a project on cell biology research — Cell Spotting — as part of their regular classroom activities. Apart from introducing the project and resources involved, we aim to provide an overview of the benefits of integrating citizen science in the context of formal science education and of what teachers and students may obtain from it. In this case, besides helping students to consolidate and apply theoretical concepts included in the school curriculum, some other types of informal learning have also been observed such as the feeling of playing a key role, which contributed to an increase of students' motivation.

Volume 15 • Issue 01 • 2016 • Special Issue: Citizen Science, Part I, 2016

Jan 21, 2016 Article
School of Ants goes to college: integrating citizen science into the general education classroom increases engagement with science

by Tyler Vitone, Kathryn Stofer, M. Sedonia Steininger, Jiri Hulcr, Robert Dunn and Andrea Lucky

Citizen science has proven useful in advancing scientific research, but participant learning outcomes are not often assessed. This case study describes the implementation and tailoring of an in-depth assessment of the educational impact of two citizen science projects in an undergraduate, general education course. Mixed-methods assessment of citizen science within a college classroom demonstrates that public participation in scientific research can positively alter attitudes towards science. The timing and type of assessments yielded significantly different results and qualitative assessment provided depth and context. However, disentangling the impact of the course from participation in the projects is the biggest challenge.

Volume 15 • Issue 01 • 2016 • Special Issue: Citizen Science, Part I, 2016

Jan 21, 2016 Article
The "Problem of Extension" revisited: new modes of digital participation in science

by Sascha Dickel and Martina Franzen

Citizen Science is part of a broader reconfiguration of the relationship between science and the public in the digital age: Knowledge production and the reception of scientific knowledge are becoming increasingly socially inclusive. We argue that the digital revolution brings the "problem of extension" — identified by Collins and Evans in the context of science and technology governance — now closer to the core of scientific practice. In order to grasp the implications of the inclusion of non-experts in science, the aim of this contribution is to define a role-set of non-certified knowledge production and reception, serving as a heuristic instrument for empirical clarifications.

Volume 15 • Issue 01 • 2016 • Special Issue: Citizen Science, Part I, 2016