Citizen science


Citizen science is a transdisciplinary approach that responds to the current science policy agenda: in terms of supporting open science, and by using a range of science communication instruments. In particular, it opens up scientific research processes by involving citizens at different phases; this also creates a range of opportunities for science communication to happen This article explores methodological and practical characteristics of citizen science as a form of science communication by examining three case studies that took different approaches to citizens' participation in science. Through these, it becomes clear that communication in citizen science is ‘÷always’ science communication and an essential part of “doing science”.


Digital citizen science projects differ greatly in their goals and design. Tensions arise when coordinators' design choices and conceptions of citizen science conflict with users' motivations and expectations. In this paper, we use a combination of qualitative methods to gain new insights into the ways citizen science is understood and implemented digitally. This includes a study into the affordances of two citizen science portals for bird observations, and qualitative interviews with users and coordinators of the portals. This reveals tensions related to data sharing, community hierarchies, and communicated expectations. Awareness of these tensions can benefit the future design of online citizen science projects.


This paper identifies the diverse ways in which participants engage with science, through the same citizen science project. Using multiple data sources, we describe various activities conducted by citizen scientists in an air quality project, and characterize the motivations driving their engagement. Findings reveal several themes, indicative of participants motivations and engagement; worried residents, education and outreach, environmental action, personal interest and opportunistic engagement. The study further illustrates the interconnectivity between science communication and citizen science practices and calls for nurturing this relationship for the mutual advancement of both fields.


This article seeks to address the lack of sociocultural diversity in the field of science communication by broadening conceptions of citizen science to include citizen social science. Developing citizen social science as a concept and set of practices can increase the diversity of publics who engage in science communication endeavors if citizen social science explicitly aims at addressing social justice issues. First, I situate citizen social science within the histories of citizen science and participatory action research to demonstrate how the three approaches are compatible. Next, I outline the tenets of citizen social science as they are informed by citizen science and participatory action research goals. I then use these tenets as criteria to evaluate the extent to which my case study, a community-based research project called ‘Rustbelt Theater’, counts as a citizen social science project.


In this review, we examined the types of CS projects found in K-12 science education facilitated by digital technologies, the learning outcomes from students' participation in these projects, and the type of digital technologies used. With the application of the study's selection criteria, 15 eligible publications were included in the review; these were indexed in three databases as well as in Google Scholar. Despite the rising popularity of CS projects, the present review revealed that there is little empirical evidence for the effects of technology-facilitated CS projects on learning outcomes when K-12 students are involved. Yet, the review demonstrates a promising research area in science education and technology-enhanced learning.


This theoretical paper proposes a framework for how citizen science can be adapted to organizational contexts. Using an “input, process, output” approach, this model proposes organizational factors (e.g., communication channels and styles, and organizational structure) that should be considered when choosing among citizen science approaches (e.g., contributory, collaborative, co-created). The essay identifies possible outcomes for the individual, organization, and larger sector from employing a citizen science approach within an organizational setting.


Who speaks for “citizen science” on Twitter? Which territory of citizen science have they made visible so far? This paper offers the first description of the community of users who dedicate their online social media identity to citizen science. It shows that Twitter users who identify with the term “citizen science” are mostly U.S. science professionals in environmental sciences, and rarely projects' participants. In contrast to the original concept of “citizen science”, defined as a direct relationship between scientists and lay participants, this paper makes visible a third category of individual actors, mostly women, who connect these lay participants and scientists: the “citizen science broker”.


Storytelling essentials are stories that direct attention, trigger emotions, and prompt understanding. Citizen science has recently promoted the narrative approach of storytelling as a means of engagement of people of all ages and backgrounds in scientific research processes. We seek understanding about the typology of storytelling in citizen science projects and explore to what extent the tool of storytelling can be conceptualized in the approach of citizen science. In a first step, we investigated the use and integration of storytelling in citizen science projects in the three European German-speaking countries. We conducted a low threshold content analysis of 209 projects listed on the German-speaking online platforms for citizen science projects “Bürger schaffen Wissen”, “Österreich forscht”, and “Schweiz forscht”. Two expert workshops with citizen science practitioners were held to validate and discuss the identified role of stories in the practice of citizen science. Our analysis revealed three major categories mirroring how stories are being integrated and applied in citizen science. The first category refers to projects, in which stories are the core research objective. The second category is characterized by the application of stories in different phases of the research project. The third category encompasses stories as agents being part of the communication and organization of the project. We illustrate the practical application of these categories by three representative case studies. By combining the functionality of the categories and abstracting the linkages between storytelling and citizen science, we derived a generalized model accounting for those linkages. In conclusion, we suggest that storytelling should be a prerequisite to enhance the competencies of the actors involved and to exchange knowledge at the interfaces of science and policy as well as science and society.


The growing interest in citizen science has resulted in a new range of digital tools that facilitate the interaction and communications between citizens and scientists. Considering the ever increasing number of applications that currently exist, it is surprising how little we know about how volunteers interact with these technologies, what they expect from them, and why these technologies succeed or fail. Aiming to address this gap, JCOM organized this special issue on the role of User Experience (UX) of digital technologies in citizen science which is the first to focus on the qualities and impacts of interface and user design within citizen science. Seven papers are included that highlight three key aspects of user-focused research and methodological approaches. In the first category, "design standards", the authors explore the applicability of existing standards, build and evaluate a set of guidelines to improve interactions with citizen science applications. In the second, "design methods", methodological approaches for getting user feedback, analysing user behaviour and exploring different interface designs modes are explored. Finally, "user experience in the physical and digital world" explores crossovers with other fields to improve our understanding of user experiences and demonstrate how design choices not only influence digital interactions but also shape interactions with the wider world.


We discuss the potential application to virtual citizen science of a recent standard (BS ISO 27500:2016 “The human-centred organisation”) which encourages the adoption of a sociotechnical systems perspective across a wide range of businesses, organizations and ventures. Key tenets of the standard concern taking a total systems approach, capitalizing on individual differences as a strength, making usability and accessibility strategic objectives, valuing personnel and paying attention to ethical and values-led elements of the project in terms of being open and trustworthy, social responsibility and health and wellbeing. Drawing upon our experience of projects in our laboratory and the wider literature, we outline the principles identified in the standard and offer citizen science themed interpretations and examples of possible responses.


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