Citizen science

11/01/2017

This paper provides an analysis of the implementation and the outcomes of Scienza Attiva, an Italian national project for secondary school students, that makes use of deliberative democracy tools to address socio-scientific issues of great impact. The analysis has required a mixed method including surveys of students' pre- and post-project opinions, focus groups and interviews with students and teachers. The results from this evaluation study provide evidence that the project improves students' understanding of socio-scientific issues, strengthens their awareness of the importance of discussion and positively influences interactions in the classroom.

20/04/2016

This issue forms Part II of JCOM's collection of articles and essays exploring the field of citizen science. Here I introduce the articles in Part II, outlining how they contribute to our understanding of the ways that volunteers participate in citizen science projects, what motivates this participation and what learning arises as a result of participation.

20/04/2016

Community-based water monitoring (CBWM) provides essential baseline information on watershed health and engages the public in science, but those involved often encounter barriers to informing environmental management. We conducted qualitative interviews with watershed group coordinators and government counterparts from four CBWM organizations to explore instances where CBWM successfully influenced governmental decision-making. Our findings show that the level of rigor for quality standards, inclusion of volunteers, available resources, and desired goals are important considerations when designing community-based monitoring programs. Integrated program designs that include adequate quality standards and engage volunteers are more apt to maximize resources and realize both scientific and educational goals.

20/04/2016

Despite the rapid expansion of citizen-based monitoring, data from these programs remain underutilized by natural resource managers, perhaps due to quality and comparability issues. We present the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program as a case study of an initiative successfully meeting long-term monitoring needs of federal, state, tribal, and local natural resource managers, and informing public policy. To maximize potential for partnerships with managers, we recommend the creation of a five-year plan including scientific goals and financial solvency strategies prior to establishing a citizen science program, and offering multiple platforms for data-sharing and dialogue.

20/04/2016

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.

20/04/2016

Volunteer water quality monitors represent the intersection between citizen science and environmental stewardship. Understanding what motivates participation will enable project managers to improve recruitment and retention. This survey of 271 volunteers from eight water quality monitoring organizations in the U.S. found the strongest motivators to participate are helping the environment or community and contributing to scientific knowledge. No variation by gender was found, but younger volunteers have different motivations and preferences than older volunteers. Volunteers value the communication of tangible results more than recognition or reward.

20/04/2016

Online citizen science projects have demonstrated their usefulness for research, however little is known about the potential benefits for volunteers. We conducted 39 interviews (28 volunteers, 11 researchers) to gain a greater understanding of volunteers' motivations, learning and creativity (MLC). In our MLC model we explain that participating and progressing in a project community provides volunteers with many indirect opportunities for learning and creativity. The more aspects that volunteers are involved in, the more likely they are to sustain their participation in the project. These results have implications for the design and management of online citizen science projects. It is important to provide users with tools to communicate in order to supporting social learning, community building and sharing.

20/04/2016

There is growing recognition that effective science communication should not merely focus on addressing scientific literacy but must also open dialogue between scientists and the public, build trust, and increase public interest in environmental research. Citizen science BioBlitzes offer a useful approach for science communicators to address many of these key aims. We explore the BioBlitz concept, learnings and outcomes based on a case study of a BioBlitz held in Sydney, Australia. We found that participants valued learning about biodiversity on the day and importantly, all participants (scientists and citizen scientists) rated interacting and learning from the experience as one of the main benefits.

20/04/2016

We investigate the development of scientific content knowledge of volunteers participating in online citizen science projects in the Zooniverse (http://www.zooniverse.org). We use econometric methods to test how measures of project participation relate to success in a science quiz, controlling for factors known to correlate with scientific knowledge. Citizen scientists believe they are learning about both the content and processes of science through their participation. We don't directly test the latter, but we find evidence to support the former — that more actively engaged participants perform better in a project-specific science knowledge quiz, even after controlling for their general science knowledge. We interpret this as evidence of learning of science content inspired by participation in online citizen science.

17/03/2016

In recent years, citizen science has gained popularity not only in the scientific community but also with the general public. The potential it projects in fostering an open and participatory approach to science, decreasing the distance between science and society, and contributing to the wider goal of an inclusive society is being explored by scientists, science communicators, educators, policy makers and related stakeholders. The public's participation in citizen science projects is still often reduced to data gathering and data manipulation such as classification of data. However, the citizen science landscape is much broader and diverse, inter alia due to the participation opportunities offered by latest ICT. The emergence of new forms of collaboration and grassroots initiatives is currently being experienced. In an open consultation process that led to the "White Paper on Citizen Science for Europe", the support of a wide range of project types and innovative forms of participation in science was requested. In this paper we argue for mechanisms that encourage a variety of approaches, promote emerging and creative concepts and widen the perspectives for social innovation.

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