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What does it mean to build a Citizen Science Project?


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Part of collaborative citizen science presentation with James Stewart and co-developed with Eugenia Rodrigues, for the UoE Institute for Study of Science, Technology and Innovation Retreat. 9th June 2015.

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What does it mean to build a Citizen Science Project?

  1. 1. What does it mean to build a Citizen Science Project? Nicola Osborne Jisc MediaHub Service Manager / Digital Education Manager
  2. 2. Multi Faceted Process • Decision over whether designing the scientific and/or science communication purpose? • Identifying audience(s), community(s). • Identifying the level of engagement required or preferred. • Technical considerations: what is neccassary; what is possible; what can citizens access/use. • Quality considerations. • Establishing required levels of support and engagement. • Designing communication, feedback and reward plans and mechanisms to ensure citizens remain motived. • Mechanism to conclude, exit or handover project.
  3. 3. Defining Purpose: Science or Science Communication/Engagement/Education? • Does the science matter? • If not, how will volunteers be motivated and expectations managed? • Does it matter who volunteers? • Are citizens to be empowered? Informed? Awareness raised? Are they simply undertaking tasks? • How will the task be broken into manageable sub tasks? • What are the benefits and risks of gamifying tasks/participation for this project and community? • How can quality and reliability of data be assured, or assessed? • What role will experts or more experienced volunteers play?
  4. 4. Technology and Tool Design Matters • Impacts accuracy of data collected (e.g. volunteered vs. GPS vs. IP based location). • Interface design, usability, familiarity and language - can ease or increase complexity of participation. • Home computer based tasks can exclude participation by e.g. lower income, older, less able, or more remotely located communities (see RSE 2014). • Mobile devices limit to those with appropriate devices, often also limited to those with iOS/Android/etc. Also require wifi or 3G signals, or apps/interfaces which can function offline. • App and data upload size may mean volunteers incur costs.
  5. 5. Example: FieldTrip
  6. 6. Quality Assurance • Trust in Citizen Science by researchers varies, quality impacts re/use. • Quality Assurance method/process : – Manual/moderation (e.g. Conker Tree Science); – Repetition and redundancy (e.g. Galaxy Zoo); – Targeted comparison with trusted data (e.g. sensors); – Technical measures (e.g. location of submission); – Trust/expertise level (e.g. based on previous submissions). • Social challenges of managing potential rejection of volunteered data/effort.
  7. 7. Example: COBWEB
  8. 8. Communication & Expectation Management • What level of participation is required for a success? • How does that participation look: public events; private participation at home? • How is participation enabled: training or scaffolding; risks/warning messages; support, guidance, teaching materials etc. • What motivates this community/these volunteers and keeps their engagement? • Will volunteers be acknowledged and rewarded? • Contingency planning – poor participation, less successful outcomes, expectation management • Communication of science, research, project results. • End point or exit plan?
  9. 9. Issues Raised Include.. • The role of the citizen, and expectations of what it is to be an active citizen. • Relationship between amateurs and experts. • Role of reward and remuneration for work undertaken. • Volunteer motivation, engagement, buy in. • Transparency of scientific process. • Quality and credibility of scientific process. • Peer and community education around science. • Community dynamics and roles.
  10. 10. References & Resources • Roy, H. et al 2012. Understanding Citizen Science for Environmental Monitoring. CEH. Available from: ngcitizenscienceenvironmentalmonitoring_report_final.pdf • Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2014. Spreading the Benefits of Digital Participation in Scotland Final Report. Royal Society of Edinburgh. Available from: Participation.html • COBWEB Project Website: • FieldTrip Website: • UoE Citizen Science and Crowd Sourcing Network: