Editor’s Choice: This paper attempts to disentangle the complex relationship between the folks that are “paid” to run the Zooniverse and the unpaid volunteers who provide the classifications. At what point does it become the responsibility of the paid professionals to move from a simple transactional relationship with the volunteers to a more democratized relationship where the volunteers have more say in the production of the science they are contributing to? This is indeed a difficult question.  –LFF–

Abstract: This paper explores the relationship between paid labour and unpaid users within the Zooniverse, a crowdsourced citizen science platform. The platform brings together a crowd of users to categorise data for use in scientific projects. It was initially established by a small group of academics for a single astronomy project, but has now grown into a multi-project platform that has engaged over 1.3 million users so far. The growth has introduced different dynamics to the platform as it has incorporated a greater number of scientists, developers, links with organisations, and funding arrangements—each bringing additional pressures and complications. The relationships between paid/professional and unpaid/citizen labour have become increasingly complicated with the rapid expansion of the Zooniverse. The paper draws on empirical data from an ongoing research project that has access to both users and paid professionals on the platform. There is the potential through growing peer-to-peer capacity that the boundaries between professional and citizen scientists can become significantly blurred. The findings of the paper, therefore, address important questions about the combinations of paid and unpaid labour, the involvement of a crowd in citizen science, and the contradictions this entails for an online platform. These are considered specifically from the viewpoint of the users and, therefore, form a new contribution to the theoretical understanding of crowdsourcing in practice.

Zooniverse. People-powered research

Source: Woodcock, J., et al., 2017. Crowdsourcing Citizen Science: Exploring the Tensions between Paid Professionals and Users. Peer Production and Work, Issue 10.