Abstract: Mobile apps and web-based platforms are increasingly used in citizen science projects. While extensive research has been done in multiple areas of studies, from Human-Computer Interaction to public engagement in science, we are not aware of a collection of recommendations specific for citizen science that provides support and advice for planning, design and data management of mobile apps and platforms that will assist learning from best practice and successful implementations. In two workshops, citizen science practitioners with experience in mobile application and web-platform development and implementation came together to analyse, discuss and define recommendations for the initiators of technology based citizen science projects. Many of the recommendations produced during the two workshops are applicable to non-mobile citizen science project. Therefore, we propose to closely connect the results presented here with ECSA’s Ten Principles of Citizen Science.

Source: Sturm, U. et al., 2017. Defining principles for mobile apps and platforms development in citizen science. Research Ideas and Outcomes 3. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3897/rio.3.e21283

Editor’s Choice: This article shows how much work remains to be done to convince our scientific colleagues that, appropriately applied, citizen science is a unique tool that can produce excellent science. — LFF —

Abstract: Increased interest in public engagement with science worldwide has resulted in the growth of funding opportunities for scientists in the rapidly expanding field of citizen science. This paper describes a case study based on interviews and observations, including a six-month field diary, of ten scientists who engaged in a citizen science project to receive funding for their scientific research. It examines how these scientists perceived their commitment to the public, and it explores relationships between the ways that citizen science is defined and presented in the literature and the ideas that scientists in this project have about citizen science. The findings indicate that these scientists were motivated mostly by their interest in promoting scientific research and obtaining prestigious funding. Many of the scientists also found it difficult to accept the idea that the public can make actual contributions to science. Although the scientists acknowledged the advantages and benefits of citizen participation for the public, they had no desire to actively engage with the public and would rather conduct a traditional study without the public’s involvement. Exposing scientists to public engagement and citizen science concepts, especially at early stages of their scientific carrier, could help overcome barriers and encourage scientists to further engage the public in such initiatives.

Source: Golumbic, Y.N. et al., 2017. Between Vision and Reality: A Study of Scientists’ Views on Citizen Science. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. 2(1), p.6. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.53

Abstract: Citizen science—the involvement of volunteers in data collection, analysis and interpretation—simultaneously supports research and public engagement with science, and its profile is rapidly rising. Citizen science represents a diverse range of approaches, but until now this diversity has not been quantitatively explored. We conducted a systematic internet search and discovered 509 environmental and ecological citizen science projects. We scored each project for 32 attributes based on publicly obtainable information and used multiple factor analysis to summarise this variation to assess citizen science approaches. We found that projects varied according to their methodological approach from ‘mass participation’ (e.g. easy participation by anyone anywhere) to ‘systematic monitoring’ (e.g. trained volunteers repeatedly sampling at specific locations). They also varied in complexity from approaches that are ‘simple’ to those that are ‘elaborate’ (e.g. provide lots of support to gather rich, detailed datasets). There was a separate cluster of entirely computer-based projects but, in general, we found that the range of citizen science projects in ecology and the environment showed continuous variation and cannot be neatly categorised into distinct types of activity. While the diversity of projects begun in each time period (pre 1990, 1990–99, 2000–09 and 2010–13) has not increased, we found that projects tended to have become increasingly different from each other as time progressed (possibly due to changing opportunities, including technological innovation). Most projects were still active so consequently we found that the overall diversity of active projects (available for participation) increased as time progressed. Overall, understanding the landscape of citizen science in ecology and the environment (and its change over time) is valuable because it informs the comparative evaluation of the ‘success’ of different citizen science approaches. Comparative evaluation provides an evidence-base to inform the future development of citizen science activities.

Source: Pocock, Michael J.O.; Tweddle, John C.; Savage, Joanna; Robinson, Lucy D.; Roy, Helen E., 2017. The diversity and evolution of ecological and environmental citizen science. PLoS ONE, 12(4): 17. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0172579

Abstract: Citizen science approaches provide opportunities to support ecosystem service assessments. To evaluate the recent trends, challenges and opportunities of utilizing citizen science in ecosystem service studies we conducted a systematic literature and project review. We reviewed the range of ecosystem services and formats of participation in citizen science in 17 peer-reviewed scientific publications and 102 ongoing or finished citizen science projects, out of over 500 screened publications and over 1400 screened projects. We found that citizen science is predominantly applied in assessing regulating and cultural services. The assessments were often performed by using proxy indicators that only implicitly provide information on ecosystem services. Direct assessments of ecosystem services are still rare. Participation formats mostly comprise contributory citizen science projects that focus on volunteered data collection. However, there is potential to increase citizen involvement in comprehensive ecosystem service assessments, including the development of research questions, design, data analysis and dissemination of findings. Levels of involvement could be enhanced to strengthen strategic knowledge on the environment, scientific literacy and the empowerment of citizens in helping to inform and monitor policies and management efforts related to ecosystem services. We provide an outlook how to better operationalise citizen science approaches to assess ecosystem services.

Source: Schröter, M. et al, 2017. Citizen science for assessing ecosystem services: Status, challenges and opportunities. Ecosystem Services 8(Part A):80-94. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.09.017

Abstract: Citizen science involves volunteers who participate in scientific research by collecting data, monitoring sites, and even taking part in the whole process of scientific inquiry (Roy et al. 2012, Scyphers et al. 2015). In the past two decades, citizen science (also called participatory or community-based monitoring) has gained tremendous popularity (Bonney et al. 2009, Danielsen et al. 2014), due in part to the increasing realization among scientists of the benefits of engaging volunteers (Silvertown 2009, Danielsen et al. 2014, Aceves-Bueno et al. 2015, Scyphers et al. 2015). In particular, the cost-effectiveness of citizen science data offers the potential for scientists to tackle research questions with large spatial and/or temporal scales (Brossard et al. 2005, Holck 2007, Levrel et al. 2010, Szabo et al. 2010, Belt and Krausman 2012). Today, citizen science projects span a wide range of research topics concerning the preservation of marine and terrestrial environments, from invasive species monitoring (e.g., Scyphers et al. 2015) to ecological restoration and from local indicators of climate change to water quality monitoring (Silvertown 2009). They include well-known conservation examples like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count (Butcher et al. 1990) and projects of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Bonney et al. 2009).

Despite the growth in the number of citizen science projects, scientists remain concerned about the accuracy of citizen science data (Danielsen et al. 2005, Crall et al. 2011, Gardiner et al. 2012, Law et al. 2017). Some studies evaluating data quality have found volunteer data to be more variable than professionally collected data (Harvey et al. 2002, Uychiaoco et al. 2005, Belt and Krausman 2012, Moyer-Horner et al. 2012) and others that volunteers’ performance is comparable to that of professionals or scientists (Hoyer et al. 2001, 2012, Canfield et al. 2002, Oldekop et al. 2011). For example, Danielsen et al. (2005) concluded that the 16 comparative cases studies they reviewed only provided cautious support for volunteers’ ability to detect changes in populations, habitats, or patterns of resource use. In a more recent review, Dickinson et al. (2010) found that the potential of citizen scientists to produce datasets with error and bias is poorly understood.

The evidence of problems with citizen science data accuracy (e.g., Hochachka et al. 2012, Vermeiren et al. 2016) indicates a need for a more systematic analysis of the accuracy of citizen science data derived from individual studies of accuracy. To our knowledge, despite useful qualitative reviews (e.g., Lewandowski and Specht 2015), there are to date no reviews that combine the case studies to quantitatively evaluate the data quality of citizen science. In this paper, we conduct a quantitative review of citizen science data in the areas of ecology and environmental science. We focus on the universe of peer-reviewed studies in which researchers compare citizen science data to reference data either as part of validation mechanisms in a citizen science project or by designing experiments to test whether volunteers can collect sufficiently accurate data. We code the authors’ qualitative assessments of data accuracy and we code the quantitative assessments of data accuracy. This enables us to evaluate both whether the authors believe the data to be accurate enough to achieve the goals of the program and the degree of accuracy reflected in the quantitative comparisons. We then use a linear regression model to assess correlates of accuracy. With citizen science playing an increasingly important role in expanding our scientific knowledge and enhancing the management of the environment, we conclude with recommendations for assessing data quality and for designing citizen science tasks that are more likely to produce accurate data.

Source: Aceves-Bueno, E. et al, 2017. The Accuracy of Citizen Science Data: A Quantitative Review. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 98(4): 278–290. DOI: 10.1002/bes2.1336

Abstract: Science communicators develop qualitative and quantitative tools to evaluate the ‘impact’ of their work however narrative is rarely adopted as a form of evaluation. We posit narrative as an evaluative approach for research projects with a core science communication element and offer several narrative methods to be trialled. We use citizen science projects as an example of science communication research seeking to gain knowledge of participant-emergent themes via evaluations. Storied experience of participant involvement enhances understanding of context-based and often intangible processes, such as changing place-relations, values, and self-efficacy, by enabling a reflective space for critical-thinking and self-reflection.

Source: Constant, N. and Roberts, L., 2017. Narratives as a mode of research evaluation in citizen science: understanding broader science communication impacts. Journal of science communication, 16 (4): A03. DOI: https://jcom.sissa.it/archive/16/04/JCOM_1604_2017_A03

Abstract: A growing number of ‘wicked problems’ faced by society including climate change and biodiversity loss need to be engaged with as sustainability challenges. Addressing such problems might appear to necessitate science educators and environmental educators working together. However, science education, which has tended to focus primarily on teaching knowledge and skills, and environmental education which is characterised by the incorporation of values and a focus on changing behaviours have, over the years, moved apart significantly. In order to address the wicked problems, a convergence of science and environmental education is now needed. One strategy might involve collaborative research among scientists, educators and the public which could link science and society with place and identity. The outcome of this convergence would be more effective processes of public engagement and learning that could result in meaningful socioecological outcomes. The data gathered and shared using information and communication technologies can provide useful input to scientists. At the same time, such projects can empower citizens to engage in debates about local and global environmental and sustainability issues. More importantly, perhaps, they can support the public in taking action to address the key issues and challenges faced by society.

Source: Dillon, J., 2018. On the Convergence Between Science and Environmental Education. In: Yeo J., Teo T., Tang KS. (eds) Science Education Research and Practice in Asia-Pacific and Beyond. Springer, Singapore. pp 87-94.

Abstract: Physical inactivity across the lifespan remains a public health issue for many developed countries. Inactivity has contributed considerably to the pervasiveness of lifestyle diseases. Government, national and local agencies and organizations have been unable to systematically, and in a coordinated way, translate behavioral research into practice that makes a difference at a population level. One approach for mobilizing multi-level efforts to improve the environment for physical activity is to engage in a process of citizen science. Citizen Science here is defined as a participatory research approach involving members of the public working closely with research investigators to initiate and advance scientific research projects. However, there are no common measures or protocols to guide citizen science research at the local community setting.
We describe overarching categories of constructs that can be considered when designing citizen science projects expected to yield multi-level interventions, and provide an example of the citizen science approach to promoting PA. We also recommend potential measures across different levels of impact.

Source: Hinckson, E., et al, 2017. Citizen science applied to building healthier community environments: advancing the field through shared construct and measurement development. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 14:133. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0588-6

Excerpt: The latest version [of citizen science game platform Eterna] sees players tasked with designing a CRISPR-controlling molecule. The design of the challenge is to develop an RNA molecule that’s capable of acting as an on/off switch for CRISPR. The resulting molecules will then be tested by molecular biologists.“Great ideas can come from anywhere, so this is also an experiment in the democratization of science,” the [Eterna] team say. “A lot of people have hidden talents that they don’t even know about. This could be their calling. Maybe there’s somebody out there who is a security guard and a fantastic RNA biochemist, and they don’t even know it.”

Source: Gaskell, A., 2017. Eterna Citizen Science Game Turns Its Attention to CRISPR, 5 September 2017. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eterna-citizen-science-game-turns-its-attention-to_us_59aea162e4b0c50640cd61c9 [Last accessed 2 October 2017].

Abstract: A species’ distribution and abundance in both space and time play a pivotal role in ecology and wildlife management. Collection of such large-scale information typically requires engagement of volunteer citizens and tends to consist of non-repeated surveys made with a survey effort varying over space and time. We here used a hierarchical single-census open population N-mixture model, which was recently developed to handle such challenging census data, to describe the dynamics in the Finnish population sizes of the reintroduced native Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and the invasive North American beaver (Castor canadensis). The numbers of beaver winter lodges (i.e., family groups) were counted by volunteers in the municipalities of Finland every third year during 1995–2013. The dynamics of both species followed Gompertz logistic growth with immigration. Initial abundance of North American beavers increased with proximity to the introduction sites as well as with the amount of water in the municipality. The intensively hunted North American beaver population declined and the Eurasian beaver population increased during the study period. The model generated reasonable estimates of both total Finnish and local numbers of lodges, corrected for the incomplete detection. We conclude that the single-census N-mixture model approach has clear potential when using citizen-science data for understanding spatio-temporal dynamics of wild populations.

Source: Brommer, J.E., Alakoski, R., Selonen, V., Kauhala, K., 2017. Population dynamics of two beaver species in Finland inferred from citizen-science census data. Ecosphere 8(9), DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1947