Abstract: Background: The wide availability of the Internet and the growth of digital communication technologies have become an important tool for epidemiological studies and health surveillance. Influenzanet is a participatory surveillance system monitoring the incidence of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Europe since 2003. It is based on data provided by volunteers who self-report their symptoms via the Internet throughout the influenza season and currently involves 10 countries.

Objective: In this paper, we describe the Influenzanet system and provide an overview of results from several analyses that have been performed with the collected data, which include participant representativeness analyses, data validation (comparing ILI incidence rates between Influenzanet and sentinel medical practice networks), identification of ILI risk factors, and influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) studies previously published. Additionally, we present new VE analyses for the Netherlands, stratified by age and chronic illness and offer suggestions for further work and considerations on the continuity and sustainability of the participatory system.

Methods: Influenzanet comprises country-specific websites where residents can register to become volunteers to support influenza surveillance and have access to influenza-related information. Participants are recruited through different communication channels. Following registration, volunteers submit an intake questionnaire with their postal code and sociodemographic and medical characteristics, after which they are invited to report their symptoms via a weekly electronic newsletter reminder. Several thousands of participants have been engaged yearly in Influenzanet, with over 36,000 volunteers in the 2015-16 season alone.

Results: In summary, for some traits and in some countries (eg, influenza vaccination rates in the Netherlands), Influenzanet participants were representative of the general population. However, for other traits, they were not (eg, participants underrepresent the youngest and oldest age groups in 7 countries). The incidence of ILI in Influenzanet was found to be closely correlated although quantitatively higher than that obtained by the sentinel medical practice networks. Various risk factors for acquiring an ILI infection were identified. The VE studies performed with Influenzanet data suggest that this surveillance system could develop into a complementary tool to measure the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine, eventually in real time.

Conclusions: Results from these analyses illustrate that Influenzanet has developed into a fast and flexible monitoring system that can complement the traditional influenza surveillance performed by sentinel medical practices. The uniformity of Influenzanet allows for direct comparison of ILI rates between countries. It also has the important advantage of yielding individual data, which can be used to identify risk factors. The way in which the Influenzanet system is constructed allows the collection of data that could be extended beyond those of ILI cases to monitor pandemic influenza and other common or emerging diseases.

Source: Koppeschaar, C.E., Colizza, V., Guerrisi, C., Turbelin, C., Duggan, J., Edmunds, W.J., Kjelsø, C., Mexia, R., Moreno, Y., Meloni, S., Paolotti, D., Perrotta, D., van Straten, E., Franco, A.O., 2017. Influenzanet: Citizens Among 10 Countries Collaborating to Monitor Influenza in Europe. JMIR Public Health Surveill 3(3): e66. DOI: 10.2196/publichealth.7429

Abstract: User-generated content (UGC) projects involve large numbers of mostly unpaid contributors collaborating to create content. Motivation for such contributions has been an active area of research. In prior research, motivation for contribution to UGC has been considered a single, static and individual phenomenon. In this paper, we argue that it is instead three separate but interrelated phenomena. Using the theory of helping behaviour as a framework and integrating social movement theory, we propose a stage theory that distinguishes three separate sets (initial, sustained and meta) of motivations for participation in UGC. We test this theory using a data set from a Wikimedia Editor Survey (Wikimedia Foundation, 2011). The results suggest several opportunities for further refinement of the theory but provide support for the main hypothesis, that different stages of contribution have distinct motives. The theory has implications for both researchers and practitioners who manage UGC projects.

Source: Crowston, K. Fagnot, I., 2018. Stages of Motivation for Contributing User-Generated Content:
A Theory and Empirical Test. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies
Vol 109: 89-101. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2017.08.005

Abstract: Citizen Science with mobile and wearable technology holds the possibility of unprecedented observation systems. Experts and policy makers are torn between enthusiasm and scepticism regarding the value of the resulting data, as their decision making traditionally relies on high-quality instrumentation and trained personnel measuring in a standardized way. In this paper, we (1) present an empirical behavior taxonomy of errors exhibited in non-expert smartphone-based sensing, based on four small exploratory studies, and discuss measures to mitigate their effects. We then present a large summative study (N=535) that compares instructions and technical measures to address these errors, both from the perspective of improvements to error frequency and perceived usability. Our results show that (2) technical measures without explanation notably reduce the perceived usability and (3) technical measures and instructions nicely complement each other: Their combination achieves a significant reduction in observed error rates while not affecting the user experience negatively.

Source: Budde, M., Schankin, A., Hoffmann, J., Danz, M., Riedel, T., Beigl, M., 2017. Participatory Sensing or Participatory Nonsense? Mitigating the Effect of Human Error on Data Quality in Citizen Science. Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies 1(3) No. 39. DOI: 10.1145/3131900

Abstract: The abundance of corals has declined significantly over past decades, to the point where several reef-building species in the Caribbean are now listed as threatened. Active reef restoration has expanded exponentially to help recover degraded coral populations and the ecological services associated with healthy and complex reefs. While restoration practitioners now grow hundreds of coral genotypes from several species within coral nurseries and thousands of corals are outplanted onto degraded reefs annually, the cost of these activities continues to be a limiting factor. We describe a citizen science program, Rescue a Reef (RAR), which trains participants in reef restoration and provides unique experiential learning opportunities to recover degraded coral reefs by propagating and transplanting threatened coral species. Between 2015–2017, 230 participants outplanted >1300 staghorn corals, showing that citizen scientists significantly contribute to reef restoration. Most importantly, corals outplanted by RAR participants showed the same survivorship as those outplanted by scientific experts. The direct benefits of using citizen scientists for restoration are enhanced when the educational opportunities offered by these expeditions are considered. Results from our survey showed significant improvements in coral reef ecology and restoration knowledge for RAR participants. Thus, the growing field of reef restoration based on the coral gardening method offers a unique opportunity for participatory public engagement. By participating in these programs, citizen scientists can go beyond data collection to active restoration of degraded resources.

Source: Hesley, D., Burdeno, D., Drury, C., Schopmeyer, S., Lirman, D., 2017. Citizen science benefits coral reef restoration activities. Journal for Nature Conservation. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2017.09.001

Editor’s Choice: This press release highlights the critical partnership between citizen science and libraries that needs to be further explored and exploited. It makes so much sense to link libraries with citizen science – after all, libraries serve as a community’s shared access point to a wealth of information that can provide the stepping stones for many a citizen scientist’s journey. –LFF–

Excerpt: Arizona State University (ASU) aims to position public libraries as key facilitators of citizen science, a collaborative process between scientists and the general public to spur the collection of data.

Through a new grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), researchers from the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and ASU Library will develop field-tested, replicable resource toolkits for public libraries to provide to everyday people contributing to real research, from right where they are.

ASU’s 2016 Citizen Science Maker Summit: (from left to right) Narendra Das, a research scientists at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Dan Stanton, associate librarian for academic services at ASU Library and co-investigator on the grant; Darlene Cavalier, professor of practice in ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society and principal investigator on the grant; Catherine Hoffman, managing director of SciStarter; Micah Lande, assistant professor and Tooker Professor at The Polytechnic School; and Brianne Fisher, former ASU graduate student.

Source: Lewis, B., 2017. ASU Partners with public libraries to advance citizen science. Available at: https://asunow.asu.edu/20170913-asu-partners-public-libraries-advance-citizen-science, 13 September 2017 [Last accessed on 2 October 2017].

Excerpt: [A]s the University of Manitoba’s Whiskerprint Project shows, citizen science can not only aid researchers, but also cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards and enrich STEM education among fledgling scientists.

Led by University of Manitoba professor and behavioral ecologist Dr. Jane Waterman, the Whiskerprint Project is pioneering the use of whisker pattern analysis to identify individual polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. In an interview with Mongabay-Wildtech, Waterman addressed the need to identify and track individuals in order to investigate bear behaviors and interactions, potential human-polar bear conflict, and impacts of climate change on the bears – whose habitat requires sea ice currently under threat. The “virtual mark-and-capture” method of identification and data collection offers a noninvasive process through which direct human contact with polar bears can be limited.

[A]s a polar bear’s whiskers grow, they part the bear’s fur, revealing spots where the animal’s black skin can be visible against its white coat. These spots create a distinctive pattern on each side of the bear’s face that can be used to distinguish individuals from each other. An algorithm developed by software developer and evolutionary biologist Dr. Carlos Anderson has allowed the research team to match whisker patterns from polar bear profiles. While similar to a NASA algorithm created to map stars and adapted to identify spot patterns of whale sharks, Anderson’s software further allows the polar bear researchers to compare the size, shape, and location of facial spots in relation to each other.

Source: Pedris, L., 2017. Spot the pattern: Whisker-prints and citizen science, 15 September 2017. Available at https://news.mongabay.com/wildtech/2017/09/spot-the-pattern-whisker-prints-citizen-science/ [Last accessed 3 October 2017].

Abstract: Citizen science is emerging as an increasingly viable way to support existing water monitoring efforts. This article assesses whether water quality data collected by large numbers of volunteers are as reliable as data collected under strict oversight of a government agency, and considers the potential of citizen science to expand spatial and temporal coverage of water monitoring networks. The analysis hinges on comparison of data on water temperature and dissolved oxygen (DO) in freshwater streams and rivers collected by four entities: the United States Geological Survey (USGS) network of field scientists, the USGS network of automated sensors, the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream volunteer water monitoring program, and the University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch (URIWW) volunteer water monitoring program. We find that volunteer-collected data exhibit the expected relationship between temperature and DO. Furthermore, we find that volunteer- and USGS-collected data lie in roughly the same range, although volunteer-collected DO measurements are lower on average (by approximately 1 mg/L in Georgia and 1.8 mg/L in Rhode Island). The results indicate that volunteer-collected data can provide reliable information about freshwater DO levels. These data could be useful for informing water management decisions—such as deciding where to focus restoration efforts—but may not be appropriate for applications in which highly precise data are required. We also comment on the growth potential of volunteer water monitoring efforts. Encouraging volunteers to collect data in high-priority or undersampled areas may help expand spatial and temporal coverage of volunteer monitoring networks while retaining high levels of participation.

Source: Safford, H., Peters, C.A., 2017. Citizen Science for Dissolved Oxygen Monitoring: Case Studies from Georgia and Rhode Island. Environmental Engineering Science. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/ees.2017.0218

Excerpt: My greatest frustration with science class when I was in school was during labs. For some reason I saw them for what they were…rule-following exercises. Think about it for a second. The lab stations are set up the same way, everyone gets the same handout, and there are correct conclusions that everyone should come to…if they followed the rules.

That concept is what fueled my endeavors in my classroom to make science as authentic and exciting as possible for my students. Now I know that “real” science isn’t glorious or sexy all of the time — in fact, most of the time. But, my job was to inspire my students, to build interest and to help them engage with what was going on around them.

Source: Runberg, D., 2017. Citizen Science With the micro:bit, 22 August 2017. Available at http://blog.sparkfuneducation.com/citizen-science-with-the-microbit [Last accessed 3 October 2017].

Abstract: This study explores the motivations and barriers for participation and persistence in an innovative citizen science pilot project with Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers. The project combines self-guided online training, in-person meetings, and collaboration through social networking and “mental modeling” to support on-the-ground development and execution of citizen science projects developed by participants. Results suggest that the two strongest motivators for volunteers to participate in the project were an interest in the environment and an interest in protecting a local natural resource. Our findings indicate that volunteers with more prior experience participating in citizen science projects and those with higher gross incomes were more likely to persist in the project. Our data also suggest that decisions to persist or drop out of the project were influenced by volunteers’ time commitment, their ability to use the online tools, the perceived relevance of the resources, and the saliency of the project. Projects that arose from pre-existing environmental issues seemed to be more salient and may have enhanced volunteer persistence. We discuss the influence of our findings and the implications for the development of future citizen science projects.

Source: Frensley, T., et al., 2017. Bridging the Benefits of Online and Community Supported Citizen Science: A Case Study on Motivation and Retention with Conservation-Oriented Volunteers. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice 2(1), p.4. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.84

Excerpt: People who give up their time for online volunteering are mainly motivated by a desire to learn, a new study has found. The research surveyed volunteers on ‘citizen science’ projects and suggests that this type of volunteering could be used to increase general knowledge of science within society. The study, led by Dr Joe Cox from the Department of Economics and Finance, discovered that an appetite to learn more about the subject was the number one driver for online volunteers, followed by being part of a community. It also revealed that many volunteers are motivated by a desire for escapism.

Source: University of Portsmouth Press Office, 2017. Citizen science volunteers driven by desire to learn. University of Portsmouth News, July 31, 2017.