Abstract: Folding@home is a distributed computing project in which participants run protein folding simulations on their computers. Participants complete work units and are awarded points for their contribution. An investigation into motivations to participate and patterns of participation revealed the significant contribution of a sub-community composed of individuals who custom-build computers to maximise their processing power. These individuals, known as “overclockers” or “hardware enthusiasts,” use distributed computing projects such as Folding@home to benchmark their modified computers and to compete with one another to see who can process the greatest number of project work units. Many are initially drawn to the project to learn about computer hardware from other overclockers and to compete for points. However, once they learn more about the scientific outputs of Folding@home, some participants become more motivated by the desire to contribute to scientific research. Overclockers form numerous online communities where members collaborate and help each other maximise their computing output. They invest heavily in their computers and process the majority of Folding@home’s simulations, thus providing an invaluable (and free) resource.

Source: Curtis, V., (2018). Patterns of Participation and Motivation in Folding@home: The Contribution of Hardware Enthusiasts and Overclockers. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. 3(1), p.5. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.109

Abstract: Online citizen science projects involve recruitment of volunteers to assist researchers with the creation, curation, and analysis of large datasets. Enhancing the quality of these data products is a fundamental concern for teams running citizen science projects. Decisions about a project’s design and operations have a critical effect both on whether the project recruits and retains enough volunteers, and on the quality of volunteers’ work. The processes by which the team running a project learn about their volunteers play a critical role in these decisions. Improving these processes will enhance decisionmaking, resulting in better quality datasets, and more successful outcomes for citizen science projects. This paper presents a qualitative case study, involving interviews and long-term observation, of how the team running Galaxy Zoo, a major citizen science project in astronomy, came to know their volunteers and how this knowledge shaped their decision-making processes. This paper presents three instances that played significant roles in shaping Galaxy Zoo team members’ understandings of volunteers. Team members integrated heterogeneous sources of information to derive new insights into the volunteers. Project metrics and formal studies of volunteers combined with tacit understandings gained through on- and offline interactions with volunteers. This paper presents a number of recommendations for practice. These recommendations include strategies for improving how citizen science project team members learn about volunteers, and how teams can more effectively circulate among themselves what they learn.

Source: Darch, P.T., 2017. When Scientists Become Social Scientists: How Citizen Science Projects Learn About Volunteers. International Journal of Digital Curation, Vol. 12, Iss. 2, 61–75. DOI: 10.2218/ijdc.v12i2.551

Abstract: How can sociocultural learning theory inform design principles for citizen science online learning communities to inspire local environmental action? The purpose of this article is to identify themes in sociocultural learning theory that could inform the use and development of highly collaborative online learning communities that utilize community informatics tools for citizen science to enable on-the-ground environmental actions. Applying previously established socio-cultural theories provides an opportunity to build on what’s already known about how people learn and collaborate. Finally, this article explains how communities of practice theory, knowledge building theory, and place-based education theory can be woven together to create the basis for development of a conceptual framework.

Source: Kermish-Allen, R., & Kastelein, K.. 2017. Toward a Sociocultural Learning Theory Framework to Designing Online learning Communities in Citizen Science. The Journal of Community Informatics, 13(3). Retrieved from http://ci-journal.org/index.php/ciej/article/view/1424

Abstract: A common challenge in citizen science projects is gaining and retaining participants. At the same time, the tertiary education sector is constantly being challenged to provide more meaningful and practical work for students. Can participation in citizen science projects be used as coursework with real practical experiential-learning benefits, without affecting the citizen science project outcomes? We seek to begin to answer this question via a case study analysis with Cyclone Center (CC), which asks participants to classify tropical cyclone characteristics through analysis of infrared satellite imagery. Skill of individual users has previously been shown to be obtainable once classifiers have looked at approximately 200 images using an expectation-maximisation likelihood approach. We use skill scores to determine if participation for course credit or altruism influenced skill for volunteers and students from two universities under three increasingly complex categories of classifications (eye or no eye; stronger, weaker, or the same; and which of six fundamental storm types). A bootstrap resampling approach was used to account for discrepancies between sample sizes. Overall, there is limited evidence for substantive differences in classification performance between credit awarded and altruistic participants, with only one finding of significance at

Phillips, C. et al., (2018). Assessing Citizen Science Participation Skill for Altruism or University Course Credit: A Case Study Analysis Using Cyclone Center. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. 3(1), p.6. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.111

Excerpt: Birds are incredible. Their power to inspire and amaze brings people together across every imaginable boundary. Global Big Day is the embodiment of this worldwide connectedness: a single day to celebrate birds in every place on Earth. On 5 May, Global Big Day, 28,000 people ventured outside in 170 countries, finding 6899 species: 2/3rds of the world’s bird species in one day. This is a new world record for birding and more birds seen by the Global Big Day team than any one person has ever seen in an entire year. Importantly, this impossibly fun event also provides valuable information to help the birds we all care about. eBirders gathered more than 1.6 million bird sightings on 5 May, which are now freely available to researchers and conservationists. As a global birding team, together we can gather information on where, when, and how birds make use of the landscape and we can use that information to aid conservation and research that can help keep birds around.

Source: Team eBird, 2018. Global Big Day 2018: a birding world record, 9 May, 2018. Available at: https://ebird.org/news/global-big-day-2018-a-birding-world-record [Last accessed 5 June 2018].

Abstract: Citizen science is growing as a field of research with contributions from diverse disciplines, promoting innovation in science, society, and policy. Inter- and transdisciplinary discussions and critical analyses are needed to use the current momentum to evaluate, demonstrate, and build on the advances that have been made in the past few years. This paper synthesizes results of discussions at the first international citizen science conference of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) in 2016 in Berlin, Germany, and distills major points of the discourse into key recommendations. To enhance innovation in science, citizen science needs to clearly demonstrate its scientific benefit, branch out across disciplines, and foster active networking and new formats of collaboration, including true co-design with participants. For fostering policy advances, it is important to embrace opportunities for policy-relevant monitoring and policy development and to work with science funders to find adequate avenues and evaluation tools to support citizen science. From a society angle it is crucial to engage with societal actors in various formats that suit participants and to evaluate two-way learning outcomes as well as to develop the transformative role of science communication. We hope that these key perspectives will promote citizen science progress at the science-society-policy interface.

Source: Hecker, S. et al., (2018). Innovation in Citizen Science – Perspectives on Science-Policy Advances. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. 3(1), p.4. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.114

Abstract: CoCoRaHS is a multinational citizen science project for observing precipitation. Like many citizen science projects, volunteer retention is a key measure of engagement and data quality. Through survival analysis, we found that participant age (self-reported at account creation) is a significant predictor of retention. Compared to all other age groups, participants aged 60-70 are much more likely to sign up for CoCoRaHS, and to remain active for several years. We also measured the influence of task difficulty and the relative frequency of rain, finding small but statistically significant and counterintuitive effects. Finally, we confirmed previous work showing that participation levels within the first month are highly predictive of eventual retention. We conclude with implications for observational citizen science projects and crowdsourcing research in general.

Source: Sheppard,S.A., Turner, J., Thebault-Spieker, J., Zhu, H., Terveen, L., 2017. Never Too Old, Cold, or Dry to Watch the Sky: A Survival Analysis of Citizen Science Volunteerism. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact., Vol. 1, No. 2, Article 94. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3134729

Excerpt: In 1977, in the very heavenly dawn of London’s punk-rock scene, a crude, photocopied magazine told its readers: “This is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now start a band.” They did so by the thousand. Now that punk aesthetic has come to science. Citizen science has been around for ages—professional astronomers, geologists and archaeologists have long had their work supplemented by enthusiastic amateurs—and new cheap instruments can usefully spread the movement’s reach.

Source: The Economist, 2017. Do-it-yourself science is taking off – Punk Science, 19 December 2017. Available at https://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21732703-growing-movement-seeks-make-tools-science-available-everyone-including [Last accessed 8 February 2018].

Excerpt: In the Education Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, we’re always working to bring exciting scientific content to K-12 classrooms. Educators can access many of these free resources, classroom materials and activities online, and we’re adding more all the time. The inspiration for these products often comes from the work being done at JPL and NASA, but sometimes it’s the teachers we work with whose creative ideas inspire the lessons we share with our community of STEM educators. Our new column, Teacher Feature, is an effort to capture those creative ideas and highlight the teachers behind them.

Source: Rodriguez, B., 2018. Teacher Uses NASA Data to Get Students Doing Citizen Science, 9 January 2018. Available at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/news/2018/1/9/teacher-uses-nasa-data-to-get-students-doing-citizen-science/ [Last accessed 8 February 2018].

Excerpt: Darcy Reynard hates “beg buttons” so much, he created an online map and recruited Twitter users to use a stop-watch on pedestrian crossing signals across the city. The map was soon reporting waits of more than three minutes as pedestrians or cyclists shivered in the cold, missed their bus or gave up and jaywalked.

Source: Stolte, E., 2018. Frustrated pedestrians use citizen science to put ‘beg buttons’ back up for debate, 24 January 2018. Available at http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/andrew-knack-puts-beg-buttons-up-for-debate-major-irritant-for-pedestrians [Last accessed 8 February 2018].