Citizen science projects can collect a wealth of scientific data, but that data is only helpful if it is actually used. While previous citizen science research has mostly focused on designing effective capture interfaces and incentive mechanisms, in this paper we explore the application of HCI methods to ensure that the data itself is useful. To provide a focus for this exploration we designed and implemented Creek Watch, an iPhone application and website that allow volunteers to report information about waterways in order to aid water management programs. Working with state and local officials and private groups involved in water monitoring, we conducted a series of contextual inquiries to uncover what data they wanted, what data they could immediately use, and how to most effectively deliver that data to them. We iteratively developed the Creek Watch application and website based on our findings and conducted evaluations of it with both contributors and consumers of water data, including scientists at the city water resources department. Our study reveals that the data collected is indeed useful for their existing practices and is already in use in water and trash management programs. Our results suggest the application of HCI methods to design the data for the end users is just as important as their use in designing the user interface.
Source: Creek watch: pairing usefulness and usability for successful citizen science
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