Citizen Science Movement

Part
01
of six
Part
01

Citizen Science Overview

Citizen science, research work completed by non-credentialed scientists, has been an extremely useful tool for expanding available data sets and completing ambitious research projects. With the rise of the internet and smart phones, followed then by AI, citizen science will continue to be an important resource across numerous scientific disciplines. By inviting the public in to the scientific process, citizen science encourages greater social, political, and economic participation at the local, national, and global level.

Citizen Science

  • Citizen Science is defined as "scientific work undertaken by members of the public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions"
  • Public citizens' contributions come in 3 basic forms: contributive (gathering data); (2) collaborative (analyzing or interpreting data); or (3) co-created (citizen participation in all levels of a project, from the initial question to data analysis).
  • Using citizen scientists as data collectors, trained scientists are able to take on ambitious projects whose data is either too prohibitively expensive to collect or not collectible at all by available research means.
  • In the United States, there are currently 448 active and federally approved crowd source and citizen science projects.

Growth

  • The citizen science movement has been growing as more citizens become not only comfortable with but interested in data collection, are able to use the internet to research and communicate with others, and either already possess the means of data collection (such as a camera smartphone) or can acquire them easily.
  • The citizen science field has also been steadily expanding in academia and federal agencies as the numbers of participants and numbers of projects rise, as well as the creation of new data collection and analysis techniques.
  • Citizen science has been an extremely useful tool for ecology and astronomy, where publicly collected images are helping expand scientific data sets, but is now gaining popularity in health and biomedical research. A wealth of citizen-produced data is available in the form of publicly reported lifestyle changes, patient histories, and DNA databases.

Benefits

  • By participating in citizen science, a three-way engagement is created between the public who formulate research questions and collect data, scientists who analyze and publish it, and the community leaders and public officials who use the results to change policy.
  • International organizations are making use of citizen science for large scale economic and social policy planning. In 2020 a European Commission funded research project is distributing traffic sensors to 1,500 homes across 5 countries to study traffic congestion and pollution. Pursuing this citizen science approach allows the organizers access to much more data than would have been available from a classic car counting model.
  • The use of citizen science is only expected to grow (both in volume of projects and number of fields using the methodology) as artificial intelligence and deep learning methods are used to fill in data gaps, analyze available data, and create models to be used for future applications.

Limitations

  • The use and growth of citizen science are limited by public interest (which projects citizens choose to participate in), unstructured data acquisition methods (data collected by the public "at will" is not subject to the same rigorous conditions as laboratory studies), and the complex data analysis that can be required for large amounts of unstructured data.
  • Though many Citizen Science Associations exist on a national level there is no international or field level standards on the definition of the term "citizen science", how to qualify intellectual property of self-reported data, and validate the integrity of citizen science based research projects.

Research Strategy

Since it rose to prominence in the late 1990s there has been much written and published about citizen science. From peer-reviewed scientific journals to popular magazines, these news sources comprised the basis of the necessary research. Pulling from academic work as well as public sources helped to paint a complete picture of citizen science, as it itself requires both scholarly work and the interest of the public. By using contemporary sources the current citizen science landscape is emphasized.
Part
02
of six
Part
02

INaturalist Overview

iNaturalist considers itself, at its core, an online social network for people to share findings in nature to help each other learn. This sharing leads to a platform for others to perform research using the data collected.

Overview

Funding

  • iNaturalist is owned jointly by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society. These organizations appear to be the primary source of funding. iNaturalist's website identifies eleven other organizations as supporters and partners, several of which provide discounted or free services to iNaturalist.
  • iNaturalist is supported by a multitude of volunteers that support its infrastructure, including Crowdin and Translatewiki, which translates its site and apps into multiple languages. iNaturalist has a web page dedicated to listing ways volunteers can help its efforts.
  • A page on its website is dedicated to accepting one-time or recurring donations, potentially matched by one's employer.

Initiatives

  • iNaturalist notes no initiative beyond continuously improving its platforms to make it easier to collaborate and identify species. Its only stated scientific agenda is to help "map where and when species occur."
  • iNaturalist only provides a platform for the data that may drive scientific research and studies.

Research Strategy

Aside from revenue and consumer ratings, we were able to find all requested information from iNaturalist's website. The websites of identified supporters and partners were searched for funds directed towards iNaturalist without success. A general Internet search was also performed to find funding detail without success. Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Giving USA Foundation and GuideStar were searched for consumer ratings without any success.


Part
03
of six
Part
03

Zooniverse Overview

The use of citizen scientists, volunteers assisting professional researchers, makes it possible to perform vital research, such as observing galaxies, but also projects in the arts, biology, climate, history, and many more.

Overview

  • Zooniverse is an organization of volunteer researchers, more than a million people worldwide who assist a team of professional researchers in web-based citizen science projects.
  • There are 1,960,482 registered volunteers assisting in over 50 active online citizen science projects.
  • Zooniverse is hosted by Citizen Science Alliance (CSA) on the web, a collection of scientists, software developers, and educators in association to facilitate internet-based citizen science projects.
  • Zooniverse was co-founded in 2007 by Chris Lintott, a Professor of Astrophysics at University of Oxford.
  • Chris Lintott is also co-founder of Galaxy Zoo, a research platform using people power to classify a million galaxies and dedicated to understanding these processes of interacting stars and galaxies.
  • The success of Galaxy Zoo, what was initially to be a 2-year project, led to Zooniverse.
  • Zooniverse projects perform an array of tasks, including classifying over 1.7 million galaxies, transcribing millions of pages of text, and watching tens of thousands of videos of tiny parasites called nematodes, all of which has led to over 200 research publications.
  • From 2010 to 2014, Professor Lintott was Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Computational Cosmology.

Funding

  • Funding for Zooniverse comes mainly from private foundations and government grants.
  • Private individuals are encouraged to lend support by participating in one of their many projects.
  • 1715 Labs is a company that was set up to benefit citizen science research, especially through the Zooniverse.
  • The company's success will directly benefit Zooniverse.
  • Much of the research is funded through Federal or non-profit grants as well as institutional support from Oxford, Adler, and the University of Minnesota.
  • Many projects provide preexisting grants or the CSA uses grants acquired independently.
  • Volunteers are not compensated for contributions to a project.

Initiatives

Research Strategy

We successfully searched Zooniverse's sites for information about the requested details, as well as cites associated with Zooniverse and associated with projects citizen scientists who are associated with Zooniverse have volunteered for. We investigated various sites to find information about revenue received by either Zooniverse, Citizen Science Alliance, or 1715 Labs. 1715 Labs states on its website that it is a venture-backed startup. We searched Charity Navigator, Giving USA Foundation, GuideStar, and Give.org. for any consumer ratings without success. There was, however, no negative reporting on any sites we researched.
Part
04
of six
Part
04

EBird Overview

eBird has encouraged individual birdwatchers around the world to share the results of their observations. This led to the formation of a centralized database of over 737 million bird sightings, which contributes to vast scientific research on birds.

Overview

  • eBird essentially crowdsources the act of birdwatching and compiling relevant data, such as photographs, audio recordings, location, abundance and habitat use. Individual birdwatchers around the world contribute to over 100 million bird sightings per year along with relevant data uploaded in the form of a standardized checklist.
  • To ensure data quality, eBird provides lists to birdwatchers of likely birds to be seen at a particular region and date. Abnormal results are investigated by regional experts.
  • Although the total number of active members at any one time is not reported, eBird reports that over 500,000 people contributed data related to more than 737 million observations since its inception in 2012.
  • Over 100,000 people downloaded raw data (for free) from eBird's website in 2019. The website had over 5.2 million visitors that year.
  • While eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, it has local partners throughout the world.

Funding

Initiatives

  • In 2018, eBird introduced an eBird Essentials course as a free training guide to introduce participant birdwatchers to fundamentals and best practices. Over 25,000 volunteers have taken the course in 2019.
  • New birding tools were introduced in 2019 to eBird's mobile app to allow the use of more eBird tools like maps and checklists. eBird 2.0 was launched in 2019 on Android and will be launched in early 2020 for Apple. In 2019, eBird's mobile app was used to upload over 6.2 million checklists.

Research Strategy

We were able to find most requested information from eBird's website and in a couple cases exhaustively searched third-party sites to corroborate what was unclear or not provided directly by eBird. Donor sites were also searched for funds directed towards eBird without success. The funds awarded by the NSF are likely available, but an exhaustive search would be needed to determine the details necessary to get to the proper award abstracts. Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Giving USA Foundation and GuideStar were searched for consumer ratings without any success.

Part
05
of six
Part
05

Citizen Science-Media Coverage

Major media outlets in the U.S. that have covered the topic of citizen scientists include CNN, NBC, Forbes, The Washington Post, Los Angeles News, and The New York Times. Some topics covered are astronomy, nature, expedition, and wildlife.

"Citizen Scientists Discover Rare Exoplanet"

"See the World and Make a Difference on a ‘Citizen Science’ Expedition"

  • This topic was covered by the New York Times.
  • The article focuses on encouraging citizen science travelers that are passionate about wildlife, earth science, or the environment to participate in scientific research tour by citizen science.
  • The article identified a few expedition operators that have scientific missions such as Earthwatch, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, and Biosphere Expeditions.
  • It also listed some hotels and resorts that focus on ecotourists such as Shinta Mani Wild, Daydream Island Resort, and Refugio Amazonas.

"Exploring Antarctica as Citizen Scientist with Polar Latitudes"

"Citizen Science Using the iNaturalist App"

"Want to Help Save Animals Threatened by Extinction? Become a Citizen Scientist."

  • This topic was covered by The Washington Post.
  • It dwells on the role of kids in observing and preserving animals that are threatened by extinction.
  • Such a role includes keeping kids away from "protected beach areas that are reserved for shorebirds."
  • Kids can become citizen scientists by observing wildlife and nature, documenting what they see, and by sharing what they know.
  • Furthermore, the article identified programs that are designed to enable kids to contribute to the preservation of these animals such as eBird and eMammal.

Part
06
of six
Part
06

Citizen Science-Engagement Efforts

Both technology and programs play a crucial role to attract common citizens into science projects. Websites, digital catalogues and social media allow citizens to interact more intimately with professional scientists in charge of the projects. An example of this is the Zooniverse project, which has an important presence in social media. This is translated into citizen engagement. Mobile phones and smartwatches are crucial in this engagement as well, such as the case of San Francisco Bay Observatory project.

Technology Used to Engage People Into Citizen Science

  • Technology currently allows common people to more easily access science projects. Three tech tools are crucial to attract people into citizen science projects: Project websites, project catalogues and social media websites /apps.
  • The way how people can collect data becomes an incentive for citizens to participate in a science project. Our current technology aids this experience: smartwatches, mobile phones, IoT, drones, mapping technologies as well as virtual and augmented reality.

San Francisco Bay Observatory

  • The photo station is a program used by several research organizations to encourage citizens to participate in science project research. San Francisco Bay Observatory created a photo station on Bair Island California and invited citizens to photograph the ecosystem. By doing this, citizens help track the plants' growth.
  • To engage and attract citizens into the project, a sign in the photo station states: "More than 30 species of plants have been planted there to encourage native plant communities. The photos will help researchers track the plants’ growth if posted on Twitter with the hashtag #RestoreBair2".
  • The citizen engagement achieved by this kind of project has other positive results: The participants in citizen science generate an environmental awareness that is shared with their friends and families. This factor could help increase environmental conservation.

Project Website Zooniverse

  • Zooniverse began 10 years ago and it is a multicultural project. The team from North America (California and Minnesota) added a great deal to the project. Its purpose is to converge common people's science efforts with professional researchers' projects.
  • Zooniverse project engages people into citizen science using digital technology such as the internet. It invites people in with the next legend: "Zooniverse enables everyone to take part in real, cutting edge research in many fields across the sciences, humanities and more."
  • Zooniverse has a huge and active digital community. The website has 1,960,465 registered users, 29,907 followers on Facebook and 20,800 followers on Twitter. This is translated into thousands of citizens ready to participate in a citizen science project.

Questa Game App

  • The game App proposal is a very attractive strategy for citizens all around the globe, including North America. The app is downloadable from digital stores in any mobile phone. The premise is simple; upload photos of wildlife, acquire points for it and be globally ranked.
  • The game consists on obtaining the most "points or gold". In the official website anyone can see the best-ranked players of the App. This game idea increases the interest of common people of delving into science.

Catalog Citizen Science US Government

  • The official US General Services Administration website: "citizen science" currently offers 448 projects in the United States and in other countries. In these projects people can participate by contacting the leader of each science project to join.
  • The official government initiative is to promote citizen participation in science projects by making things more accessible. In the website, tools like "Community or Toolkit" can be found. These tools allow interested people to see citizen science as something accessible.

Earthwatch: International Environmental Charity

  • The Earthwatch mission statement is the following: "To engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education. To promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment".
  • The organization selects innovative scientific research projects to solve critical environmental problems. They also promote fresh and attractive ways to participate in each project. They do this in order to engage the general public as well as academic people. An example of it is the project: Sierra to Sea.

Research Strategy

Your research team began the research on trusted sites like Researchgate. On this website an overview of which technologies are crucial to attract citizens to a science project was found. On websites like Zooniverse, Citizen Science Gov, Earthwatch and Questagame, relevant information about how these project initiatives call the attention of common people to participate in a science project was found. In American Forests and Brisbanetimes websites information regarding relevant programs to engage people into citizen science was found. Lastly it was necessary to visit social media websites like Twitter and Facebook, which corroborated some statistical data. It Is important to mention that some sources don't have a specific year of publication. The reason is that they are the official website or the official profile in social media of the project and the information contained is updated when needed.

Sources
Sources