4 Why citizen science?
Science provides an important way of viewing the world and is a key part of everyday life. The relationship between citizens and science can be viewed within the context of how we relate and engage with it, both as individuals and collectively. Citizen science is an enabling force, making it possible to carry out science-based investigations that may not be possible without the contribution of volunteers. It is increasingly being recognised as a mechanism for scientific discovery and a means of acquiring knowledge while at the same time enabling better understanding of and engagement with science.
Citizen science is also evolving in the way it mobilises people’s involvement in recording information, social action and wide-ranging data gathering. Supported by technology, it can involve much wider audiences, enabling the mass-scale involvement of anyone with an interest in collecting, reporting and processing data. This is facilitated by easily available online technical tools such as mobile apps, websites and web-based platforms, as well as increased access to these tools via mobile phones, tablets, cameras etc. Citizen science also provides opportunities for participants to get involved in the process of scientific investigation or enquiry – enabling them to work with scientists and experts, which might not have otherwise been possible. This helps to advance understanding of science as well as facilitate skills building and learning (i.e. scientific literacy). These are significant outcomes of citizen science that will be discussed in greater depth later in the course.
Activity 2 Are you a citizen scientist?
Take a few minutes to think about your own interest in and experience of science, reflecting on the definitions and discussion of citizen science explored so far. What would you say sparked that interest? How have you explored it further?
Below is a list of possible factors that might motivate you to get involved in citizen science. Thinking of your own interests and experience, answer the following questions:
- Select yes or no (Y/N) to indicate which options express your interest to be involved in citizen science.
- Looking at your yes options, how would you rank them, with 1 as the highest? (The one/s with more influence should be ranked highest.)
Table 1 Motivating factors for participating in citizen science
|Motivating factor:||Yes / No||Rank (based on your choices)|
|Spending time outdoors|
|Helping at a specific place, site or area|
|Contributing to scientific knowledge|
|Sharing my knowledge / expertise|
|Learning new things|
|Meeting people / for fun|
|Developing new skills|
|Furthering my career|
|Being with others who wanted to do it (family, friends, teacher, etc.)|
Summary of survey results illustrating participants’ responses to questions about their motivations for getting involved in citizen science:
|Contributing to scientific knowledge||29%|
|Helping at a specific place, site or area||6%|
|Learning new things||3%|
|Being with others who wanted to do it (family, friends, teacher, etc.)||3%|
|Spending time outdoors||2%|
|Sharing my knowledge or expertise||2%|
|Furthering my career||1%|
|Meeting people or for fun||0|
|Developing new skills||0|