Research Article: “Quantifying Online Citizen Science: Dynamics and Demographics of Public Participation in Science”
The article linked to below was published today by PLOS One.
Bruno J. Strasser
University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
José Luis-Fernandez Marquez
PLOS One 18(11): e0293289
Citizen scientists around the world are collecting data with their smartphones, performing scientific calculations on their home computers, and analyzing images on online platforms. These online citizen science projects are frequently lauded for their potential to revolutionize the scope and scale of data collection and analysis, improve scientific literacy, and democratize science. Yet, despite the attention online citizen science has attracted, it remains unclear how widespread public participation is, how it has changed over time, and how it is geographically distributed. Importantly, the demographic profile of citizen science participants remains uncertain, and thus to what extent their contributions are helping to democratize science. Here, we present the largest quantitative study of participation in citizen science based on online accounts of more than 14 million participants over two decades.
We find that the trend of broad rapid growth in online citizen science participation observed in the early 2000s has since diverged by mode of participation, with consistent growth observed in nature sensing, but a decline seen in crowdsourcing and distributed computing. Most citizen science projects, except for nature sensing, are heavily dominated by men, and the vast majority of participants, male and female, have a background in science. The analysis we present here provides, for the first time, a robust ‘baseline’ to describe global trends in online citizen science participation. These results highlight current challenges and the future potential of citizen science. Beyond presenting our analysis of the collated data, our work identifies multiple metrics for robust examination of public participation in science and, more generally, online crowds. It also points to the limits of quantitative studies in capturing the personal, societal, and historical significance of citizen science.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.