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  1. Abstract The bulk of research on citizen science participants is project centric, based on an assumption that volunteers experience a single project. Contrary to this assumption, survey responses (n = 3894) and digital trace data (n = 3649) from volunteers, who collectively engaged in 1126 unique projects, revealed that multiproject participation was the norm. Only 23% of volunteers were singletons (who participated in only one project). The remaining multiproject participants were split evenly between discipline specialists (39%) and discipline spanners (38% joined projects with different disciplinary topics) and unevenly between mode specialists (52%) and mode spanners (25% participated in online and offline projects). Public engagement was narrow: The multiproject participants were eight times more likely to be White and five times more likely to hold advanced degrees than the general population. We propose a volunteer-centric framework that explores how the dynamic accumulation of experiences in a project ecosystem can support broad learning objectives and inclusive citizen science.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 22, 2023
  2. As the scientific community, like society more broadly, reckons with long-standing challenges around accessibility, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, we would be wise to pay attention to issues and lessons emerging in debates around citizen science. When practitioners first placed the modifier “citizen” on science, they intended to signify an inclusive variant within the scientific enterprise that enables those without formal scientific credentials to engage in authoritative knowledge production (1). Given that participants are overwhelmingly white adults, above median income, with a college degree (2, 3), it is clear that citizen science is typically not truly an egalitarian variant of science, open and available to all members of society, particularly those underrepresented in the scientific enterprise. Some question whether the term “citizen” itself is a barrier to inclusion, with many organizations rebranding their programs as “community science.” But this co-opts a term that has long referred to distinct, grassroots practices of those underserved by science and is thus not synonymous with citizen science. Swapping the terms is not a benign action. Our goal is not to defend the term citizen science, nor provide a singular name for the field. Rather, we aim to explore what the field, and the multiplemore »publics it serves, might gain or lose by replacing the term citizen science and the potential repercussions of adopting alternative terminology (including whether a simple name change alone would do much to improve inclusion).« less
  3. The explosive growth in citizen science combined with a recalcitrance on the part of mainstream science to fully embrace this data collection technique demands a rigorous examination of the factors influencing data quality and project efficacy. Patterns of contributor effort and task performance have been well reviewed in online projects; however, studies of hands-on citizen science are lacking. We used a single hands-on, out-of-doors project—the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST)—to quantitatively explore the relationships among participant effort, task performance, and social connectedness as a function of the demographic characteristics and interests of participants, placing these results in the context of a meta-analysis of 54 citizen science projects. Although online projects were typified by high (>90%) rates of one-off participation and low retention (<10%) past 1 y, regular COASST participants were highly likely to continue past their first survey (86%), with 54% active 1 y later. Project-wide, task performance was high (88% correct species identifications over the 31,450 carcasses and 163 species found). However, there were distinct demographic differences. Age, birding expertise, and previous citizen science experience had the greatest impact on participant persistence and performance, albeit occasionally in opposite directions. Gender and sociality were relatively inconsequential, although highlymore »gregarious social types, i.e., “nexus people,” were extremely influential at recruiting others. Our findings suggest that hands-on citizen science can produce high-quality data especially if participants persist, and that understanding the demographic data of participation could be used to maximize data quality and breadth of participation across the larger societal landscape.

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