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  1. Citizen science harnesses the power of nonscientist observations, often resulting in a vast network of data. Such projects have potential to democratize science by involving the public. Yet participants are mostly white, affluent, and well-educated, participants that contribute data from their residence or places they frequent. The geography of the United States is heavily segregated along lines of race and class. Using a Census Tract-level hurdle model, we test the relationship between the locations of the rain gauges from the citizen science project Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) with continuous variables for percent non-Hispanic white and median household income. We find whiter and more affluent Census Tracts are significantly more likely to have a rain gauge. The highly localized nature of precipitation combined with the uneven geography of storm-water infrastructure make data missing from citizen science projects like CoCoRaHS of vital importance to the project’s goals. We warn that scientific knowledge created from citizen science projects may produce scientific knowledge in service of wealthy, whiter communities at the expense of both communities of color and low-income communities.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 31, 2023
  2. 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
  3. In citizen science, data stewards and data producers are often not the same people. When those who have labored on data collection are not in control of the data, ethical problems could arise from this basic structural feature. In this Perspective, we advance the proposition that stewarding data sets generated by volunteers involves the typical technical decisions in conventional research plus a suite of ethical decisions stemming from the relationship between professionals and volunteers. Differences in power, priorities, values, and vulnerabilities are features of the relationship between professionals and volunteers. Thus, ethical decisions about open data practices in citizen science include, but are not limited to, questions grounded in respect for volunteers: who decides data governance structures, who receives attribution for a data set, which data are accessible and to whom, and whose interests are served by the data use/re-use. We highlight ethical issues that citizen science practitioners should consider when making data governance decisions, particularly with respect to open data.
  4. Abstract

    Citizen science involves the public in science to investigate research questions. Although citizen science facilitates learning in informal educational settings, little is known about its use or effects in postsecondary (college or university) settings. Using a literature review and a survey, we describe how and why citizen science is being used in postsecondary courses, as well as the impacts on student learning. We found that citizen science is used predominantly in biologically related fields, at diverse types of institutions, to improve student engagement and expose students to authentic research. Considerable anecdotal evidence supporting improved student learning from these experiences exists, but little empirical evidence exists to warrant any conclusion. Therefore, there is a need to rigorously assess the relationship between citizen science participation and postsecondary student learning. We highlight considerations for instructors planning to incorporate citizen science and for citizen science projects wanting to facilitate postsecondary use.