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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 15, 2024
  2. 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. 
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  4. 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 multiple 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). 
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