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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 25, 2024
  2. Large-scale, scientist-led, participatory science (citizen science) projects often engage participants who are primarily white, wealthy, and well-educated. Calls to diversify contributory projects are increasingly common, but little research has evaluated the efficacy of suggested strategies for diversification. We engaged participants in Crowd the Tap through facilitator organizations like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), predominantly white institutions, high school science classrooms, and corporate volunteer programs. Crowd the Tap is a contributory project focused on identifying and addressing lead (Pb) contamination in household drinking water in the United States. We investigated how participant diversity with respects to race, ethnicity, and homeownership (a proxy for income) differed between participation facilitated through a partner organization and unfacilitated participation in which participants came to the project independently. We were also interested in which facilitators were most effective at increasing participant diversity. White and wealthy participants were overrepresented in unfacilitated participation. Facilitation helped increase engagement of people of color, especially Black and lower-income households. High schools were particularly effective at engaging Hispanic or Latinx participants, and HBCUs were important for engaging Black households. Ultimately, our results suggest that engagement through facilitator organizations may be an effective means of engaging diverse participants in large-scale projects. Our results have important implications for the field of participatory science as we seek to identify evidence-based strategies for diversifying project participants.

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  3. 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. 
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