Citizen Science & Credibility

Citizen Science

A content analysis by  Mandy Hu (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) in her internship with me looks critically at the Citizen Science movement:  An increasing number of science projects worldwide involve citizens in collecting data, with the benefit of increasing sampling across time and space. Citizen science is also expected to be a powerful tool for involving the public in science, and through such engagement expressly valuing public input and knowledge, thereby bridging the gap between science and society. However though many are doing it, few have characterised which components of citizen science  are essential for optimizing the benefits for both science and society.  Critical components might include the duration of the project and citizen interaction, qualitative and quantitative aspects of citizen contributions, effort of contribution, feedback, and implementation of other communication devices for continued engagement etc. Identifying trends in these characteristics across projects will also allow for initial assessment of their functionality. This project will involve a critical content analysis of characteristics of a broad range of citizen science projects worldwide. Further assessment from available resources (as well as interviews with project administrators) will be focused on the success and failure of methods. There is a range of outputs from these projects, from generation of scientific data to a better-informed public. This project will however focus on the effects of citizen science on increasing civic engagement. A pilot study on assessing the potential impact on civic engagement will be carried out on a specific citizen science project. Pre- and post-surveys will be administered which provide a numerical gauge of a participant’s level of civic engagement.


In 2010 the story of the humpback whale that traveled half the world between Atlantic & the Indian Oceans -via the Antarctic- demonstrated again the important role of “citizen science”.  See my previous research on Antarctic Humpbacks  : Allied Whale Research Group, College of the Atlantic, USA.

Engaging with science and removing stereotypesof “scientist as other” is critical to societal involvement with science. What defines the contemporary movement? Is it really a mutualism: how much does it take to DO science? Does it have a parallel with “citizen artist” movements? See also current research and Marine Meter Squared project (Sally Carson).

Credibility – Communicator Cred? 


Credibility Enhancing Displays (CREDS) in evolution & human behavior studies are costly rituals for increasing credibility of what is on offer. They serve to intensify belief systems, through acts such as scarification. Is this a vital missing link in climate change communication? Do we need authority figures in climate change to don facial moko to express how committed their beliefs are? Is this what it will take to inspire personal responsibility to act to remedy climate change?

Potential collaborators could be  from  Dept of Marketing as there are parallels with their research in (1) identifying barriers to adopting energy efficient technology (complexity of encouraging and facilitating change by changing thought/behavior) & (2) the significant gap between what people say & what they do (surveys reveal greater weight given to societal issues then is reflected in behavioral practice).


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