JCOM Special Issue on Citizen Science

Dear all,

We are pleased to announce publication of the first issue of JCOM for 2016.


SPECIAL ISSUE: CITIZEN SCIENCE, PART I

We are delighted to publish the first in a two part series exploring Citizen Science. Following a call for papers, Bruce Lewenstein and Emma Weitkamp received 37 manuscripts. Following review, it was clear that we would need two issues to accommodate the many worthy submissions. This newsletter introduces the essays and research papers that form part one of the Special Issue. April will see the publication of part two, and the final papers accepted through the call. We thank all the authors submitting manuscripts and the many reviewers contributing their time to peer review papers.


EDITORIAL

Can we understand citizen science?
Bruce V. Lewenstein

Citizen science is one of the most dramatic developments in science communication in the last generation. But analyses of citizen science, of what it means for science and especially for science communication, have just begun to appear. Articles in this first of two special issues of JCOM address three intertwined concerns in this emerging field: The motivation of citizen science participants, the relationship of citizen science with education, and the implications of participation for creation of democratic engagement in science-linked issues. Ultimately these articles contribute to answering the core question: What does citizen science mean?


ARTICLES AND ESSAYS

Challenges and successes in engaging citizen scientists to observe snow cover: from public engagement to an educational collaboration
Susan E. Dickerson-Lange, Karla Bradley Eitel, Leslie Dorsey, Timothy E. Link and Jessica D. Lundquist

Whereas the evolution of snow cover across forested mountain watersheds is difficult to predict or model accurately, the presence or absence of snow cover is easily observable and these observations contribute to improved snow models. We engaged citizen scientists to collect observations of the timing of distributed snow disappearance over three snow seasons across the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. . The primary goal of the project was to build a more spatially robust dataset documenting the influence of forest cover on the timing of snow disappearance, and public outreach was a secondary goal. Each year’s effort utilized a different strategy, building on the lessons of the previous year. We began by soliciting our professional networks to contribute observations via electronic or paper forms, moved to a public outreach effort to collect geotagged photographs, and finally settled on close collaboration with an outdoor science school that was well-positioned to collect the needed data. Whereas the outreach efforts garnered abundant enthusiasm and publicity, the resulting datasets were sparse. In contrast, direct collaboration with an outdoor science school that was already sending students to make weekly snow observations proved fruitful in both data collection and educational outreach. From a data collection standpoint, the shift to an educational collaboration was successful because it essentially traded wide spatial coverage combined with sparse temporal coverage for dense temporal coverage at a single, but important location. From a public engagement standpoint, the partnership allowed for more intensive participation by more people and enhanced the science curriculum at the collaborating school.


Cell Spotting: educational and motivational outcomes of cell biology citizen science project in the classroom
Cândida G. Silva, António Monteiro, Caroline Manahl, Eduardo Lostal, Teresa Holocher-Ertl, Nazareno Andrade, Francisco Brasileiro, Paulo Gama Mota, Fermín Serrano Sanz, José A. Carrodeguas and Rui M. M. Brito

Success stories of citizen science projects widely demonstrate the value of this open science paradigm and encourage organizations to shift towards new ways of doing research. While benefits for researchers are clear, outcomes for individuals participating in these projects are not easy to assess. The wide spectrum of volunteers collaborating in citizen science projects greatly contributes to the difficulty in the evaluation of the projects’ outcomes. Given the strong links between many citizen science projects and education, in this work we present an experience with hundreds of students (aged 15–18) of two different countries who participate in a project on cell biology research — Cell Spotting — as part of their regular classroom activities. Apart from introducing the project and resources involved, we aim to provide an overview of the benefits of integrating citizen science in the context of formal science education and of what teachers and students may obtain from it. In this case, besides helping students to consolidate and apply theoretical concepts included in the school curriculum, some other types of informal learning have also been observed such as the feeling of playing a key role, which contributed to an increase of students’ motivation.


School of Ants goes to college: integrating citizen science into the general education classroom increases engagement with science
Tyler Vitone, Kathryn A. Stofer, M. Sedonia Steininger, Jiri Hulcr, Robert Dunn and Andrea Lucky

Citizen science has proven useful in advancing scientific research, but participant learning outcomes are not often assessed. This case study describes the implementation and tailoring of an in-depth assessment of the educational impact of two citizen science projects in an undergraduate, general education course. Mixed-methods assessment of citizen science within a college classroom demonstrates that public participation in scientific research can positively alter attitudes towards science. The timing and type of assessments yielded significantly different results and qualitative assessment provided depth and context. However, disentangling the impact of the course from participation in the projects is the biggest challenge.


Motivation and learning impact of Dutch flu-trackers
Anne M. Land-Zandstra, Mara M. van Beusekom, Carl E. Koppeschaar and Jos M. van den Broek

Many citizen science projects deal with high attrition rates. The Dutch Great Influenza Survey is an exception to this rule. In the current study, we conducted an online questionnaire (N=1610) to investigate the motivation and learning impact of this loyal, active participant base. Results show that the desire to contribute to a larger (scientific) goal is the most important motivator for all types of participants and that availability of scientific information and data are important for learning. We suggest similar projects seek (social) media attention regularly, linking project findings to current events and including the importance of participants’ contribution.


The Swedish mass experiments — a way of encouraging scientific citizenship?
Dick Kasperowski and Fredrik Brounéus

Since 2009 Vetenskap & Allmänhet (Public & Science, VA coordinates an annual mass experiment as part of ForskarFredag — the Swedish events on the European Researchers’ Night. Through the experiments, thousands of Swedish students from preschool to upper secondary school have contributed to the development of scientific knowledge on, for example, the acoustic environment in classrooms, children’s and adolescents’ perception of hazardous environments and the development of autumn leaves in deciduous trees. The aim is to stimulate scientific literacy and an interest in science while generating scientific output. The essay discusses how the mass experiments can contribute to encouraging scientific citizenship.


We’re not going to be guinea pigs;” Citizen Science and Environmental Health in a Native American Community
Elizabeth Hoover

Determined to learn the extent to which a local contaminated site was impacting community health, the Native American community of Akwesasne reached out to a research university, eventually partnering on the first large-scale environmental health community based participatory research project (CBPR). Based on interviews with scientists, community fieldworkers, and study participants, this article examines the ways in which collaborating on these studies was beneficial for all parties — especially in the context of citizen science goals of education and capacity building — as well as the challenges they faced, including communicating the limits of what scientific studies could accomplish for the community.


The Problem of Extension revisited: new modes of digital participation in science
Sascha Dickel and Martina Franzen

Citizen Science is part of a broader reconfiguration of the relationship between science and the public in the digital age: Knowledge production and the reception of scientific knowledge are becoming increasingly socially inclusive. We argue that the digital revolution brings the “problem of extension” — identified by Collins and Evans in the context of science and technology governance — now closer to the core of scientific practice. In order to grasp the implications of the inclusion of non-experts in science, the aim of this contribution is to define a role-set of non-certified knowledge production and reception, serving as a heuristic instrument for empirical clarifications.


Part II of the Special Issue Citizen Science will be published in April 2016.

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