Citizen science is a research/education technique, pioneered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO), aimed at increasing public understanding about biology, ecology, and the scientific process. Broadly defined, citizen science engages the general public in professional scientific research. Through its Citizen Science Program, CLO has involved thousands of people across North America as they collect and examine data in partnership with CLO scientists. Citizen Science projects such as The Birdhouse Network (TBN) have been shown to be successful at teaching the public about bird biology and the conservation needs of birds, while also providing scientists with valuable data that have been used to study bird populations and which are published in peer-reviewed journals. Evidence is less clear that this type of project can influence participants’ understanding of the process of science. This case study uses qualitative and quantitative data to demonstrate the ways in which a citizen science project—through its research, education, and conservation goals—may help enhance science as well as scientific literacy.

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A case study of citizen science

T. Phillips   Cornell University

B. Lewenstein   Cornell University

R. Bonney   Cornell University

Citizen science is a research/education technique, pioneered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO), aimed at increasing public understanding about biology, ecology, and the scientific process. Broadly defined, citizen science engages the general public in professional scientific research. Through its Citizen Science Program, CLO has involved thousands of people across North America as they collect and examine data in partnership with CLO scientists. Citizen Science projects such as The Birdhouse Network (TBN) have been shown to be successful at teaching the public about bird biology and the conservation needs of birds, while also providing scientists with valuable data that have been used to study bird populations and which are published in peer-reviewed journals. Evidence is less clear that this type of project can influence participants’ understanding of the process of science. This case study uses qualitative and quantitative data to demonstrate the ways in which a citizen science project—through its research, education, and conservation goals—may help enhance science as well as scientific literacy.

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