In citizen science projects, non-scientists participate in scientific research. Citizen science projects provide researchers with a way to gather or analyze enormous amounts of data. At the same time, these projects offer an exciting opportunity for non-scientists to be part of and learn from the scientific process. Citizen science projects provide unique opportunities for informal learning because they capitalize on participants’ excitement. The emergence of internet and smartphones opens up new opportunities for citizen science. The iSPEX project of Leiden University is one of the first projects to use smartphones to do scientific measurements. Within the iSPEX project, citizens are using an add-on to turn their smartphone into a scientific instrument to measure aerosols (small particles in the atmosphere). The aim of iSPEX was to find out if the combination of thousands of individual measurements can form a detailed and reliable aerosol map of the Netherlands. A second goal was for participants to learn about science in general and about the involvement of aerosols in health in particular. In this paper we describe the motivations, the expectations, and perceived learning impact of iSPEX participants. Why do people participate in iSPEX? What do they expect in terms of personal gain, reliability of the measurements and impact of the results on local and national policy and scientific progress? What have participants learned from the project? Interviews were conducted in order to develop and fine-tune a quantitative questionnaire. The questionnaire was sent to all citizen scientists of the iSPEX project. Participants were asked about (1) their experiences during the measurement events, (2) their general attitude towards science, (3) their previous experiences with scientific research and citizen science, (4) their motivation to participate (including future iSPEX and comparable measurement events), and (5) their expectations about the impact of the project on themselves and on environmental, health, and science policy. We offer new insights in citizen science that are of importance for the iSPEX project itself as well as for the research field at large. The iSPEX project will use the findings to inform the organization of future measurement events. On a larger scale, we provide insights for future comparable measurements by non-scientists. At the same time, these findings show in what ways citizen science can contribute to (informal) science learning.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Citizen science with smartphones
Participants’ motivation, expectations, and learning impact

Anne Land-Zandstra   Science Communication & Society, Leiden University

Frans Snik   Leiden Observatory, Netherlands

Jeroen Devilee   National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Netherlands

Franka Buurmeijer   Netherlands Research School for Astronomy, Netherlands

Jos van den Broek   Science Communication & Society, Leiden University, Netherlands

In citizen science projects, non-scientists participate in scientific research. Citizen science projects provide researchers with a way to gather or analyze enormous amounts of data. At the same time, these projects offer an exciting opportunity for non-scientists to be part of and learn from the scientific process. Citizen science projects provide unique opportunities for informal learning because they capitalize on participants’ excitement. The emergence of internet and smartphones opens up new opportunities for citizen science. The iSPEX project of Leiden University is one of the first projects to use smartphones to do scientific measurements. Within the iSPEX project, citizens are using an add-on to turn their smartphone into a scientific instrument to measure aerosols (small particles in the atmosphere). The aim of iSPEX was to find out if the combination of thousands of individual measurements can form a detailed and reliable aerosol map of the Netherlands. A second goal was for participants to learn about science in general and about the involvement of aerosols in health in particular. In this paper we describe the motivations, the expectations, and perceived learning impact of iSPEX participants. Why do people participate in iSPEX? What do they expect in terms of personal gain, reliability of the measurements and impact of the results on local and national policy and scientific progress? What have participants learned from the project? Interviews were conducted in order to develop and fine-tune a quantitative questionnaire. The questionnaire was sent to all citizen scientists of the iSPEX project. Participants were asked about (1) their experiences during the measurement events, (2) their general attitude towards science, (3) their previous experiences with scientific research and citizen science, (4) their motivation to participate (including future iSPEX and comparable measurement events), and (5) their expectations about the impact of the project on themselves and on environmental, health, and science policy. We offer new insights in citizen science that are of importance for the iSPEX project itself as well as for the research field at large. The iSPEX project will use the findings to inform the organization of future measurement events. On a larger scale, we provide insights for future comparable measurements by non-scientists. At the same time, these findings show in what ways citizen science can contribute to (informal) science learning.

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