PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Citizen scientists and technology
What is the potential for increasing public science engagement?

Vicki Martin  

Citizen science is burgeoning, and digital technology is playing a key role in connecting public volunteers with researchers. Amongst the many benefits arising from these collaborations, citizen science is sometimes upheld as a panacea to public disillusionment with science. This proposition that greater public participation in scientific research will improve the science/society relationship remains unsubstantiated. Social research on citizen science has focussed on those who are already involved, leaving a gap in our knowledge about prospective volunteers and their views on science. This paper presents PhD research into the potential for citizen science to effect changes in science engagement of the broader public. The study was conducted in Australia where the public have a strong association with the marine environment. Recognising this, Australia's national innovation strategy, 'Inspiring Australia', suggests that marine science offers opportunities to increase public science engagement. Therefore, this research focussed specifically on marine citizen science. The aims were to describe: public interest in marine citizen science, barriers and drivers for public participation in marine citizen science which uses digital technology, and the relationship between interest in marine citizen science and public science engagement levels. A two-phased approach was taken. First, 110 people who use the marine environment were interviewed face-to-face in four regions of the country. This assisted the question development for stage two. Second, a national online survey was carried out, resulting in 1145 responses from across the country. At the time of writing the analysis is yet to be finalised; however, the results will be ready for presentation at PCST2016. The findings will describe the role citizen science may play in increasing public engagement with science. This research contributes to theory of science communication through better understanding of the types of audiences who are attracted to participatory science engagement, and those who are not.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.