Characterizing engagement in an environmental citizen science project
Yaela Golumbic – University of Sydney. Australia
Ayelet Baram-Tsabari – Technion- Israel Institute of Science & Technology Israel
Barak Fishbain – Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technion- Israel Institute of Technology Israel
Citizen science is a collaborative effort of citizens and scientists, where members of the public actively engage in scientific research projects. As such, participants engage in data collection, classification and analysis, leading to both scientific and social beneficial outcomes. A key factor in facilitating wide public engagement with science through citizen science, lies in the diversity of participants actively engaging and participating in projects' activities. Yet, participants in citizen science projects are often addressed as one group, with motivations, benefits and outcomes discussed collectively, overlooking group diversity and personal needs and requirements from participation.
In an attempt to better understand the diversity of participants in citizen science, we describe here a multiple case study aimed to identify motivations and underlying engagement styles of citizen science participants. This was done by examining the motivation, activities and experiences of the most active participants (n=25) in Sensing the Air citizen science project, for monitoring air quality in the local environment, over the years 2015-2018. Using interviews, questionnaires, participation reports, online comments and correspondences with participants, log data from the project website, and participant feedback, we identified five unique engagement styles: the worried resident, the environmentalist, the researcher, the educator and the circumstantial participant. We found that initial motivation for engaging with the project often predicted the activities participants engaged with, their personal outcomes and their overall satisfaction from the project. These finding highlight the need for more diversity and flexibility in citizen science projects supporting participants' individual goals alongside its potential in promoting social impact and facilitating wider public engagement with science.
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