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  • Citizen Science

Citizen Science

Bonney, R., Cooper C. B., Dickinson, J., Kelling, S., Phillips, T., Rosenberg,  K. V., & Shirk, J. (2009) Citizen science: A developing tool for expanding science knowledge and scientific literacy.” Oxford Journal of BioScience, 59(11), 977–84. Retrieved from:

doi:10.1525/bio.2009.59.11.9 .

This article dives into a brief history of citizen science. It emphasizes that citizen science is nothing new, it has been around since the late 1800s, however it has recently entered a new era. With a focus of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology this article discusses the procedures necessary for successful citizen science project.


Brossard, D., Lewenstein, B., & Bonney, R. (2005). Scientific knowledge and attitude change: the impact of a citizen science project. International Journal of Science Education, 27(9), 1099–1121. Retrieved from:


This report is an evaluation of a specific citizen-science project focused on the study of cavity-nesting birds. The evaluation asked participants various questions in order to get a better understanding of the profile of said participants as well as their knowledge on science through a pre-assessment and a post-assessment. The assessments also helped to measure changes in opinions and attitudes. The surveys conducted also helped those carrying out citizen-science projects to get a better understanding of the impact of these projects. Reflecting on the evaluation, the authors admit cons to the evaluation and ways to improve such evaluations for the future. There are not many evaluations of this sort pertaining to citizen science, so this assessment helps to provide a better quantitative understanding of the impact of citizen science.


Cohn, J. P. (2008). Citizen science: can volunteers do real research.” American Institute of Biological Sciences, 58(3), 192–97. Retrieved from:


Cohn demonstrates that citizen scientists can play a very necessary role in scientific research. Being that the large majority of those who are citizen scientists have either a background in science or just plain love nature, it is no question that these people are qualified and vital. Although researchers may have to alter some of the information they are looking for, it does not cause so much of an issue that they would rather pay graduate students or other researchers. The bottom line is that citizen scientists are nearly as effective as graduate students or other researchers and a lot cheaper.


Dickinson, J. L., Zuckerberg B., & Bonter D. N. (2010) Citizen science as an ecological research tool: Challenges and benefits. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 41, 149-72. Retrieved from:


This article highlights how citizen science, despite some limitations, is an important supplemental tool to research projects. Dickinson et al. state that citizen science cannot be in-depth and can suffer from observer variation and bias. However, for hypothesis driven information gathering that requires broad spatial and temporal reach participatory citizen science becomes extremely useful. Additionally, over the course of long term projects, citizen science data collection is shown to improve over time.


Hochachka, W. M., Fink, D., Hutchinson, R. A., Sheldon, D., Wong, W., & Kelling, S. (2012). Data-intensive science applied to broad-scale citizen science. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 27(2), 130–37. Retrieved from:


This article discusses how intensive methods of data collection are vital in scientific observations and data collection. For Hochachka et al., existing methods of analysis may not always be the best for citizen science projects and that there are unique and inherent challenges to broad-scale citizen science data sets. However, the large amount of data collected by citizen-scientists help professional scientists in better coordinating national and international conservation efforts.


Lindenmayer, D. B., & Likens, G. E. (2009). Adaptive monitoring: A new paradigm for long-term research and monitoring. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24(9), 482–86. Retrieved from:


This article proposes a new adaptive monitoring model for long-term research. Designed to addresses problems of poor planning or lack of focus that can render results unusable, this model develops questions early, sets clear objectives and enables programs to evolve repeatedly as new information emerges and research questions change. It mentions that many factors can undermine the credibility of long-term research and focuses on three key issue in long-term research: short-term funding, poor statistical planning, and a prolonged disagreement on what to actually monitor. It provides a few examples of adaptive monitoring and includes some helpful charts and illustrations.


Silvertown, J. (2009). A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24(9), 467–71. Retrieved from:

doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.03.017 .

This article explores the phenomenon of citizen science and takes a brief look at the origins. After touching on the origins, the author talks about citizen science of today. While highlighting the importance of citizen science, it is made clear that large projects are nearly impossible without volunteers. Finally, the author speaks about the challenges as well as the opportunities facing citizen science.


Stilgoe, J., & Lock, S. J. (2014). Why should we promote public engagement with science. Public Understanding of Science, 23(1), 4–15. Retrieved From:


Twenty years ago, the journal Public Understanding of Science was launched as the first forum for debating the question of “why we should promote the public understanding of science”. In this issue, the article reflects on what has changed over the last two decades, what has remained the same, and what dimensions of public engagement in the science and technology community have been neglected or under-examined. It includes short perspectives from leading scholars and practitioners to draw from a range of theoretical, disciplinary and geographical contexts as well as other recent insights from literature on the issue.


Trumbull, D. J., Bonney, R., Bascom, D., & Cabral, A. (2000) Thinking scientifically during participation in a citizen-science project. Science Education, 84(2), 265–75. Retrieved from:


Conducted by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, this study examines over 700 letters from participants of citizen-science projects to analyze how scientific thinking developed through participation. Previously, little research has been done on the education impacts of participatory science. Trumbull et al. find that nearly 80% of the participants had engaged in thinking processes similar to those of expert scientific investigations. It should be noted that the data that was analyzed was gathered serendipitously and therefore should be regarded as tentative.