*Examining new trends in citizen science*
February 2, 2016 by Jennifer Grigg, Plos Blogs
[image: Examining new trends in citizen science]
Figure showing the growth of published peer reviewed articles on citizen
science, from 1997 to 2014. Figure from Follet and Strezov, PLOS ONE.

In total, 1127 unique articles were reviewed, from these 239 were excluded
for not being directly related to citizen science (as above).

Follet and Strezov reported that the first citizen science article was
published in 1997. In the years following, few articles were published
until 2007 during which 6 papers were presented at the Ecological Society
of America Meeting. After this, the number of peer-reviewed citizen science
articles increased substantially.

The most widely published topic where citizen science contributed to the
project was biology, with 72% of articles falling into this category.
Biology-related citizen science articles also experienced a rapid growth in
the number of publications, at a faster rate than all other scientific
fields. The most common objectives among the biology-related articles was
to assess the diversity and distribution of species, in particular birds.

The findings of Follet and Strezov's study is supported by the results of a
recent meta-analysis published in *PLOS ONE*, which identified biology,
conservation and ecology as the primary fields utilising citizen science.
The study also reported the highest scientific output is generated in the
fields of ornithology, astronomy, meteorology and microbiology.

A caveat of publishing research generated in part from citizen scientists
is that many of these volunteers received no formal training, bringing the
quality and reliability of the data into question. However, these issues
can be addressed. Researchers can design standardised monitoring protocols
to identify unreliable data, or prevent the collection of poor quality
data, by using tools such as data entry forms with automated error checking
capabilities. In their study Follet and Strezov found that an increasing
number of publications were centred on addressing the methodologies and
validation techniques researchers can use to detect errors in data and
reduce the occurrence of these errors and eliminate bias.

Overall, the study reported the number of citizen science publications are
increasing. But, according to another recent study
<> reviewing
the contributions of citizen science projects, only 12% of bio-diversity
related citizen science projects contributed data that resulted in
peer-reviewed scientific articles. So as it seems, there is still room to
increase the acceptance of citizen science.

*What does the future hold for citizen science?*

Citizen science is becoming ever more popular and is rapidly enabling
non-experts to contribute to the growing field of scientific knowledge. One
of the major benefits of citizen science is that it allows researchers to
utilise resources to analyse large volumes of data quickly, often with
lower financial cost. Furthermore, data can be collected from a wider
demographic of participants over a much larger spatial scale that
researchers would not necessarily have the time or resources to monitor

The growing role of citizen scientists in research is now being recognised
around the globe. In 2015 professional citizen science organisations were
created in Europe, Australia and the United States, and the first Citizen
Science Association Conference was held, with another one is planned for
February 2017. In the US the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2015
was introduced to encourage the use of citizen science within the federal
government. As technology develops and more people have access to the
resources available over the internet, this increases opportunities to
engage wider audiences in a diverse range of projects. Based on current
trends, this should mean that more of the journal articles published in
2016 will celebrate the contribution of the citizen scientists around the
full text:


Ria Follett. Vladimir Strezovl. 2015. An Analysis of Citizen Science Based
Research: Usage and Publication Patterns, *PLOS ONE*. DOI:


Mike Quinn, Austin
Texas Entomology