Scientists have been providing "citizen science" (aka "community science" as NAS now refers to it) opportunities to participate in important ecological (and all sorts of other) research in recent years. Research-based "crowd-sourcing" may be considered a form of citizen science for the purposes of this message.
Volunteers are asked to donate their time, skills, knowledge, to become trained, and then observing, collecting, curating, processing, and otherwise contributing to formal ecological studies.
A recent personal experience, participating in a crowd-sourced application --which will remain anonymous, almost immediately raised the question of ethical / unethical engagement of volunteers in such projects.
What is the extent of the ethical responsibility of a principal investigator to assure that the project is actually able to use** the work product of the volunteers?
** E.g., Have the data processing and analysis protocols been implemented specific to this project's volunteer-generated data?
If so, should those methodologies be disclosed / demonstrated as proof of concept, to the volunteers?
If not developed and/or implemented (incl. testing, quality control, etc), should this information be clearly disclosed to prospective volunteers before they decide to donate their efforts to the project?
Has ESA addressed, and developed an ethics guideline for, these sorts of "before we even begin to solicit and engage volunteer donations" concerns about a project's capacity to productively use those crowd-sourced, citizen-science, donations?
Should the proof that a project can use the crowd-sourced data be divulged in detail before the first volunteer is recruited?