Help advance this growing field

This forum regularly hosts short-term discussions, on topics posed by colleagues in the field of public participation in scientific research. Your responses help advance the field, improve the resources, and (we hope) help all of our projects (and this field!) grow. (Read more…)

MOST RECENT - November 11th-15th, 2013

Policies and Citizen Science. Hosted by Lea Shanley and Anne Bowser of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


Suggest additional topics for discussion

Policies and citizen science

Discussion hosts:

Anne Bowser
PhD Candidate,
University of Maryland’s College of Library and Information Science
Lea Shanley
Director, Commons Lab
Woodrow Wilson Institute

In citizen science, data policies provide guidance on how projects interact with their volunteers and manage the data. Data policies include user agreements, which set the terms of participation; privacy policies, which describe how sensitive data is handled; legal policies, which outline compliance to laws such as COPPA; and terms of use, which describe how data can be used by a project and by volunteers. Carefully considered data policies protect projects and their volunteers, while establishing clear terms to support ongoing collaboration.

Unfortunately, one set of data policies will not serve the needs of all types of citizen science projects. The goal of this forum is to help projects untangle the data policy puzzle, to understand how different policies fit together, and which policies are most appropriate for their goals and methods. Over the next week, we hope to hear questions from the community about data policy, and also concrete examples of how data policies are implemented by different projects.

Questions to consider include:

  • What types of data do different projects collect from their volunteers? How are volunteers reassured that their data is handled securely and ethically?
  • What happens to volunteer data? Who is able to access and use it, and for what purposes?
  • What laws and regulations impact citizen science data collection and management? How can policies be designed to support compliance?

What are strategies for publishing and navigating peer-review of citizen science research?

Discussion hosts:

Caren Cooper
Research Associate,
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Sue Silver
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Publishing peer-reviewed papers and obtaining grants is a constant challenge for all investigators. Those of us working in the field of citizen science may face additional challenges, as the recognition and reputation of this research approach is still gaining traction. There can be challenges to publishing and funding research based on citizen data as well as contributions stemming from research about citizen science practice, learning outcomes, and technologies.

The goal of this forum is to focus on sharing strategies relevant to peer-review issues unique to citizen science. Over the next week, we’re interested in your experiences, insights, thoughts on underlying issues that need to addressed, and other views related to the rigor and perception of citizen science.

Some questions to consider:

  • In peer-review publishing, have you faced challenges unique to citizen science?
  • What challenges and limitations are intrinsic to the field of citizen science? Are some grounded in misperceptions by peers?
  • How might the interdisciplinary nature of citizen science practice affect peer-review?

What tools and technologies are powering new frontiers for your citizen science projects?

Discussion hosts:

Darlene Cavalier
Founder, SciStarter
Tamra Manik-Perlman
Project Director, Azavea

At SciStarter, we’re see exciting new citizen science opportunities with the development of new online tools and platforms. We’re trying to understand and map out the useful features of different platforms, and know that many of you have questions, experiences, and insights about this topic as well. Over the next few days, we’re interested in your thoughts on the software tools you’ve tried and the tools you’re dreaming about.

With your help, we would like to brainstorm a list of software tools and platforms for citizen science. Please join this discussion and tell us about the software tools you are using or plan to use for your projects. This may include software specifically created to support citizen science projects or custom tools you are developing. Your contributions will help build a list of ideas for others to consider, and help support research about these tools*.

Some questions we ask you to consider:

  • When launching a new project, what sorts of technical resources do you have at your disposal (e.g. access to server space, developer time)?
  • Would needing such resources pose a barrier?
  • How well have existing platforms been able to support your projects? What additional tools or features would you find helpful?
  • What strategies have you found to be most useful in recruiting participants, motivating them and keeping them engaged? Are there particular technologies that support these strategies?

Thank you!

*With support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we are working with Azavea, a geospatial software engineering firm, to evaluate a representative set of online citizen science software tools, but we need your help to identify that set of tools. The evaluation effort will analyze existing online citizen science tools and platforms for their technology, extensibility, visualization, and engagement features in order to better understand their ability to support a diverse and growing catalog of citizen science projects. The results of this research will be made available to the public as a report in January 2013.

Share practical impacts of citizen science/PPSR

How have citizen science/PPSR data been used for practical purposes and decision-making?

Please share examples!

Thoughts shared before Friday, July 27th may be used as part of a National Science Foundation webcast* on citizen science. All thoughts will provide inspiration as to the power of citizen science and public participation in scientific research!

*The webcast is related to the PPSR Conference and the Ecological Society of America. Although live for media only, it will be publicly available post-event on the NSF website (event press release here: