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#WhyICitSci at #CitSci2015

Sharing what we love most about Citizen Science


  1. The excitement in the air at the opening plenary session of Citizen Science 2015 was palpable. This conference brought together 600 people from over 25 countries, from K-12 students and teachers to academics, from managers to volunteers, and from informal science educators to data scientists and social scientists. Everyone was there to “nurture what may be a revolution” (as Rick Bonney put it), each with their own motivations and interest in diverse aspects of citizen science.
  2. Over the course of the week of the conference, 132 conference attendees, conference-attendee-wannabe’s, conference avoiders, and cit sci participants shared what they love most about citizen science, either on twitter using the hashtag #WhyICitSci or using the bulletin board in the lobby of the conference.
  3. As I followed the twitter feed throughout the conference, I was struck by the range of motivations to participate in citizen science. So, just as many of us set out to capture the bio-diversity of life in San Jose in the iNaturalist Bioblitz on Thursday afternoon, I set up a spreadsheet to capture the twitter-diversity of the #WhyICitSci feed. Although no two tweets were alike,they began to fall into a few general categories.

    Here is a colorful pie chart of the results:
  4. About 50% of the tweets fell into the top three categories:

    The first category I called the “democratization of science” – these tweets had to do with broadening participation in science, empowering the public to participate in knowledge generation, and providing science for everyone (not just those in the Ivory Tower).
  5. Second was a category that I called “Advancing Science and Conservation” – these tweets were all about generating basic knowledge about our world. Many of these tweets were geared towards conservation of biodiversity and natural areas.
  6. I was excited to see that the third most popular category of cit sci motivation was “Fun” – the pure joy of doing science and sharing the excitement of discovery with everyone.
  7. The other half of tweets encompassed five additional, diverse themes: “Problem Solving” tweets invited people to help tackle and solve the grand challenges of our time together.
  8. Tweets that I called “Engaging Youth” were about getting the next generation of scientists and citizens excited about science and the natural world.
  9. Those who cit sci for “Harnessing Local Knowledge” sought to improve communication between local experts and the scientific community and/or conservation practitioners in rural areas. I also used this category for tweets about connecting people with place and nature.