- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tweets that I called “Engaging Youth” were about getting the next generation of scientists and citizens excited about science and the natural world.
- 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.