Important questions about the association-building process

Return to Blog

One of the most valuable aspects of the 17 September webinar on the progress of the growing association was the opportunity to share questions. You can listen to some of the verbal Q&A yourself in the archived webinar, or scan here a summary of the questions raised and the answers where available.

Note that part of the process of developing this association is encountering difficult questions where answers may not yet be available. Don’t be discouraged that an answer may not be posted – know that what is important is that the question has been brought to attention.
You can quick link to groups of questions below in the following topical areas: plans for a journal, terminology and disciplines, association goals and governance, getting involved in and/or proposing new working groups, website and other communications, conferences, and educational connections. More information is also available from each of the four working groups, where more topical questions and conversations are actively encouraged.


(More details and conversations about journal planning available here).

Will the journal be open access?

    • Yes, open access. We’re looking at publishers that have the qualities we want/need. No current timeline for launching it since we need to find a publisher first.

When do you anticipate accepting submissions for the journal?

    • Start sending abstracts in now! We need to show the need for the journal. Send abstracts to Caren.
    • Let us know the names of journals where you currently see articles about citizen science. So many articles submitted to journals (like BioScience) are about the practice of citizen science but can’t get accepted to those journals – we need to find a home for these. We can establish a manuscript transfer program with other journals so that they transfer goods manuscripts w/ reviews that aren’t quite suitable to their journal, to our journal. Such cascading can help move the journal ahead more quickly.

    • Will have a large editorial board to make sure we can review all projects.

    • Give suggestions on particularly journal sections (eg., research papers, synthesis papers, case studies, community reflections? (see below), etc).

    • Will have a large editorial board to make sure we can review all projects.

While I agree that there is a need to have a journal to publish research relating to the infrastructure and methodologies behind CS projects, I wonder if you’ve given any thought to improving access for volunteers to science research that’s behind paywalls?

    • Solutions can be in the form of blog posts about published work and also community solutions as happens on twitter where people with access provide literature to those without access… let’s revisit
    • These are great questions and require more discussion. The last two focus more on the type of research that won’t be published in the association’s journal, but published in discipline-specific journals (e.g., about astronomy, about entomology, etc). The first two are in an area of overlap between journal committee and communications – may need new committee for this intersection.

Could you speak more on the potential for a blog format? It seems like the value of this association comes in not only informing academia about citizen science research, but also in allowing members of the public to engage w/ results & stories of practice.

    • Good idea to encourage journal article authors to write blog posts etc. as well as the journal article, which could be published on the association website.

We find our volunteers (Zooniverse) ask for access to original research, despite frequent blog posts, twitter updates. They feel entitled to see the actual research and I’m not sure I disagree with them. The Citizen Scientists League requires a volunteer to pay $60/year to access a research paper they gave up their time to contribute to? I’m not happy with that as a long-term solution. Good that the CS association journal would be free.

What about submissions from high school students?

    • If we are talking about student research projects as researchers in a citizen science project, then it is unlikely to fit the scope of the journal. If a student is researching an aspect of the theory and practice of citizen science, then it could be reviewed like any other submission. Discussions so far about the associations’ journal have only been under assumption that all contributions will be subject to identical standards of peer-review and only studies about citizen science. Do practitioners need a journal that supports submissions from high school students by some other standard? If so, that is unlikely to fit the scope of the currently planned journal, but another venue could be planned.

How can it be citizen research and/or the voice of the community when the youth voice is not actively considered and highlighted? On its face, that would add to the body of knowledge.

    • We would expect the peer-review process to accept or reject research based on its merit and rigor. If youth voices or other community voices are necessary for the purposes of the paper under review and those were excluded, then that submission wouldn’t pass review. If there is need for voices to be directly expressed as authors of a scholarly publication, then we need to make sure there is an appropriate section of the journal, like “community reflections.” And the journal will need suitable subject editors to handle those submissions.

Would the journal accept papers presenting scientific results, or only methodology?

    • We want research/science outcomes related to the public goals for the citizen science project (e.g., advance research in ornithology) to go to their respective journals (e.g., ornithology journal)
    • This journal will focus on peer-reviewed scholarly exchange about the theory and practice of citizen science
    • If a paper will be useful to citizen science practitioners, then it will be considered
    • Everyone will be welcome to submit, it will be peer-reviewed

Journal articles are great but hope the new association will also support peer review & publication of products of citizen science that are not in the form of journal articles – e.g., manuals, training curricula, photovoice exhibits, assessment tools, apps, etc.!

    • This is one of the main needs identified by the community. The association is interested in developing those types of materials too.
    • The association will be a pointer to these types of resources, and will provide additional resources generated by the association.

Another journal idea would be to have a news section with quick abstracts of articles utilizing citizen science but found in other other journals mentioned. Like news in focus section of Nature. Might require a paid editor though?

    • Yes, this doesn’t need to be part of the journal, but definitely a resource/service the Association seeks to provide.

Given that many funding agencies are mandating open access to the results of funded research, another possible service is providing links to publications with citizen science research results.

    • See above

I’m curious about how difficult it will be for the journal to find appropriate reviewers. For example, if someone writes a “methods” paper about an astronomy citizen science project, presumably the method needs to be reviewed by astronomers. The same will be true in any discipline. Will the journal editorial board need to be huge in order to avoid relying on the authors suggested reviewers?

    • Yes, it may be a challenge, but the field is growing quickly, producing experts with a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds.

Have you considered including citizen scientists in the peer review process?

    • The Journal committee hasn’t discussed it yet, but certainly possible. This further blurs the lines between participants and practitioners, so is most relevant to community based and DIY styles where participants not only have expertise in the area of their research (e.g., butterfly identification) but also expertise in the practice of citizen science itself (which is what submission will be about).

I would like to see volunteers working on co-created projects as authors on publications in this journal.

    • I think most people would like to see that. It would be useful to have further discussions so that the journal/Association can make recommendations regarding authorship (other journals provide guidance, such as an author should contribute to two or more aspects of the following research steps: conceiving the project idea, designing project, collecting data, analyzing data, writing paper, funding project, etc., otherwise they warrant being in acknowledgements).

Please take a look at the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement and – both are entirely open access, no fees to publish, accessible to all.

    • Thanks – will do.

(back to top)

Terminology/Including other disciplines

How is citizen science different from crowd-sourcing and information collections? Especially if crowd sourcing was not used in the keyword search of literature in the previous graphs.

    • There are lots of terms that are synonymous with citizen science. For the slide in the webinar, we selected a handful just to demonstrate diversity and trends
    • Crowdsourcing can be the same, as citizen science, if crowd-sourcing is used in scientific research and involves non-professionals
    • Citizen science is used as an umbrella term

For clear communication, I wonder if there is a general consensus on the terminology of what we’re talking about- citizen science vs. PPSR. Using one today vs. conference title in 2012?

A thought around the term “citizen science” – we are located in the SW of the country where citizenship is a hot button topic and “citizen” is loaded. WE use “community science” because we don’t want people to think they can’t participate!

    • There are definitely issues with the word “citizen” but citizen science is a term that’s out there quite a bit and has a cache – we should give it the meaning we want, take it back.
    • It’s not just cache, the government is taking notice, media, etc. We need to make citizen science as collaborative as it can be – get communities to come together and rise up about their issues, embrace whole integration of the scientific process.
    • (Participant) Citizenship alone means rights and responsibilities to participate in governance, but citizenship in the context of citizen science means rights and responsibilities to participate in science.
    • (Participant) Participating in “citizen science” demonstrates someone’s civic ethic – you could see it as empowering rather than diminishing
    • (Participant) Agreed, we can take back the term, but there’s an existing barrier that needs to be crossed, especially if aiming for diverse participation off the bat
    • (Participant) I’d argue it is easier to change the meaning of the term citizen science than it will be to get PPSR the same cache. I think this was the right choice.
    • (Participant) From a UK perspective, citizen science projects rarely use the phrase ‘citizen science’ when communicating with their participants – just when communicating with peers. I think the name ‘citizen science’ is here to stay. It’s already too widely used for it to be worth trying to change to something different!

The name PPSR doesn’t seem to work for community-based programs because they are not necessarily led by a scientist, nor focused on research. Thoughts?

Is “democratized science” or “participatory science” used?

I think we risk not including lots of diverse groups that identify more with environmental justice. Is there a plan to reach out to them/get feedback on what would make them comfortable?

Many of the people/institutions involved so far are environmental, so the association feels quite “safe” (to me!). Any specific plans on widening participation? And could there be risks of alienating the current “core audience” (of environmental scientists)?

    • We might talk about this, but I’ve noticed several disconnects the association could address: between stream teams and other nature observers, between all the observational environmental science and the DIY community
    • Association is thinking about creative ways to bridge those disconnects. Need to figure out communication facilitation between these groups

(back to top)


(More details and conversations about association governance planning available here).

Is there a timeline for the launch of the association and journal?

    • Goal to become an independent non-profit in 3-5 years
    • Establish first board in the next year or so
    • The 2012 conference served as a soft-launch of sorts
    • Go to and give feedback, join elist

What are the goals of the association?

    • There are lots of innovations, developments, and best practices that haven’t been shared across disciplines. One of the goals of this association is to facilitate communication across many disciplines.

Why don’t you form an American Citizen Science Association and encourage other parts of the world to form regional citizen science associations? The European Citizen Science association launched in June during Green Week in Brussels.

    • We’re trying to make sure our efforts are complimentary, have a presence at conference of other organizations with similar missions
    • The conference committee is talking about having an international congress

Are there plans to have SIGs/strands within the organization?

    • Special interest groups, as well as regional groups, can help make sure that the association’s messages and services are reaching the broadest range of practitioners. This is a model that the association can explore moving forward.

Having elected board members implies there will be some sort of membership eligible to vote. Will there be dues? How will you recruit paying members?

    • We haven’t really discussed it as of yet. We don’t want fees to be an obstacle but we need to figure out a business model so that the association can be financially solvent.

How will the association facilitate scientific integrity in citizen science? Data quality?

    • This will hopefully be one of the very important main functions of the association: improve and maintain data quality across the field. One working group could be about professional development and ensuring integrity of these projects.

Is there any idea of the association eventually offering tech, data, communications, legal support, etc. for practice citizen science projects?

Would you see this organization as having synergies with the Quantified Self movement?

Would be great to see consensus on outcomes the association seeks to achieve (vs. a focus mainly on activities and services to be delivered).

Would recommend the board consider adopting a policy governance model (

(back to top)

Working Groups

What will be the process/timeline for getting involved either as an individual or as an association?

How would I get involved with one of the Working groups?

At the conference in Portland, many of us signed up to be part of a working group. Will we be contacted about participating or should we reconnect to be involved?

    • Right now we have focused on keeping working groups at a number and size where they can accomplish work. But if you want to join or have an idea of something that needs to be accomplished, let us know (citizenscienceassociation -AT- gmail -DOT- com).

What is the protocol for proposing other working groups within the association?

    • We don’t have a specific mechanism, but we will be working to put something up – in the meantime, you can comment in the governance committee section.

I would like to see a committee focused on engagement of diverse audiences in citizen science, as this is such a big issue and could benefit from a focused group of people thinking about it. Are others interested in this?

    • We didn’t catch a name associated with this comment – please be in touch so that we can help support this effort!

(back to top)


(More details and conversations about website and communications planning available here).

Is there a national citizen science website or plans to create one?

When will the website be updated with nicer graphics?

    • There is a rudimentary website right now at, but we’re working on building it up to add more information, including:
      • Where to submit article ideas
      • How to start a new committee/join a committee
    • At this point, this effort is proceeding entirely without funds and we are therefore trying to be efficient in how we make use of limited resources

Does include information about who is sitting on which working group?

    • Yes, that information is available here.

How to address the proliferation of groups? – a Google search brings up the Citizen Scientists League, the Citizen Science Alliance…

    • We hope that the association can productively collaborate with and serve many groups that currently focus on a particular audience or community within the broader field.

Is the same as Jennifer’s listserv?

    • The discussion listserv on was set up in response to a priority need voiced at the 2012 conference. We are trying to efficiently leverage existing communication platforms, rather than recreating efforts and segmenting conversations.

Have a forum (journal or just website) to discuss applications such as in the field of Environmental Justice.

(back to top)


(More details and conversations about conference planning available here).

Has anyone looked at or thought about how the percentages of those different user groups might change based on where the PPSR conference was held? In other words last year we were at ESA. What would that pie chart look like if we had been at NAAEE?

    • Partnering with different conferences could be really beneficial, bringing different roles and perspectives into conversation with the citizen science community. We could deliberately choose different types of organizations/conferences to broaden our field, learn more about other fields that could contribute to PPSR.

(back to top)

Educational connections

Do any of the panelists have experience with introducing citizen science into undergrad curricula?

    • It’s been brought up on the discussion listserv recently

Along those lines of undergrad students, what about CS as a STEM initiative for high school students?

Just wanted to start a discussion about Master Naturalist programs, we’ve been discussion about how CA Naturalists might work as some sort of intermediaries for citizen science, to help organize more casual participants, and help disseminate results.

(back to top)

Posted on: September 24, 2013  |  Category: Blog, Citizen Science Association, News