There is widespread agreement that citizen science is experiencing a major surge, not only in the number of projects, people and publications represented, but also in interest in citizen science as a field of study. Much of this interest is fueled by social science research, which encompasses a wide array of disciplines and perspectives including sociology, education, psychology, economics, cultural studies, social justice frameworks, and science, technology and society (STS). With so many diverse perspectives, this is indeed an exciting time for the field! However, the growing interest in research around citizen science also presents the field with challenges regarding coordination of similar studies, ethics around working with human subjects, effectively building off evidence-based knowledge, and continuing to push the envelope with innovative research.
To address these and other emerging issues, the Citizen Science Association acknowledged the need for a Research and Evaluation Working Group. The group, headed by Tina Phillips of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Heidi Ballard of University of California, Davis, seeks to gain field-wide understanding of the various social science research and evaluation initiatives currently taking place within citizen science across diverse fields of inquiry. The major objectives for this working group include:
- Support coordination and facilitation of research and evaluation that not only reduces redundancies, but also minimizes fatigue on the part of research subjects, whether they are participants, practitioners, or others involved in citizen science.
- Provide more collaborative opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback on evaluation tools, research in progress, IRB policies, and other human subjects protection issues.
- Facilitate the sharing of evaluation findings and provide access to outcomes of citizen science that can be communicated to broader audiences.
- Understand the status of research in the field and determine gaps to suggest a robust research agenda, which advances the development, implementation, and evaluation of citizen science.
- Coordinate with other working groups as needed to effectively achieve the overarching goal and major objectives.
As the Research and Evaluation Working Group moves forward, we expect to incorporate additional objectives that reflect feedback from the community about how this group can best support the efforts of evaluators and social science researchers interested in studying citizen science. The working group is currently seeking members among anyone with an interest in social science research and/or evaluation. We hope to engage a diversity of practitioners, social science researchers, evaluators, and human computer interaction specialists, representing an array of organizations, audiences, and citizen science programs. If you have an interest in being part of this working group, please email Tina Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org and Heidi Ballard at email@example.com.