By Gloria Re Calegari – Cefriel
The study conducted within the ACTION accelerator program to investigate the motivation of volunteers to participate in citizen science initiatives ended in October. The main goal was to understand the reasons that encourage people to participate in such initiatives in order to design and implement effective participant involvement tasks, as well as pave the way for long-term engagement.
The pilots involved in the study were WOW Nature, Walk Up Aniene, Open Soil Atlas, Restart Data Workbench, Mapping Mobility, Water Sentinels and TESS Network. All the participants of the pilots analyzed consider themselves very motivated in participating in the citizen science projects, with an average global motivation higher than 4 on a scale ranging from 1 to 5. The motivating factors that are more correlated with the global motivation in almost all the pilots are the hedonism, the self-direction and the stimulation, indicating that what mainly excite volunteers is the possibility of doing and learning something new and to contribute to a project that they are passionate about and that make them feel good about themselves. They decide to participate because the project is an opportunity to do something meaningful and because they want to feel part of something worthwhile. They also contribute to the possibility to make data more accessible and to help raise public awareness of the project’s topics. In general, volunteers are not at all forced to participate and they do not expect anything in return from their participation.
However, there are some differences between pilots which operate in different contexts. Citizens could be involved in different tasks (only data collection phase or more than one phase of the participatory science lifecycle) and with different levels of engagement; the community could be set up at a local level or at worldwide level as in the case of online communities; volunteers could be directly affected by the pollution problem as for volunteers who daily work with polluted water; the attention of volunteers could be more or less focused on data according to the type of activities they are involved in.
This work represents a good starting point for further studies about motivations in citizen science projects. The proposed methodology for investigating the drivers of human behaviors inside communities of citizen scientists through surveys is easily reproducible and adaptable to new citizen scientists’ communities.
To share the study and to facilitate its reproducibility addressing different citizen science projects, all the relevant resources have been published as Research Objects in Zenodo exploiting the Survey Ontology (https://w3id.org/survey-ontology) and the RO-Crate specification (https://www.researchobject.org/ro-crate/).
The “Survey Study about Motivation for Participants in Citizen Science Projects” (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5753091) contains the template structure of the designed survey and a comparison of the different results for each study. This research object references the RO-Crates describing individually each administered survey and its results: Walk Up Aniene (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5753229), TESS Network (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.575376), Restart Data Workbench (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5753123, Open Soil Atlas (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5752354), Mapping Mobility (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5727476), Wow Nature (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5770198), Water Sentinels (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5770164).