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Why it matters

Experts come from all walks of life, and everyday people are increasingly making valuable contributions to scientific research.

The number of research projects using citizen science has grown rapidly over the past decade. Through citizen science, researchers are engaging people, who are not formally trained experts in a field. One such approach is crowdsourcing, where large pools of people with diverse backgrounds generate ideas, solve problems and carry out research tasks.

This report reviews practical examples of crowdsourcing for research and provides advice for designing, implementing and evaluating citizen science projects. As the first of three THIS Institute learning reports on citizen science, it is followed by reports on crowdsourcing for systematic reviews, and using citizen science to generate ideas and build consensus.

What we did

We started with a rapid review of 460 relevant research papers. From these titles, we selected 53 articles for the report that involved primary research about citizen science in research contexts.

We also interviewed four experts who had experience managing research projects that used crowdsourcing.

What we found

  • Researchers have used citizen science successfully in disciplines ranging from ecology to history.
  • Citizen science can enable research to be done faster, more efficiently, and promote engagement and trust between researchers and citizens.
  • Various platforms and tools are available facilitate research using citizen science.
  • Data quality and scientific rigour can be maintained using a number of practical approaches.
  • Researchers need to carefully consider issues of intellectual property and data ownership.
  • When possible, citizen science projects should be evaluated.

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