Citizen sciences projects are becoming more and more popular with scientists to expand their capacity to collect data. Yet, there are ways to further improve this ‘tool’ as Callaghan et al. argue in their just published (open access) paper.
Their abstract reads: “Citizen science is mainstream: millions of people contribute data to a growing array of citizen science projects annually, forming massive datasets that will drive research for years to come. Many citizen science projects implement a “leaderboard” framework, ranking the contributions based on number of records or species, encouraging further participation. But is every data point equally “valuable?” Citizen scientists collect data with distinct spatial and temporal biases, leading to unfortunate gaps and redundancies, which create statistical and informational problems for downstream analyses. Up to this point, the haphazard structure of the data has been seen as an unfortunate but unchangeable aspect of citizen science data. However, we argue here that this issue can actually be addressed: we provide a very simple, tractable framework that could be adapted by broadscale citizen science projects to allow citizen scientists to optimize the marginal value of their efforts, increasing the overall collective knowledge”.
Also in malacology several projects are known that use(d) this tool of citizen science, mostly known in the northern hemisphere. While in the southern hemisphere (Neotropics, Asia, Africa) the lack of sufficient biodiversity data is more prominent and the number of professional researchers is comparatively low, the potential for well-organised citizen projects may be larger. Something to consider for malacologists out there?
Callaghan, C.T. et al., 2019. Improving big citizen science data: Moving beyond haphazard sampling. PLoS Biol 17(6): e3000357. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000357