Author: Julia Lorke – The Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom


  • Heidi L. Ballard – University of California, Davis, United States
  • Maryam Ghadiri Khanaposhtani – University of California, Davis, United States

The concept of citizen and community science (CCS) has been attributed with the potential to democratise science, enabling everyone to take part in scientific research – embodying the participatory turn in the relationship of science and society. To examine the reality of CCS, we investigate youth participation in BioBlitzes led by three Natural History Museums. BioBlitzes are contributory CCS events which organise volunteers to record all species of organisms in a bounded space. How do young people actually participate (Lave, 1991) in BioBlitzes; do they contribute data to scientific research or is their participation more similar to science education or public engagement programmes?

We observed 96 young people in 16 BioBlitzes. The iterative analysis of our ethnographic fieldnotes revealed that in 83% of the observations, youth engaged in scientific practices (NRC Framework, 2012) with respect to the CCS activities. We saw some young people participate in all the necessary steps to generate a biological record. However, participation in exploration (49%) and observing (51%) was more common than in identifying organisms (28%) and documenting findings (15%). Participation in recording was especially rare (10%). This low frequency of recording is alarming as this is the crucial step in data collection for CCS. If the data is not recorded, it cannot be used for scientific research or monitoring; therefore, we argue that recording distinguishes authentic CCS participation from other types of science education and public engagement. Participation in these may be very impactful, but in the case of young people in BioBlitzes, CCS is not living up to the claim of enabling everyone to take part in scientific research.

To address this issue, we have embarked on a design-based research process allowing us to develop and test design features aiming to increase young people’s recording at BioBlitzes, and thereby their participation in authentic scientific research.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation

Author: Julia Lorke – The Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom

Heidi Ballard & Déana Scipio – University of California, Davis, US
Lila Higgins – Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, US
Christothea Herodotou Maria Aristeidou – The Open University, UK
Grant Miller – The University of Oxford, UK
Alison Young & Rebecca Johnson – California Academy of Sciences, US
Lucy Robinson – The Natural History Museum, London, UK

The Learning and Environmental science Agency Research Network for Citizen Science (LEARN CitSci) is a collaborative research programme studying the learning outcomes of participation in citizen science and crowdsourcing for young people aged 5-19 years.

Using the framework of Environmental Science Agency [1], we will study three settings in which young people take part in citizen science: 1) long-term monitoring projects, 2) short-term events such as BioBlitz, and 3) online or mobile-enabled projects.

The Environmental Science Agency (ESA) research framework is adapted from Basu and Barton’s concept of Critical Science Agency [2] and aims to investigate and support “the ability to use experiences in environmental science to make positive changes in one’s life, landscape and community” [3]. The development of ESA can be observed as:

  • Deepening understanding of environmental science content and practice.
  • Identifying an area of one’s own expertise in environmental science.
  • Using experiences in community and citizen science as a foundation for change.

We will employ mixed methods research to characterize the settings and activities in these programmes, to capture the learning processes, and to identify how programme features and settings in NHM-led citizen science projects foster or hinder the development of ESA.

LEARN CitSci brings together citizen science practitioners and educational researchers from six organisations:

  • University of California, Davis
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
  • The Natural History Museum, London
  • The Open University
  • The University of Oxford

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation and Wellcome with the UK Economic and Social Research Council.


[1] H. Ballard, C. Dixon, E. Harris (2017). Biological Conservation, 208: 65-75

[2] Basu, S. J., Barton, A. C., Clairmont, N., & Locke, D. (2009). Cultural Studies of Science Education, 4: 345-371

[3] UC Davis Center for Community and Citizen Science (2016). Fostering Environmental Science Agency. Research brief

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Idea in progress
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice

Author: Julia Lorke – The Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom

Currently we are in the fourth stage of the story of radio and its public (Bonini, 2014); social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook or Twitter have made the public audible, visible and connected. This also means that radio can be participative; listeners can become producers and as a result producers become curators. Social networking sites allow horizontal communication and therefore seem like the ideal platform to enable dialogue between science and technology radio makers and their listeners.

This study explores in a comparative analysis whether science and technology radio programmes have already entered this fourth stage in reality or if these programmes only facilitate SNS to promote their products and increase their audiences. Do SNS enable science journalism to switch from deficit to dialogue? A quantitative and qualitative analysis investigates the websites and social media activities of nine science and technology radio programmes and one science podcast in Germany and the UK.

The results show that additional content is provided on most websites and functions to share content on SNS are embedded in all but one website. However, for further interaction users are mainly referred to SNS presences of stations or presenters; engagement with the listeners on a programme level is rare.

A comparison of two in-depth case studies, BBC Radio 4 Inside Science and BBC World Service Click, reveals how different approaches within one corporation can be and that horizontal communication between science and technology radio programmes and their audiences is not only possible but also has influenced the content and the production process of science and technology radio programmes.

Bonini, T. (2014): The new role of radio and its public in the age of social network sites. First Monday, Volume 19, Number 6

Lorke, J. (2017): Von »Old Media« zum interaktiven Radio?. Info7, No. 2, pp. 48-51

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices