What do you want to explore? Introducing personal research into a citizen science project

What do you want to explore? Introducing personal research into a citizen science project

Author: Ayelet Baram-Tsabari – Technion Institute of Technology, Israel

Barak Fishbain – Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technion, Haifa, Israel
Yaela N Golumbic – Faculty of Education in Technology and Science, Technion, Haifa, Israel

Involvement of volunteers in scientific research is a broad definition often used to describe citizen science. Many such projects incorporate science communication elements by providing scientific information, exchanging scientific knowledge, and engaging with science. While different models and levels of participation in citizen science exist, the majority of projects are limited to data collection and classification tasks which are based on established protocols and instructions. These projects maintain stiff regulations in order to ensure data quality and reliability. Despite the evident importance of these regulations, they may prevent routes of personal interest and constrain research flexibility. Taking the road less traveled by, we offer here a citizen science practice, which provides participants with multiple individually-led research opportunities. We demonstrate active participation, which enables participants to study their fields of interest within the scope of the project, determine relevance to their day-to-day life, and conduct personally-practical research. An example for such implementation is demonstrated in the citizen science initiative “Sensing the Air” for monitoring air-quality in the local environment. Throughout a two-year process, we followed the activities of twenty participants, from diverse educational and social backgrounds. These activities include the use of the project platform, personal research using mobile sensors, hazard reporting and engagement in social platforms. Using interviews, questionnaires, and reports written by participants, we examine participants’ requirements and identify different styles of participation. Participants’ personal interests directed their studies to examine air-quality in their proximity and resulted in new insights and understanding of scientific air-quality concepts. This study emphasizes the importance of multiple opportunities for participation, tailored to the needs of diverse audiences. These opportunities for personal research further induce personal scientific inquiry, data analysis and conclusion drawing in a personalized fashion. Hence, transforming citizen science into what citizens want it to be and increasing public engagement with science.

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