Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs

Tulloch, Ayesha I. T., Possingham, Hugh P., Joseph, Liana N., Szabo, Judit and Martin, Tara G. (2013) Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs. Biological Conservation, 165 128-138. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2013.05.025

Author Tulloch, Ayesha I. T.
Possingham, Hugh P.
Joseph, Liana N.
Szabo, Judit
Martin, Tara G.
Title Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs
Journal name Biological Conservation   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0006-3207
Publication date 2013-09
Year available 2013
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2013.05.025
Volume 165
Start page 128
End page 138
Total pages 11
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier BV
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Citizen science is on the rise. Aided by the internet, the popularity and scope of citizen science appears almost limitless. For citizens the motivation is to contribute to "real" science, public information and conservation. For scientists, citizen science offers a way to collect information that would otherwise not be affordable. The longest running and largest of these citizen science programs are broad-scale bird monitoring projects. There are two basic types of protocols possible: (a) cross-sectional schemes such as Atlases - collections of surveys of many species contributed by volunteers over a set period of time, and (b) longitudinal schemes such as Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) - on-going stratified monitoring of sites that require more coordination. We review recent applications of these citizen science programs to determine their influence in the scientific literature. We use return-on-investment thinking to identify the minimum investment needed for different citizen science programs, and the point at which investing more in citizen science programs has diminishing benefits. Atlas and BBS datasets are used to achieve different objectives, with more knowledge-focused applications for Atlases compared with more management applications for BBS. Estimates of volunteer investment in these datasets show that compared to cross-sectional schemes, longitudinal schemes are more cost-effective, with increased BBS investment correlated with more applications, which have higher impact in the scientific literature, as measured by citation rates. This is most likely because BBS focus on measuring change, allowing the impact of management and policy to be quantified. To ensure both types of data are used to their full potential we recommend the following: elements of BBS protocols (fixed sites, long-term monitoring) are incorporated into Atlases; regional coordinators are in place to maintain data quality; communication between researchers and the organisations coordinating volunteer monitoring is enhanced, with monitoring targeted to meet specific needs and objectives; application of data to under-explored objectives is encouraged, and data are made freely and easily accessible
Keyword Volunteer surveying
Long term ecological monitoring
Crowd sourcing
Return on investment
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 61 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 69 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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