Exploring the participation of young citizen scientists in scientific research: The case of iNaturalist

Aristeidou, Maria; Herodotou, Christothea; Ballard, Heidi L.; Young, Alison N.; Miller, Annie E.; Higgins, Lila and Johnson, Rebecca F. (2021). Exploring the participation of young citizen scientists in scientific research: The case of iNaturalist. PLoS ONE, 16(1), article no. e0245682.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245682


Online citizen science projects have broadened options for accessing science and enabled different forms of participation in scientific research for adult and young volunteers. Yet, little is known regarding participation patterns among youth participants. Quantitative approaches were used to investigate the contribution of 183 young volunteers to citizen science on the iNaturalist platform and the participation behaviour that relates to their contribution. The participants accessed and used iNaturalist as part of one-day field-based events (bioblitzes) facilitated by museums. Compared to the observation behaviour of all iNaturalist users, as documented on the platform, the young volunteers observe fewer plants and birds, and more molluscs, arachnids and insects. The average daily contributions of young volunteers were found to be positively associated with a large proportion of active days on iNaturalist and a systematic contribution behaviour, yet negatively related to a long duration on the platform. This study enhances our understanding of young volunteers’ contributions to citizen science and provides insights for research on participation in online citizen science. Our findings have implications on how museums design the field-based events to encourage follow-up systematic participation and maintain active contribution.

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