Friday, March 23, 2012

Keys to Successful Citizen Science Projects - Connecting it Together



Photo Courtesy: Richard-G
We've spent the last six weeks investigating what comprises a successful citizen science project.  After reviewing a wide range of projects, and after analyzing two of the most popular citizen science developers (the Zooniverse Group and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) we came up with a laundry list of important elements.  These aren't a to-do list or a design template, just a list of common over-arching themes that breed scientific success and popular appeal.

One thing you may have missed during this time is that while the laundry list is a great model for understanding and explaining project success, it's not perfect.  There are connections between each trait that are lost and overlap that is not accounted for.   Take the following example:

  • Education is a benefit people receive that keeps them motivated. 
  • Education also improves their participation skills, allowing researchers to Trust them with increasingly challenging tasks. 
  • Educating participants is easier if you have a Simplified process and Focused research problem. 
  • Simplifying projects helps you Educate participants and allows more Challenging projects
  • Challenging projects involve a greater need to Educate
  • Challenging projects motivate participants to keep coming back...

See how the process keeps building on itself?  These connections are vitally important and can get lost lost in the individual blog posts.  So below is a quick chart showing those commonalities by the four major success themes:

Image Courtesy: OpenScientist.org

So where do we go from here?  Well, for one thing this was never a "how-to" or step-by-step guide to creating successful projects.  We never discussed marketing strategies, interface designs, or other highly important implementation points.  That's been left for another day.  But I definitely plan a future series on this topic once everyone has digested the basic themes first.

What are your thoughts?  I'd love to hear any of your comments and criticisms below.  Have I over-simplified or under-simplified?  Have I left out important themes?  Do you have ideas for successful implementation strategies for the next series?  Just let me know in the comments below.



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