Citizen Science Research

What is citizen science?

Citizen science the collection and analysis of data by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with scientists. Today’s access to technology allows participants to enter their data on a website or in an app.

According to their website, “Sensafety gives citizens the opportunity to compare their personal feeling of safety in public space with the ones perceived by others. Visitors are able to find out how the safety situation is currently assessed at places they are about to visit. Urban researchers and planners are capable to identify anxiety spaces, uncover the causes and measure the impact of urban changes on the perceived safety.”

According to the TreeSnap website, “Scientists are working to understand what allows some individual trees to survive, but they need to find healthy, resilient trees in the forest to study. Tag trees you find in your community, on your property, or out in the wild using TreeSnap! Scientists will use the data you collect to locate trees for research projects like studying the genetic diversity of tree species and building better tree breeding programs.”

Balloon Debris Survey
The Balloon Debris Survey allows citizens to record the date and location of balloon litter. This survey helps to raise awareness about the large amount of balloon debris. Beyond polluting the environment, wildlife, livestock, and pets can be injured or killed from ingesting the balloon fragments, getting entangled in the long ribbons or strings.

Each one of the websites for the projects features a description of the project on the first page, so participants know what the project is and how the information will be utilized. If the project is an app, it will often have “onboarding” screens that reiterates what the project is and how to use the app. If the project relies on collecting data from specific locations, participants will have to enter their location or allow the website/app to access the GPS location of the participant’s computer or phone before they can begin entering data.

What do people like?

Many people enjoy citizen science because it supports their philanthropy. The Balloon Survey, for example, aims to prevent trash pollution. People who want to help clean up the environment find this kind of project fulfilling.

Some people enjoy citizen science because it focuses on something they particularly enjoy. A person who particularly enjoys getting out in nature and hiking would enjoy TreeSnap because they get to learn about trees and help scientists conserve them.

Many people find a sense of community by participating in citizen science projects. On the TreeSnap website, you can see the trees users are currently recording. TreeSnap also posts updates and announces workshops that people can physically attend.

What don’t people like?

Some citizen science projects can frustrate participants. Someone who isn’t very phone-savvy may have trouble navigating apps and figuring out how to enter data.

It can also be frustrating when the project developers don’t let the participants know exactly how it’s helping them. While TreeSnap does a good job of communicating with users on social media, they don’t ever post about the research projects being conducted on the trees being reported.

Some citizen science projects are more specific than others. The three projects I’ve researched can be understood and utilized by the general public, but I was deterred from participating in some other projects because they require more experienced knowledge about a subject.



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Grace DeWald

Grace DeWald

Graphic designer based in the Midwest. I have a particular love for branding and package design, but I enjoy applying my skills to all kinds of projects.