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    Assessing Citizen Science Participation Skill for Altruism or University Course Credit: A Case Study Analysis Using Cyclone Center

    Phillips, Christopher and Walsh, Dylan and O'Regan, Karen and Strong, Ken and Hennon, Christopher H. and Knapp, Kenneth R. and Murphy, Conor and Thorne, Peter (2018) Assessing Citizen Science Participation Skill for Altruism or University Course Credit: A Case Study Analysis Using Cyclone Center. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 3 (1). pp. 1-13. ISSN 2057-4991

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    A common challenge in citizen science projects is gaining and retaining participants. At the same time, the tertiary education sector is constantly being challenged to provide more meaningful and practical work for students. Can participation in citizen science projects be used as coursework with real practical experiential-learning benefits, without affecting the citizen science project outcomes? We seek to begin to answer this question via a case study analysis with Cyclone Center (CC), which asks participants to classify tropical cyclone characteristics through analysis of infrared satellite imagery. Skill of individual users has previously been shown to be obtainable once classifiers have looked at approximately 200 images using an expectation-maximisation likelihood approach. We use skill scores to determine if participation for course credit or altruism influenced skill for volunteers and students from two universities under three increasingly complex categories of classifications (eye or no eye; stronger, weaker, or the same; and which of six fundamental storm types). A bootstrap resampling approach was used to account for discrepancies between sample sizes. Overall, there is limited evidence for substantive differences in classification performance between credit awarded and altruistic participants, with only one finding of significance at <p = 0.05 (Maynooth University showing lower mean agreement with the volunteer consensus on eye vs. no-eye). There is evidence that integrating participation into a larger assessment that requires the students to show understanding of the project may reduce a low-skill student tail. Furthermore, students’ perceptions of the coursework compared to more traditional assignments were overall favourable. These findings, if replicated for other citizen science projects, open up possible avenues to more generally increasing participation in, and exploitation of, citizen science projects in the academic sector.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: participation; academia; credit; altruism; climate; volunteers; tertiary education;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Geography
    Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Institutes > Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units, ICARUS
    Item ID: 11085
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Peter Thorne
    Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2019 13:52
    Journal or Publication Title: Citizen Science: Theory and Practice
    Publisher: Ubiquity Press
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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