Citizen Science as an Ecosystem of Engagement: Implications for Learning and Broadening Participation

Bradley C. Allf, Caren B. Cooper, Lincoln R. Larson, Robert R. Dunn, Sara E. Futch, Maria Sharova, Darlene Cavalier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The bulk of research on citizen science participants is project centric, based on an assumption that volunteers experience a single project. Contrary to this assumption, survey responses (n = 3894) and digital trace data (n = 3649) from volunteers, who collectively engaged in 1126 unique projects, revealed that multiproject participation was the norm. Only 23% of volunteers were singletons (who participated in only one project). The remaining multiproject participants were split evenly between discipline specialists (39%) and discipline spanners (38% joined projects with different disciplinary topics) and unevenly between mode specialists (52%) and mode spanners (25% participated in online and offline projects). Public engagement was narrow: The multiproject participants were eight times more likely to be White and five times more likely to hold advanced degrees than the general population. We propose a volunteer-centric framework that explores how the dynamic accumulation of experiences in a project ecosystem can support broad learning objectives and inclusive citizen science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-663
Number of pages13
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Conservation
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Education
  • Public science
  • Volunteer management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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