Citizen science volunteers driven by desire to learn

UoP News: “People who give up their time for online volunteering are mainly motivated by a desire to learn, a new study has found.

The research surveyed volunteers on ‘citizen science’ projects and suggests that this type of volunteering could be used to increase general knowledge of science within society.

The study, led by Dr Joe Cox from the Department of Economics and Finance, discovered that an appetite to learn more about the subject was the number one driver for online volunteers, followed by being part of a community. It also revealed that many volunteers are motivated by a desire for escapism.

Online volunteering and crowdsourcing projects typically involve input from large numbers of contributors working individually but towards a common goal. This study surveyed 2000 people who volunteer for ‘citizen science’ projects hosted by Zooniverse, a collection of research projects that rely on volunteers to help scientists with the challenge of interpreting massive amounts of data….“What was interesting was that characteristics such as age, gender and level of education had no correlation with the amount of time people give up and the length of time they stay on a project. These participants were relatively highly educated compared with the rest of the population, but those with the highest levels of education do not appear to contribute the most effort and information towards these projects.”

The study noticed pronounced changes in how people are motivated at different stages of the volunteer process. While a desire to learn is the most important motivation among contributors at the early stages, the opportunities for social interaction and escapism become more important motivations at later stages….

He suggests that online volunteering and citizen science projects could incentivise participation by offering clearly defined opportunities for learning, while representing an effective way of increasing scientific literacy and knowledge within society….(More)”.