Without participants, there is no citizen science. Understanding why people get involved in citizen science is important so we can ensure that those motivations are met and people continue their involvement. Often social aspects are reasons for people to get involved and one way to keep people engaged is through offering online community forums. The recommended reading and videos in this module will tell you more about these aspects of citizen science and will take you about 45 minutes to complete.

Why people become citizen scientists

Two very short videos about why people are citizen scientists
Recommended reading 

This article provides an overview of the variety of motivations participants have in different types of citizen science projects.

Kragh, 2016. The motivations of volunteers in citizen science. Environmental Scientist, 25 (2), 32-35. Read it here

Video lecture


Case Study: Galaxy Zoo. Understanding Participant Motivation (11 min)

Alice Sheppard Part 1 Volunteer motivation and barriers

Download the annotated slides

Video lecture


Case Study: Galaxy Zoo. Managing an online community forum (11 min)

Alice Sheppard Part 2 Tools and Tips for online community management

Download the annotated slides


What motivates you?

Take 5 minutes, close your eyes and think about why you enjoy certain activities. What motivates you to do these activities? Do you enjoy them because they are social activities? Because you can learn something? Because they make you feel good? Or something else?

Participate in an online community forum

Zooniverse Talk

Zooniverse has a huge and very active online community with hundreds of active participants. Have a read through some of the threads and participate in discussions if you feel like it. Think about what makes this such an active and successful forum!

Other online community forums

Look at other online community forums you know of and think about why and how they are being used. What works? What doesn't work?

Further learning

Further reading

Geoghegan, G., 2016. Understanding motivations for citizen science. UK Environmental Observation Framework (Chapter 4: Citizen scientist motivations, pp27-33 & Chapter 5: Motivations for beginning and continuing in citizen science, pp35-47). You can find it here.

Raddick, M.J. et al., 2009. Galaxy Zoo: Exploring the motivations of citizen science volunteers. You can find it here.

Further learning

Introduction to Citizen Science & Scientific Crowdsourcing, UCL, extensive free online course about citizen science. You can find it here

Other modules

There are five modules in this course. You can follow them in order or pick the ones that interest you. 

Introduction to Citizen Science - an overview of the activities and practices that are included in citizen science

Environmental Citizen Science - zooming in on environmental applications and activities

Information Technology in Citizen Science - focusing on the importance of data management and IT platforms

Understanding Participant Motivation - this module

Evaluation - developing an appropriate evaluation for citizen science projects

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