"Guess what! You're the First to See this Event"

Corey Brian Jackson, Kevin Crowston, Gabriel Mugar, Carsten Østerlund
  • January 2016, ACM (Association for Computing Machinery)
  • DOI: 10.1145/2957276.2957284

Novelty of images as a motivator for contribution to citizen science projects

What is it about?

Citizen-science projects are scientific projects that involve members of the general public as contributors, e.g., by contributing or analyzing data. Many citizen-science volunteers mention that they enjoy participating because they get to see images that no one has ever seen before (e.g., a new image of a galaxy). We analyzed data from a naturally occurring quasi-experiment on a citizen-science project, Higgs Hunters (part of the Zooniverse), in which we displayed a label on images that had not been previously seen by any other volunteer ("You're the first to see this image"). The data show that volunteer who saw the label contributed nearly twice as many classifications as volunteers who did not.

Why is it important?

The paper provides evidence for the importance of novelty as a motivator for citizen-science volunteers. The intervention is easy to implement on any data-analysis citizen-science project to help motivate increased contributions. The paper also make a contribution to the methodology of studying citizen-science projects, as the data required an "intention to treat" analysis to account for the interaction between the number of contributions and the chance of seeing a novel image.


Kevin Crowston (Author)
Syracuse University

This was a fun paper to write, as it required innovations in research design and data analysis. Discovering the natural quasi-experiment in the data made it possible.

The following have contributed to this page: Kevin Crowston

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