UKEOF survey on motivations in Citizen Science

Back in September I posted about a new UKEOF project to understand motivations in citizen science well, now the survey is ready! The survey was created by HIlary Geoghegan (Reading) and Glyn Everett (UWE) and is designed to uncover motivations around participation in citizen science and other types of environmental volunteering. Citizen science is now an established means of collecting, analysing and responding to data about the natural environment. However, in order to fulfil its potential, we need to know more about why people participate.

This survey is funded by UKEOF<> – a partnership of public sector organisations with an interest in using and providing evidence from environmental observations. UKEOF have a citizen science working group committed to understanding the human dimensions of participating in citizen science.

The survey link is:

Data from the survey will be anonymous and will form the basis of an open access report on what motivates people to participate in environmental citizen science projects and other environmental volunteering opportunities. We are interested in attracting a range of responses from citizen scientists and environmental volunteers across a variety of projects in the UK relating to the environment, including tree health, air quality, biodiversity and pollination.

We’d be really grateful if you could circulate this survey through your networks, social media and other online resources, that would be very much appreciated. The survey will be open until 20th December.

We will be in touch with all projects mentioned in the survey once we have drafted the final report, as we fully appreciate the importance of a joined-up approach.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me:


UKEOF Study to understand motivations for citizen science.

Here in York we’ve had a busy summer, and some of our work (at least…) has paid off. In a project led by Hilary Geoghegan of the University of Reading, I’ve been awarded, along with Rachel Pateman and Sarah West here at SEI and Glyn Everett at UWE, a contract to undertake a study of motivations in citizen science comissioned by UKEOF (who published the influential ‘Guide to Citizen Science‘). We’re excited to be working together as this project brings together some previous collaborations. The project builds on a seminar that Hilary and I led for the British Ecological Society Special Interest Group on Citizen Science back in June on participants in citizen science where we changed the historical focus on how to do citizen science, to the people involved in citizen science. What motivates them? what impact it has on them and what impact do they have on the projects that they are involved in? Our new contract also builds on some of the recent DEFRA funded research that Sarah, Rachel and I have been doing on data returns in citizen science and trying to understand what motivates people to return data in different types of projects.

We’ll not only be looking at what motivates participants in citizen science, but what motivates people who initiate citizen science (whether they are from the academic community, an NGO or others) and what motivates policy makers to be involved. We’ll also be looking at some of the de-motivators, or why some people who could use citizen science don’t. We’ll be looking at citizen science across a range of subject areas, from pollination, to ecology, to climate change to tree health and across scales from local site specific projects to national ones.

Keep an eye out here for updates on our findings and outputs.

The proof of the pudding is in the process

(or how you can integrate participatory processes into every corner of your life……)

Christmas is a time for traditions, but also for creating new traditions. My grandmother brought the traditions of her own family and my grandfather’s family together through Christmas pudding.  Granny wasn’t completely satisfied with either of the two family recipes, so she experimented until she had the ultimate combination: diplomatic pudding. My mother carried on the tradition, using the diplomatic pudding recipe.

When my partner and I came to build our own Christmas traditions, I asked to my partner’s mother to join me in some action research. We both made Christmas pudding according to our family recipes and we held a ‘pudding off’ (otherwise known as Christmas dinner). Together we created a new recipe: participatory pudding. The actual differences in ingredients are small, just a bit of grated apple (and quite a lot of brandy to set it on fire), but the impact is lasting, this is our new family recipe and I hope that my children will make this an iterative process and re-visit the pudding recipe with their own families.

New video series on participatory research techniques

I’m Alison Dyke, a researcher in the Participatory Research Group at SEI-Y. As a part of a project we’ve been doing on public engagement in our research at SEI International we’ve been making a series of short videos on our work and the sort of techniques we use (see a blog post on the project) . The video of my work on public engagement in biosecurity and plant health issues is here on Youtube, together with one from Sukaina Bharwani on the WeAdapt climate change adaptation platform and more coming soon. The videos are useful internally to let our colleagues know what we’re up to, but also to share our experience more widely. Let us know what you think.

I’ve found making the video on my work a useful reflexive tool (formally evaluating progress and acting on the findings as the project develops) in itself, requiring me to think through what we are trying to achieve and what we have learned from the techniques we have used. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but turning a ‘if only we had done it like that’ moment into ‘next time, I’ll do it like this’ is where reflexivity  comes in. It’s often difficult to build in reflexivity into a project, particularly if you have a a tight timescale, but it seems increasingly essential to be for building a culture of openness within a project. One of the biggest lessons for me from many of the partnership projects I’ve worked on in the past is that while there can be great good will on the part of all the partners, it’s important not to make assumptions about them. The partner’s motivations, what resources they are able to commit and whether there are multiple competing or even conflicting aims all need discussing somehow even if that is difficult. That’s what I’m planning to work on next time.