Researchers and Citizens on Par: Challenges and Platform-based Solutions to Transitioning to Co-created Citizen Science

Alissa Prinsloo & Tanja Krasnikov

Student thesis: Master thesis


Purpose: Most current citizen science projects limit citizen involvement to few research phases, mainly data collection, and sometimes analysis or dissemination activities. Although co-created citizen science projects, in which citizens are encouraged to take part in all phases of the research process, promise many benefits, they are quite rare in practice due to several barriers. These barriers as well as solutions to overcoming them have received little attention in the academic literature. This thesis explores these barriers and argues that stakeholders in citizen science, and particularly online platforms, that contribute to realizing a citizen science project, could provide solutions to overcoming these barriers. Study design: The authors conducted an exploratory qualitative inductive-deductive multiple case study, based on three steps: First, to inspire the further analysis, the authors reviewed the existing citizen science and platform literature and developed a theoretical framework of known barriers and platformbased solutions to citizen science. Second, the authors identified barriers to transitioning to co-created citizen science by conducting a qualitative analysis of sixteen citizen science projects of six different sample groups. Third, potential platform-based solutions that could mitigate and remove barriers are suggested based on a qualitative analysis of seven platform types, derived from a total sample of 33 online platforms. Findings: We identified five types of barriers hindering researchers to transition to co-creation: Barriers of (1) will and (2) ability of the researcher, (3) barriers of ability of the citizen, (4) barriers to citizen engagement and team development, and (5) bureaucratic and administrative barriers. Most individual online platforms provide limited help to remove these barriers. However, a combination of the services and features of several platforms provide ample support for project implementation. Theoretical implications: This thesis contributes to growing body of literature that suggests that each type of citizen science project comes with benefits and challenges. It shows that barriers to co-created projects need to be addressed differently than those of citizen science. Practical implications: This thesis is relevant to practitioners as it addresses the current public discourse around the democratization of science. It is also useful for citizen science project owners and citizens because it increases awareness about possible pitfalls and hurdles in realizing a successful co-created citizen science project, providing practical tools (i.e. online platforms) that can facilitate projects. Originality: Scarce literature exists on the challenges related to higher forms of citizen science. This study offers a comprehensive analysis of barriers to co-created citizen science, by considering factors that influence a) expanding the number of tasks that citizens conduct and b) co-decision making. It applies a unique solution-oriented approach by conducting a first systematic analysis of different online platforms that could facilitate co-created citizen science.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages186
SupervisorsMarion Poetz