In collaboration with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), we are testing evaluation tools designed to establish contextually-appropriate means of evaluating scientific productivity. Due to the diversity of goals and practices, measuring science outcomes in citizen science projects requires a holistic approach, so we are developing evaluation and planning procedures suited to application across a variety of contexts. At SERC, we can work with a diverse range of citizen science projects to improve the robustness and generalizability of a science outcomes inventory and planning toolkit that will be useful to the broader citizen science community as well.
Citizen science can be considered both a methodology and a phenomenon; in this study, we focus on its methodological characteristics through the contextualized evaluation and planning process. As a phenomenon, we focus on understanding these projects’ evolutionary patterns and the impact of key decisions on project development, addressing these research questions:
- What are the typical stages of project development and longitudinal patterns of project evolution in citizen science projects?
- What events or conditions influence project management decisions in citizen science projects?
- How does structured evaluation of project outputs support project evolution and decision making?
The products of this research will include improved citizen science project management and evaluation processes. We also anticipate new insights into project dynamics and resource requirements that can be used to establish reasonable, evidence-based resource allocations and performance expectations for local-to-regional field-based citizen science projects, supporting more effective project management and improved sustainability.