Enhancing Opportunities by Design
Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning
Rajul Pandya and Kenne Ann Dibner, Editors
Board on Science Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
A Consensus Study Report of
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This activity was supported by contracts between the National Academy of Sciences and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (#10002925), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (#10003301), and Simons Foundation (#10003402). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-47916-5
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-47916-9
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018965026
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25183
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). Learning Through Citizen Science: Enhancing Opportunities by Design. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25183.
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COMMITTEE ON DESIGNING CITIZEN SCIENCE TO SUPPORT SCIENCE LEARNING
RAJUL PANDYA (Chair), American Geophysical Union
MEGAN BANG, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University; Spencer Foundation
DARLENE CAVALIER, SciStarter; School for Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University
DANIEL EDELSON, BSCS, Colorado Springs, CO
LOUIS GOMEZ, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
JOE HEIMLICH, Center for Research and Evaluation | Lifelong Learning Group, Center of Science and Industry, Columbus, OH
LEKELIA “KIKI” JENKINS, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University
BRUCE LEWENSTEIN, Departments of Science Communication and Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
CHRISTINE MASSEY, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
JOHN MATHER, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
JULIA PARRISH, College of the Environment, University of Washington; Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team
TINA PHILLIPS, Citizen Science Program, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
KENNE DIBNER, Study Director
HEIDI SCHWEINGRUBER, Director, Board on Science Education
KERRY BRENNER, Program Officer
LETICIA GARCILAZO GREEN, Senior Program Assistant
JESSICA COVINGTON, Senior Program Assistant
BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION
ADAM GAMORAN (Chair), William T. Grant Foundation
MEGAN BANG, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University; Spencer Foundation
SUNITA V. COOKE, Office of the Superintendent/President, MiraCosta College
MELANIE COOPER, Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University
RUSH D. HOLT, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC
MATTHEW KREHBIEL, Achieve, Inc., Washington, DC
LYNN LIBEN, Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University
CATHRYN “CATHY” A. MANDUCA, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College
JOHN C. MATHER, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
TONYA M. MATTHEWS, Michigan Science Center, Detroit
WILLIAM PENUEL, Center for Assessment, Design, Research and Evaluation, University of Colorado Boulder
STEPHEN L. PRUITT, Southern Regional Education Board, Atlanta, GA
KENDRA RENAE PULLEN, Caddo Parish Public Schools, LA
MARSHALL “MIKE” SMITH, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
ROBERTA TANNER, Thompson School District (retired), Loveland, CO
HEIDI SCHWEINGRUBER, Director
It is a daunting to be asked to chair a committee for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. You are around the table with a room full of exceptionally smart people, at least one with a Nobel Prize, and taking your place inside an institution that stretches back to Abraham Lincoln. You must leverage all the voices and intellect in the room while also recognizing the voices and histories that are not in the room. Working with the committee, you strive to answer concisely a narrowly scoped charge while simultaneously unpacking the larger issues implicit in that charge. As chair, you aim for a consensus that is not overly obvious by exploring the boundaries of agreement and even flirting with disagreement, because that is where the meaningful parts of consensus lies. In the final product, your report, you aim to say something new without getting too far ahead of the evidence; something that is small enough to be precise, but big enough to inspire.
Thankfully, you have the processes of the National Academies and the people on the committee to guide you. The process is designed to keep you focused on the topic and restrained by available evidence: Our committee joked that we were not able to use the word “is” without a citation. There were times in our process that this demand for evidence was frustrating: Sometimes we wanted to make a point about the way we would like things to be, engage in a speculative line of reasoning, or take an idea about education in citizen science and tease out its broader implications. In each case, though, an insistence on evidence and scope (often with some gentle or not-so-gentle guidance from the National Academies staff) brought us back to our task.
The committee, especially in its willingness to respectfully pursue and reach consensus, also helped illuminate the way. Evidence might be the raw material of this report, but it was the committee members who built the report from those raw materials. They collected, evaluated, and synthesized the evidence. They served as the (citizen) scientists who collected the evidence, the story-tellers who wove that evidence into coherent narratives, and the arbitrators who evaluated the evidence to produce findings and recommendations. They were good scientists because they were experts in their fields and listened carefully to our many invited guests; they were good story-tellers because they could pull from and synthesize evidence across a range of disciplines and experiences; and they were good arbitrators because, to the person, they cared more about producing the best answer than they did about proving themselves right.
One of the findings of the report is that the positive social interactions that are part of strong citizen science projects reinforce and create opportunities for learning. This was evident in our committee as well: We had fun together and we got to know one another, and those positive experiences helped us wrestle with necessary and productive disagreement. Learning, it turns out, involves not only new knowledge but also the integration of new and old knowledge and this process sometimes involves deconstructing some of that old knowledge. That part can be painful, especially in academic circles where knowledge is the currency of the realm, and the fact that we had fun together and trusted one another enabled necessary deconstruction. Excellent meals together helped as well.
The committee itself, along with National Academies staff, also represented one of the other findings of the report: people learn more and perform better in environments that welcome and integrate a diversity of experiences and perspectives. They were also, fittingly for a report on education, excellent teachers and learners. I learned as much about the science and practice of teaching and learning from watching them work together as I did from the evidence cited in the report. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with everyone on the committee and the staff at the National Academies, and richer for having done so.
At the end of the day, a National Academies report is an integrative summary of what is known about a single topic: These reports are expansive, complete, and up to date about what is known, and reflective of what is possible. Our report, like all National Academies reports, is not meant to move the field forward as much as it is meant to provide a solid way-point from which the field can move forward. We believe it is an important document. We aim to provide a common reference of strongly supported understandings that can be a driver for further innovation and creativity and for iteration and refinement by citizen science researchers, designers, educators, and participants. I hope, though I suspect it is impossible, that
you can learn as much from this report, have as much fun thinking about its big ideas, and find as many new ways of doing things, as I did in working with the committee and staff at the National Academies to produce the report.
Finally, some of the most exciting ideas discussed by our committee never made it to the final report. Although these ideas are not up to the standards of the report and go well beyond the scope of our charge, they are compelling. For me, the emergent line of reasoning goes like this: Effective citizen science projects create a kind of negotiated space where scientists and nonscientists can work well together. That means the most effective citizen science projects create a space where all people are considered intellectual partners and contributors. In this way, they offer a vehicle to challenge historic, and unproductive, divisions between those who are part of science and those who are not. They become places to expand participation in science not only by inviting people to do science, but also by inviting communities to use science in service of their goals and priorities. Citizen science poses questions about who participates in science, what it means to participate in science, who gets to decide what scientific questions to investigate, and even what kind of knowledge and practice count as science.
Chair, Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning
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In the spirit of the social nature of much of citizen science, this report is the outgrowth of the tremendous work of many devoted individuals. We have learned quite a bit by having had the space, time, and resources to be proximal to one another’s expertise, and we believe that this report benefits from the rare opportunity to synthesize many voices into one—an opportunity uniquely afforded through the processes of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning owes a debt of gratitude to a number of people for their support throughout this project.
First, we wish to extend a thank you to this project’s sponsors: Janet Coffey from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Dennis Liu and Bridget Conneely from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Greg Boustead and Jill Blackford from the Simons Foundation. At the first meeting, our sponsors were immensely helpful in establishing a tone for our investigations, and we are profoundly grateful for their support.
Over the course of the study, we heard from many individuals who were able to shed light on different aspects of citizen science and science learning. At our first meeting, citizen science champions Rick Bonney from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Sarah Kirn from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute offered framing perspectives on the potential of citizen science, and Leona Schauble from Vanderbilt University and Leslie Herrenkohl from the University of Washington provided insight into the landscape of science learning.
At our second meeting, the committee hosted a public meeting for extended consideration of specific issues related to citizen science and sci-
ence learning. Cindy Hmelo-Silver from Indiana University and Joe Polman from the University of Colorado Boulder offered insight into the science learning literature. Heidi Ballard from the University of California, Davis, provided the keynote address with an overview on the potential of citizen science to support science learning, specifically the development of science identity. Bill Zoellick from the Schoodic Institute, Ruth Kermish-Allen from Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, and Rebecca Jordan from Rutgers University conducted a panel on frameworks for designing learning opportunities in citizen science. Rob Dunn from North Carolina State University, Andrea Wiggins from the University of Nebraska Omaha, Jennifer Fee from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Linda Peterson from Fairfax County Public Schools, conducted a panel on citizen science in K–12 classrooms; Gwen Ottinger from Drexel University, Michael Mascarenhas from the University of California, Berkeley, and Muki Haklay from University College London offered insight into citizen science and community learning outcomes. Karen Peterman from Karen Peterman Consulting and Cat Stylinski from the University of Maryland conducted a panel on assessing learning in citizen science, and Laura Trouille from Zooniverse and the Adler Planetarium, Kathryn “Kit” Matthew from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, and Sue Allen from Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance closed the event with a panel on citizen science in informal settings.
As part of its attempt to learn about ongoing citizen science projects in the field, the committee held an expo event for outside exhibitors to present their projects and sign up potential participants. The committee wishes to sincerely thank the following individuals and citizen science projects for taking the time to describe their work: Arielle Conti from Tree Inventory at Casey Trees; Mary Clare Hano from Smoke Sense; Caroline Juang from Landslide Reporter; Mark Kuchner from Backyard Worlds; Nadine Levick from Automated External Defibrillator Geolocation; Sophia Liu from Citizen Science During Disasters, Liz MacDonald from Aurorasaurus, Steven Silverberg from Disk Detective, and Katrina Theisz from the National Institute of Health’s citizen science efforts,
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Angela Calabrese Barton, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University; Steven B. Case, Center for STEM Learning, University of
Kansas; Dianne Chong, Assembly, Factory & Support Technology (retired), Boeing Research and Technology; Caren B. Cooper, Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University; Mary Ford, Education Programs, National Geographic Society; Leigh Peake, Education, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, Maine; Joseph L. Polman, School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder; Leona Schauble, Department of Teaching and Learning, Vanderbilt University; Jeremy W. Thorner, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley; and William Zoellick, Education Research, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, Winter Park, Maine.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Philip Bell, College of Education, University of Washington, and Eugenie C. Scott (retired), National Center for Science Education. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
The committee wishes to extend its gratitude to the staff of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE), in particular to Heidi Schweingruber, director of the Board on Science Education, who has provided ongoing wisdom and guidance as we navigated challenging intellectual and procedural terrain. To Anne Simonis, who joined our team en media res and who helped with critical drafting and editing processes. To Leticia Garcilazo Green, whose expert and efficient administrative leadership enabled smooth meetings and production, and Jessica Covington, who also entered a chaotic process and masterfully assisted in many of our administrative needs. Kirsten Sampson Snyder of the DBASSE staff deftly guided us through the National Academies review process, and Laura Yoder provided invaluable editorial assistance. Yvonne Wise of the DBASSE staff oversaw the production of the report.
Finally, the committee wishes to thank Raj Pandya, study chair, for his devoted, responsive, and impassioned leadership of this study. It has been both a pleasure and an honor to work closely with Raj, and this report is truly the better for his commitment.
Kenne Ann Dibner, Study Director
Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning
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