One of a kind: The tail of citizen science volunteers

Lo Lee, Peter Darch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Online citizen science projects recruit members of the public (volunteers) to contribute to scientific research. Many projects involve volunteers donating processing capacity on their computers to process datasets. Retaining and motivating volunteers is a critical challenge. Existing studies of volunteers identify categories of volunteers, describing the main motivations and contributions of these categories. Based on case studies comprising surveys (n = 2031) and interviews (n = 39) with volunteers in two projects, Einstein@Home and Cosmology@Home, we identify volunteers who do not fit easily into these categories. These volunteers exhibit non-typical motivations (e.g., getting acknowledgements in scientific publications, and accumulating Gridcoin) or non-typical contributions (e.g., successfully proposing new lines of work or projects, and conducting and presenting studies of subgroups of volunteers to teams running projects). These volunteers make vital contributions to projects. However, measures taken by project teams based on prior studies of volunteers may be ineffective in retaining and motivating these non-typical volunteers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-449
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Astronomy
  • Citizen Science
  • Scientific Data
  • Volunteer Computing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Library and Information Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'One of a kind: The tail of citizen science volunteers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this