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Study to understand motivations for citizen science

Citizen science can broadly be defined as the involvement of volunteers in science. It has a vital role in scientific research and education, and the potential to help meet some of the challenging demands of environmental monitoring at the national scale. This gives citizen science a clear relevance to government policy across the UK, and puts citizen science firmly on the agenda for the UK Environmental Observatory Framework (UKEOF).

Inactive project


Citizen science is widely acknowledged to have a potentially important role in delivering valuable environmental data at local to national scales. However, without an understanding of why and how people participate in citizen science, some initiatives could miss their mark and fail to provide the expected benefits. These social drivers of evidence-gathering by citizen scientists are often overlooked in favour of discussions around the need for and quality of the resulting data. UKEOF wants to balance this with an approach based on social science so that we can understand the personal needs, motivations, benefits and barriers which affect participation in citizen science, both in terms of the volunteers themselves and other involved parties such as the scientists, policymakers and data users.

In September 2015, UKEOF commissioned a study to investigate people’s motivations for citizen science. This study aims to improve our understanding of motivation and participation in citizen science, so that new initiatives can be designed to take these factors into account, making them more likely to succeed and easier to evaluate. The project was led by Hilary Geoghegan at the University of Reading, along with Alison DykeSarah West and Rachel Pateman at the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, and Glyn Everett at the University of West England.

SEI team

Sarah West

Centre Director

SEI York

Alison Dyke

Research Fellow

SEI York

Rachel Pateman


SEI York

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