Citizen science delivers environmental data, forms the basis of scientific research and policy, and is an enjoyable activity. To ensure projects provide benefits to science and society, the researchers asked why citizen scientists, environmental volunteers (potential participants) and stakeholders from science, policy, and practice participate in citizen science. Understanding their motivations is vital in order to recruit volunteers, maintain involvement, maximise data quality, and ensure institutional buy-in.

This report presents results from a social science project, revealing the use of the term citizen science, the motivations of participants, potential solutions to motivational challenges, and the importance of accommodating motivations through evaluation. The definition of citizen science is changing. Stakeholders accepted its popular meaning as data collection by citizens for use by scientists and extended it to suggest that citizens must also benefit from participation.

Many stakeholders involved in running projects and using data self-identified as ‘citizen scientists’, e.g. recording species in their leisure time. Such distinctions between amateur and professional expertise were broken down further by the varied use of the term to brand projects and activities. Most projects remain contributory, but collaborative and co-designed projects are gaining followers.

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