In Delaney et al. (2008), the researchers aim to evaluate the effectiveness of citizen science in collecting data accurately. Delaney et al. (2008) do this by asking citizens to collect data on the species and gender of crabs along the New England coastline. Researchers then reevaluated the data to see how accurate the citizens’ assessments were.
Citizens vary in education level from prekindergarten to post doctorate. They are set up at 52 randomly selected sites along the 725-km coastal transect between New Jersey and Maine. Citizens are evaluated in their ability to assess crab species and gender based on their age, education, the size of crabs being analyzed and the size of the data collection group each citizen is involved in.
What Delaney et al. (2008) found is that education and age were the most important factors in determining a citizen scientist’s accuracy in identifying crab species and gender. Citizen collected data that was over 95% accurate was used to generate information about crab populations in the New England region. Results showed that crab distribution varied by latitude (water temperature) and by the complexity of the sites tested. Asian crabs are most prevalent in the south and green crabs are more common in the north. Native crab species occurred in smaller amounts, primarily between the northern and southern extremes of the data set.
Delaney et al. (2008) found that citizen science can be an effective tool for collecting data cheaply and efficiently, as long as there are means to properly train the citizens. Delaney et al. (2008) propose that in the future a large database should be created using the Internet. This database should incorporate previously established databases as well as citizen science data in order to be comprehensive. Delaney et al. (2008) suggest challenges will include continued work, dedication and funding in maintaining an effective database.
In my opinion, citizen science is an important tool and should be considered by the scientific community. It is cost effective and gives citizens the ability to take part in interesting research. I know I would enjoy being a part of a citizen science project to collect data on local insects, for example. I think the most difficult aspect is acquiring a proper mechanism for training volunteers, but this can be accomplished through training sessions and/or instructional paperwork and videos.
Delaney, David G., C.D. Sperling, C.S. Adams, and B. Leung. 2008. Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biological Invasions 10:117-128.