Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Exploring Participation Trends in Agronomic Citizen Science

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In recent years, the concept of citizen science, which involves non-experts working alongside professional scientists, has gained significant traction. However, within the specific arena of agri-environmental research, insights into factors driving citizen engagement and retention remain limited. A detailed survey conducted during the “Soy in 1000 Gardens” project delves into the motivations and characteristics influencing both initial and continued involvement in such initiatives.

Citizen science has emerged as a transformative approach to involve the general public in scientific research. The “Soy in 1000 Gardens” project served as a case study to understand the dynamics of participation in agri-environmental research. This study collected comprehensive data on the motivations, values, environmental concerns, previous citizen science experience, and knowledge related to sustainable food consumption and garden management of participants.

Factors Influencing Initial Participation

The survey revealed that initial participants are primarily driven by a desire to gain knowledge, engage in enjoyable social interactions, and express environmental concern for the welfare of others. Interestingly, motivations associated with self-enhancement or ego were significantly less common among these individuals. Participants also demonstrated higher levels of knowledge and self-transcending values, which align with broader environmental concerns.

To correct for potential self-selection bias, the researchers employed a two-step selection model. This approach ensured that the findings accurately reflected the factors influencing participation outcomes in the project.

Sustained Participation Dynamics

The study found distinct differences between those who continued their involvement and those who dropped out. Sustained participants were generally older and exhibited a stronger sense of moral obligation. Previous experience in citizen science also played a crucial role, positively impacting the duration of involvement. Additionally, higher levels of knowledge were associated with a greater amount of data contribution.

These insights suggest that tailored engagement strategies should focus on enhancing collective impact, aligning with participants’ intrinsic values, and fostering a sense of moral duty. By doing so, agri-environmental citizen science initiatives can potentially improve their effectiveness in addressing environmental challenges.

Actionable Insights for Future Projects

– Emphasize educational opportunities to attract initial participants.
– Create engaging social environments to maintain interest.
– Highlight the broader environmental impact to align with intrinsic values.
– Target recruitment efforts toward older individuals with a strong sense of moral duty.
– Leverage prior citizen science experience to enhance retention and data contribution.

By implementing these strategies, future agri-environmental citizen science projects can achieve more sustained and impactful participation, ultimately contributing to more effective environmental solutions.

Original Article: PLoS One. 2024 May 20;19(5):e0303103. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0303103. eCollection 2024.

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