Social media and Citizen Science

There is a tremendous interest in citizen science, engaging the public in collection and analysis of data and information about a range of forestry issues including plant and animal biodiversity, tree pests and diseases, and climate change. Social media is becoming an important feature of many citizen science initiatives.

Scoping research examined 12 citizen science projects to synthesise key lessons about the use and design of supporting social media. Results show:

  • Social media is most often used to recruit and retain citizen scientists
  • Retaining citizen science depends on sharing the results of their efforts as well as building social networks
  • Social media support to citizen science is successful where it has a clearly defined purpose targeted at particular types of volunteers
  • The social media strategy needs to take account of the differing needs, motivations and interests of the target volunteers recognising differences between the generally interested public and skilled amateur experts such as birders
  • Collaboration between skilled amateur experts and scientists in the design, development, piloting, and evaluation of digital technologies and associated social media tools, ensures citizen scientists have tools they find useful as well as providing scientists with appropriate data
  • Third party organisations may be crucial communication partners reaching specific interest groups.

These resources were used by the Forestry Commission to improve understanding of the potential of social media to increase engagement in citizen science projects.



Dr Bianca Ambrose-Oji