Crowdsourcing Science: Organizing Virtual Participation in Knowledge Production

Publication Type:



Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY (2010)


Citizen science projects involve the public with scientists in collaborative research. When conducted via information technologies, they can yield massive virtual collaborations based on voluntary contributions by diverse participants. As the popularity of citizen science increases, scientists need a more thorough understanding of how research design and implementation decisions affect scientific outcomes in citizen science. In particular, designing information systems to support virtual citizen science requires understanding the relationships between virtuality, technology, and the processes of organizing and participation. These inputs and processes produce scientific outcomes in successful projects, leading to the specific research questions for the proposed study:

How do virtuality and technology alter organizing in citizen science?
How do virtuality and technology shape participation in citizen science?
How do organizing and participation influence scientific outcomes in citizen science?

The goal of the research is to develop a theoretical model of virtual organizing and participation in citizen science that can inform practice and provide a conceptual foundation for adaptation to other contexts of virtual participation. In the proposed study, a multiple case study research design will be employed to investigate the influence of virtuality and technology on the processes of organizing and participation, and the resulting impacts on scientific outcomes in citizen science projects. The expected contributions include a multilevel theoretical model of virtual participation processes and comparative analysis of citizen science projects yielding insights that can inform design and management.