Theory and Design of Virtual Organizations for Citizen Science

This completed project was a two-phase theory-based study of virtual organizations that enable massive virtual collaboration in scientific research. The virtual organizations studied have a core of scientists and project leaders coordinating the work of a larger number of volunteer contributors, a format called citizen science. The project was directed at advancing the understanding of what constitutes effective citizen science virtual organizations and under what conditions citizen science virtual organizations can enable and enhance scientific and education production and innovation.

The study was theoretically grounded in small group theory and rooted empirically in a survey of and case studies in citizen science projects. A survey was used to develop a typology of citizen science projects, illuminating the important dimensions of this form. The case studies (still being completed) identified key lever points in work design for enabling citizen science virtual organizations to involve distributed, diverse volunteers in producing large-scale, high quality, valued scientific research in an organizationally sustainable fashion.