Thursday, February 16, 2012

Three types of crowdsourcing!

Increasingly the public wants to participate more actively in science, rather than be passive consumers, and the use of the Internet and the web is expanding the types of science you can be involved in.  Since the last Summit, three years ago, the Citizen Cyberscience (CC) movement has expanded rapidly, but the beauty of it is that it is still at a grassroots level.

In the first session today, we found out about the diversity of peoples’ motivations for taking part in projects, and also shared some ideas on how to build and develop a crowd-sourcing network.  

Jonathan Silvertown from the Open University shared lessons learnt from two Citizen Cyberscience case studies - Evolution Megalab ( and iSpot (

Understanding your potential volunteers' motivations for taking part are important for driving the success of any CC project, and it often involves examining the sociology of engagement. [Stay tuned for the next GridCast session, which delves more deeply into people's motivations.]

Jonathan described three different types of crowd-sourcing. The first type involves the collective wisdom of others- where everyone's opinion is equally weighted.  The second model is where knowledge is weighted according to expertise and the third is a synergistic combination of the two.  

iSpot is an example of a synergistic model. It's an innovative online educational tool to help natural history enthusiasts  identify species in their own back garden. Over the last three years, iSpot has already helped with the discovery of 2000 new species with just over 100,000 individual observations. 

When people initially join the iSpot network they may be an expert in their own field but often have limited knowledge in other areas (birds, mammals etc.).  iSpot provides a supportive environment which helps contributors build their knowledge, and is proving to be a successful model for building a synergistic social network. Contributors have dual roles as a beginner/expert, which provides a great basis for learning. People can even become multi-specialists with time, and building their reputation within the online community can be a big motivating factor.

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