Citizen science is an area whose interest has increased over the years. Non-academic people gather around projects with the intention of solving a question of interest. Usually, scientific discoveries are accompanied by academic publications that demonstrate the results obtained. However, due to the non-academic nature of citizen science, academic publications are not the end of it. In this post we show the evolution of citizen science publication in the last 30 years.
Evolution of Citizen Science Academic Publications of citizen science academic publications
Citizen science is the practice of using a large number of volunteers, rather than professional researchers, to collect data for scientific research. Citizen science projects actively involve citizens in scientific endeavour that generates new knowledge or understanding. However, managing a large quantity of scientists is not a trivial task and many times the data provided has limitations and biases that should be controlled for. It is well known that the quality of data significantly affects publications in the academic field. Therefore, in this post we show how publications related to citizen science have evolved by using Scopus, an expertly curated abstract and citation database. In chart 1 we are working with a total of 19182 publications from 1990 to 2019. Although citizen science was defined in the mid/1990s by Rick Bonney in the United States (Bonney, 1996) and Alan Irwin in the United Kingdom (Irwin, 1995) it is not until 2005 that the number of academic publications in this area begins to grow (See chart 1).
Types of citizen science academic publications
Afterwards, publications have continued to grow exponentially, peaking in 2019 with a total of 1995 publications. Academic production is increasing but, what kind of publications are the most common in this area?
As shown in chart 2 the greatest effort is made in the creation of journal articles, followed by conference papers. The author may have noted that in this case only the information of 16529 publications (of the total 19182) is shown. This is because 2653 publications could not be classified, so they have been removed from this visualization. This is kind of expected since research projects in general try to publish in journals with impact factor. In addition, many citizen science projects seek to make their publications open so that they reach as many people as possible. In this sense, the costs of publication in journals with an impact factor can be much higher than those that can be allowed in such projects (Gardemaier et al., 2018).
Just as publications have been growing over the last decade, so has the number of open access publications. The trend in citizen science follows what is happening with the rest of academic publications. As stated by Europe in its “Trends for open access to publications” report, in 2018 36.2% of the publications were made open access. Regarding citizen science publications, 39.1 5 of the publications were open access in 2019. This growing trend makes us believe in the intention of citizen science researchers to open the results of their publications to the public which can increase citizens’ interest in citizen science and therefore improve their commitment to these projects (See chart 3).
Areas of citizen science academic publications
Academic interest is also growing in the citizen science area. As shown in chart 4, the number of cites skyrocketed in 2007, two years after the number of citizen science publications increased substantially. The reason behind that is that a publication usually starts being cited 1-2 years after being published. This is the main reason why after 2017, the number of cites started going down. We should wait until the end of 2020 to see how the number of cites of 2018 publications end up. This figure shows that there is a high interest in citizen science in the academic environment, but more profound analysis should be done to reach meaningful conclusions. (See chart 4)
In this post we have written how academic publications regarding citizen science have grown in the last 30 years. This is a small sample taken from Scopus, so further databases must be consulted in order to achieve a higher understanding on how the results of citizen science projects are published and about the different areas that arise around this new way of understanding science. It has been shown that interest in citizen science keeps growing along the years, but further information could be gathered about how the different research areas develop. In which areas more citizen science projects are carried out or which areas give rise to more academic publications are some of the questions that remain unanswered.
- Bonney, R (1996). Citizen Science: A lab Tradition. Living bird: For the study and conservation of birds, 15 (4), 7-15.
- European Commission. Trends for open access to publications. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3mx7Cta
- Gadermaier, G., Dörler, D., Heigl, F., Mayr, S., Rüdisser, J., Brodschneider, R., & Marizzi, C. (2018). Peer-reviewed publishing of results from Citizen Science projects. Journal of Science Communication, 17(3), L01.
- Irwin, A. (1995). Citizen science: A study of people, expertise and sustainable development. Psychology Press
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