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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Training citizen scientists through an online game developed for data quality control

Strobl, B.; Etter, S.; Van, Meerveld, H.J.I.; Seibert, J.


Some form of training is often necessary for citizen science projects. While in some citizen science projects, it is possible to keep tasks simple so that training requirements are minimal, other projects include more challenging tasks and, thus, require more extensive training. Training can be a hurdle to joining a project, and therefore most citizen science projects prefer to keep training requirements low. However, training may be needed to ensure good data quality. In this study, we evaluated whether an online game that was originally developed for data quality control in a citizen science project can be used for training for that project. More specifically, we investigated whether the CrowdWater game can be used to train new participants on how to place the virtual staff gauge in the CrowdWater smartphone app for the collection of water level class data. Within this app, the task of placing a virtual staff gauge to start measurements at a new location has proven to be challenging; however, this is a crucial task for all subsequent measurements at this location. We analysed the performance of 52 participants in the placement of the virtual staff gauge before and after playing the online CrowdWater game as a form of training. After playing the game, the performance improved for most participants. This suggests that players learned project-related tasks intuitively by observing actual gauge placements by other citizen scientists in the game and thus acquired knowledge about how to best use the app instinctively. Interestingly, self-assessment was not a good proxy for the participants' performance or the performance increase through the training. These results demonstrate the value of an online game for training. These findings are useful for the development of training strategies for other citizen science projects because they indicate that gamified approaches might provide valuable alternative training methods, particularly when other information materials are not used extensively by citizen scientists.

Published in

Geoscience communication
2020, Volume: 3, number: 1, pages: 109-126
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH

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