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The potential for citizen science to produce reliable and useful information in ecology

Overview of attention for article published in Conservation Biology, November 2018
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 25% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (85th percentile)
  • Average Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source

Mentioned by

1 blog
13 tweeters


43 Dimensions

Readers on

191 Mendeley
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The potential for citizen science to produce reliable and useful information in ecology
Published in
Conservation Biology, November 2018
DOI 10.1111/cobi.13223
Pubmed ID

Eleanor D. Brown, Byron K. Williams


We examine features of citizen science that influence data quality, inferential power, and usefulness in ecology. Background context includes ecological sampling (probability-based, purposive, opportunistic), linkage between sampling technique and statistical inference (design-based, model-based), and scientific paradigms (confirmatory, exploratory). We distinguish several types of investigations, from intensive research with rigorous protocols targeting clearly articulated questions to mass-participation internet-based projects with opportunistic data collection lacking sampling design, and examine overarching objectives, design, analysis, volunteer training and performance. Projects with strong designs, expertise and training of volunteers, and professional oversight are well suited for ecological research objectives, and can produce high-quality data with strong inferential power. Projects with little or no sampling design and minimal volunteer training are better suited for general objectives related to public education or data exploration, as reliable statistical estimation can be difficult or impossible. In some cases, statistically robust analytical methods and/or external data may increase the inferential power of certain opportunistically collected data. Ecological management, especially by government agencies, frequently requires data suitable for reliable inference. Citizen science can potentially make valuable contributions to conservation by increasing the scope of species monitoring efforts with standardized protocols, state-of-the-art analytical methodology, and well-supervised programs. Data quality can be improved by adhering to basic principles of data collection and analysis, designing studies to ensure the data quality required, and including necessary statistical expertise, thereby strengthening the "science" aspect of citizen science and enhancing acceptance by the scientific community and decision makers. Article impact statement: If citizen science projects are designed specifically for the purpose, ecological hypothesis testing in the confirmatory paradigm is possible. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 13 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 191 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 191 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Researcher 37 19%
Student > Ph. D. Student 32 17%
Student > Master 24 13%
Student > Bachelor 16 8%
Other 8 4%
Other 25 13%
Unknown 49 26%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 67 35%
Environmental Science 36 19%
Computer Science 5 3%
Psychology 4 2%
Arts and Humanities 4 2%
Other 21 11%
Unknown 54 28%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 14. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 30 September 2020.
All research outputs
of 18,990,581 outputs
Outputs from Conservation Biology
of 3,479 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 289,696 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Conservation Biology
of 27 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 18,990,581 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 90th percentile: it's in the top 10% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 3,479 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 20.8. This one has gotten more attention than average, scoring higher than 68% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 289,696 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done well, scoring higher than 85% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 27 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one is in the 48th percentile – i.e., 48% of its contemporaries scored the same or lower than it.