Focused campaign increases activity among participants in Nature's Notebook, a citizen science project

Natural Sciences Education
By: , and 



Citizen science projects, which engage non-professional scientists in one or more stages of scientific research, have been gaining popularity; yet maintaining participants’ activity level over time remains a challenge. The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential for a short-term, focused campaign to increase participant activity in a national-scale citizen science program. The campaign that we implemented was designed to answer a compelling scientific question. We invited participants in the phenology-observing program, Nature’s Notebook, to track trees throughout the spring of 2012, to ascertain whether the season arrived as early as the anomalous spring of 2010. Consisting of a series of six electronic newsletters and costing our office slightly more than 1 week of staff resources, our effort was successful; compared with previous years, the number of observations collected in the region where the campaign was run increased by 184%, the number of participants submitting observations increased by 116%, and the number of trees registered increased by 110%. In comparison, these respective metrics grew by 25, 55, and 44%, over previous years, in the southeastern quadrant of the United States, where no such campaign was carried out. The campaign approach we describe here is a model that could be adapted by a wide variety of programs to increase engagement and thereby positively influence participant retention.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Focused campaign increases activity among participants in Nature's Notebook, a citizen science project
Series title Natural Sciences Education
DOI 10.4195/nse2013.06.0019
Volume 43
Issue 1
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher American Society of Agronomy
Publisher location Madison, WI
Contributing office(s) National Phenology Network
Description 9 p.
First page 64
Last page 72
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N