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Motivations for Participating in Gamified Citizen Science Projects

The final speaker in this WebSci 2016 session is Ramine Tinati, whose focus is on citizen science platforms. Citizen science itself has been around for hundreds of years, but more recent developments in online crowdsourcing techniques have enabled even greater mass participation in such scientific activities; one early success in this was Zooniverse, which asks users for help in classifying galaxy types.

The platform studied by this paper is Eyewire, which asks users to complete puzzles that help in visually mapping the human brain. The platform also includes a real-time chat interface that connects players with each other, and connects with various elements of the game. The overall interface is fairly powerful and diverse, and there is a great deal of interaction going on.

The project investigated these uses through a player-wide survey that generated some 1,500 responses. This captured demographic information, data on motivations, participation practices, and participants' sense of learning and achievement; these responses were analysed and coded qualitatively.

Overall, responses were more likely to come from male participants; with a large majority of responses from the United States; most participants felt that they'd learnt something about the brain through their participation. 18 motivational factors were identified; these fell into four major themes: contribution, entertainment, learning, and community. There were intrinsic and extrinsic motivating factors for each of these.

These observations and factors should be able to be built into further gamified citizen science platforms; they should influence the design of these platforms. But participation should also be connected to the specific topics of the projects; there is no one size fits all solution to platform design.