2023 journal article

Diversifying Large-Scale Participatory Science: The Efficacy of Engagement through Facilitator Organizations

Citizen Science: Theory and Practice.

By: D. Hunter, V. Johnson* & C. Cooper n

Source: ORCID
Added: October 13, 2023

Large-scale, scientist-led, participatory science (citizen science) projects often engage participants who are primarily white, wealthy, and well-educated. Calls to diversify contributory projects are increasingly common, but little research has evaluated the efficacy of suggested strategies for diversification. We engaged participants in Crowd the Tap through facilitator organizations like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), predominantly white institutions, high school science classrooms, and corporate volunteer programs. Crowd the Tap is a contributory project focused on identifying and addressing lead (Pb) contamination in household drinking water in the United States. We investigated how participant diversity with respects to race, ethnicity, and homeownership (a proxy for income) differed between participation facilitated through a partner organization and unfacilitated participation in which participants came to the project independently. We were also interested in which facilitators were most effective at increasing participant diversity. White and wealthy participants were overrepresented in unfacilitated participation. Facilitation helped increase engagement of people of color, especially Black and lower-income households. High schools were particularly effective at engaging Hispanic or Latinx participants, and HBCUs were important for engaging Black households. Ultimately, our results suggest that engagement through facilitator organizations may be an effective means of engaging diverse participants in large-scale projects. Our results have important implications for the field of participatory science as we seek to identify evidence-based strategies for diversifying project participants.