Defining and measuring success in online citizen science: a case study of Zooniverse projects

Joe Cox, Eun Young Oh, Brooke Simmons, Chris Lintott, Karen Masters, Anita Greenhill, Gary Graham, Kate Holmes

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While the literature highlights a wide variety of potential citizen science project outcomes, no prior studies have systematically assessed performance against a comprehensive set of criteria. Our study is the first to propose a novel framework for assessing citizen science projects against multiple dimensions of success. We apply this framework to a sample of projects forming part of the online Zooniverse platform and position these projects against a ‘success matrix’ measuring both contribution to science and public engagement levels relative to others in the sample. Our results indicate that better performing projects tend to be those which are more established, as well as those in the area of astronomy. Implications for citizen science practitioners include the need to consider the impact of core competencies on project performance, as well as the importance of relationships between the central organisation and science teams.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-41
JournalComputing in Science & Engineering
Issue number4
Early online date13 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • Citizen science
  • Online
  • Project outcomes
  • Success factors
  • Zooniverse
  • RCUK


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