Participatory science : encouraging public engagement in ONEM

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This article provides a case study of a participatory science project that involved collecting observations of a giant grasshopper and registering them online. Our objective is to reflect on conditions for meaningful amateur engagement on Web 2.0 science platforms. Our overall approach is qualitative and ethnographically informed and draws on multiple data sources collected over a period of 18 months: semi-structured interviews, observations, statistical analysis of online activity, and document analysis. We identify a number of factors that enable widespread participation in this naturalist inquiry, organized by Observatoire Naturaliste des Écosystèmes Méditerranéens. Our findings illustrate how the association’s double goals of stimulating an appreciation for nature and increasing scientific knowledge of the species under investigation are articulated as both naturalists and the general public participate. This double objective and the inquiry’s locus of control—neither scientist-driven nor grassroots-based—lead us to call for a refinement of existing typologies of participatory science projects. This case illustrates how even low-level participation (crowdsourcing type) can produce significant results—not only in terms of generating scientific knowledge, but also in increasing public engagement with science.


This content has been updated on 17 March 2022 at 12 h 30 min.