Never Too Old, Cold or Dry to Watch the Sky: A Survival Analysis of Citizen Science Volunteerism

Authors S. Andrew Sheppard, Julian Turner, Jacob Thebault-Spieker, Haiyi Zhu, Loren Terveen
Journal PACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Conference CSCW 2018
Summary We conducted an in-depth quantitative analysis of factors that promote long-term participant retention in CoCoRaHS, a volunteer rain monitoring network.
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CoCoRaHS is a multinational citizen science project for observing precipitation. Like many citizen science projects, volunteer retention is a key measure of engagement and data quality. Through survival analysis, we found that participant age (self-reported at account creation) is a significant predictor of retention. Compared to all other age groups, participants aged 60-70 are much more likely to sign up for CoCoRaHS, and to remain active for several years. We also measured the influence of task difficulty and the relative frequency of rain, finding small but statistically significant and counterintuitive effects. Finally, we confirmed previous work showing that participation levels within the first month are highly predictive of eventual retention. We conclude with implications for observational citizen science projects and crowdsourcing research in general.

Median Participant Retention by Age