“Leveling Up” Citizen Science with Gamification: Twitter Chat on November 10

Guest post by Adam Bowen (@ldkwthiam)

Citizen science is a wonderful way for the public to get involved in the scientific process. In many ways, citizen science is the best chance for non-academics to enter into the world of science. Yet, there are barriers to broad appeal. While there are some projects in which hundreds of thousands of people have participated at least once and a few projects that consistently maintain tens of thousands of participants, the majority of projects have only a few hundred volunteers or less. I suspect that citizen science projects often only appeal to those already involved in the world of science.

Not only does it take knowledge and resources to begin interacting with citizen science projects, but volunteers must also have enough of an interest in science to be able to find projects that appeal to them and engage them enough to take up their leisure time. As citizen science organizers look for new ways to create broader appeal, one technique that has been developed is the gamification of citizen science.

Citizen Science Games

Gamification is the act of taking citizen science and turning it into a game. This can be as simple as adding a point system and leaderboards or as involved as creating a narrative, characters, and a fictional world for a player to explore. These games often require no prior knowledge of the field, can often be done online at local libraries or schools, require no physical resources that the volunteer must provide, are generally accessible to those without educational institutions nearby, and can be a fun, low-intensity entry point into citizen science for those who have never participated before.

Because of these benefits, citizen science gamification has been advanced by research in human-computer interactions, raising new questions about the best techniques to motivate volunteers, the ethics of adding game elements to citizen science, and the ways that gamification will shape the future of citizen science.


Some projects such as Foldit, Phylo, and iNaturalist have been milestones in the progression of gamification of citizen science, creating powerful tools for the production and analysis of data. These games have much higher rates of continued support among volunteers than non-gamified projects and show how compelling the idea can be to the public. Newer ideas like Project Discovery and Borderlands Science are attempting to incorporate citizen science into pre-existing Triple-A video games in order to reach a large audience without any connections to a science background.

Twitter Chat

On November 10th, join us from 4-5pm ET for a discussion of the gamification of citizen science on Twitter at #CitSciChat. I’ll be facilitating the discussion from my account, @Idkwthiam. Our team of expert panelists will be discussing issues such as:

  • The motivations of citizen science game players.
  • The ethics and potential dilemmas in incorporating gameplay into citizen science.
  • Using games to remove barriers to citizen science entry.
  • Making citizen science games accessible to more players.
  • How gamified projects can give back to volunteer communities.
  • And the future of citizen science and gamification.
  • …as well as addressing these topics at length, our panelists will be open to answer questions posted to the hashtag throughout this time, so if you have any questions about citizen science games please come ready to discuss and learn!

Our panelists include:

Karen Schrier, Ph.D. @drgamermom

– Director of Games and Imerging Media at Marist College and longtime educational website, game, and app designer. Dr. Schrier has extinsively written about bias reduction, empathy, and ethics in education and citizen science games and can bring insight on elements of social justice and ethics in gamified projects.

Jérôme Waldispühl, Ph.D. @waldispuhl

– Project leader for the successful gamified projects Phylo DNA Puzzles and the DNA Puzzle Project. As a computer scientist with an extensive background in producing citizen science games, Jérôme will provide insight on what does and does not work in the world of citizen science gamification, as well as provide insight into what scientific pursuits could benefit the most from gamification.

Gabriel Richard  @MonsieurPepui

– Lead Designer at Gearbox Quebec and head of Borderlands Science, a project incorporating gamified citizen science into Borderlands 3, the fourth best selling video game of 2019. As a gaming industry professional, Gabriel will provide insight on quality game production, maintaining a player base and reaching new audiences with your games.

Attila Szantner @the_MMOS

– Co-founder and CEO of Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS). MMOS seeks to seamlessly integrate the worlds of gamified citizen science and Triple-A video games and in doing so bring citizen science to new audiences without needed a background or inherent interest in science. He will provide insight on new avenues of citizen science gamification and new innovation to come.

Our collection of panelists comes to us from across the worlds of both science and the game industry with experience in science and technology, and would love to discuss all aspects of gamified science with you. So on November 10th, come join our conversation on Twitter by following my @Idkwthiam account, share your perspective and experience with citizen science games, and learn more about this promising technique in the world of citizen science!

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SciStarter Team

SciStarter Team

SciStarter connects you to thousands of searchable citizen science projects in need of your help. Use the Project Finder (SciStarter.org/Finder) to find a project to match your location, interests, and age level. Your free SciStarter account will help you earn credit for participating in projects across apps and websites (use the advanced search option at SciStarter.org/Finder to find Affiliate projects eligible for credit in your dashboard). Together, we can move the world forward!