Mechanisms for enhancing public engagement with citizen science results.

Published online
28 Oct 2021
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

MacLeod, C. J. & Scott, K.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
New Zealand


Citizen science is frequently cited as a successful approach for increasing public engagement with environmental issues, but this requires a purposeful design that is inclusive of, and responsive to, diverse interests. This paper explores the mechanisms for improving participant and public engagement with citizen science results, using the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey (NZGBS) as a case study. It investigates how citizen science can apply democratic processes to be more responsive, while drawing on insights from behaviour change frameworks to facilitate a purposeful design. By inviting NZGBS participants to select, inform and peer review the design and promotion of new resources, our goal was to embed their values, opinions and perspectives into the developments. This not only empowered 15,844 respondents to contribute directly to the citizen science initiative's governance over 6 years, but also made it more engaging and useful to them and the wider public. New resources were designed to create a sense of collective action, making them attractive, easy to understand and promote on multiple media channels, aiming to reach a wider range of audiences. By diversifying and refining our communication strategy, we successfully enhanced the level and nature of engagement with the resources. The number and diversity of NZGBS participants also increased to involve people from a wider range of backgrounds and roles, ethnicities and ages. By applying a democratic process, we demonstrate how citizen scientist perspectives were elevated, to offset and mitigate the influence of institutional powers, which can dominate and shape engagement processes. We also highlight the value of behaviour change frameworks for understanding how choice architecture, social networks and key influencers, and their complex interactions can create the enabling environment required for engagement.

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