How to design citizen science tools for learning

Our long-lasting experience of designing citizen science tools for inquiry learning has now been captured and published free access here. We report on eight design principles that guided the design of the nQuire platform, a citizen inquiry platform empowering people to initiate and complete their own research projects. These are:

  1. users as producers of knowledge,
  2. topics before tools,
  3. mobile affordances,
  4. scaffolds to the process of scientific inquiry,
  5. learning by doingas key message,
  6. being part of a community as key message,
  7. every visit brings a reward,and
  8. value users and their time.

The abstract of the paper copied here: This paper reports on a 4-year research and development case study about thedesign of citizen science tools for inquiry learning. It details the process of iterativepedagogy-led design and evaluation of the nQuire toolkit, a set of web-based andmobile tools scaffolding the creation of online citizen science investigations. Thedesign involved an expert review of inquiry learning and citizen science, combinedwith user experience studies involving more than 200 users. These have informed aconcept that we have termed‘citizen inquiry’, which engages members of the publicalongside scientists in setting up, running, managing or contributing to citizen scienceprojects with a main aim of learning about the scientific method through doing scienceby interaction with others. A design-based research (DBR) methodology was adopted forthe iterative design and evaluation of citizen science tools. DBR was focused on therefinement of a central concept,‘citizen inquiry’, by exploring how it can be instantiatedin educational technologies and interventions. The empirical evaluation and iteration oftechnologies involved three design experiments with end users, user interviews, andinsights from pedagogy and user experience experts. Evidence from the iterativedevelopment of nQuire led to the production of a set of interaction design principlesthat aim to guide the development of online, learning-centred, citizen science projects.Eight design guidelines are proposed: users as producers of knowledge, topics beforetools, mobile affordances, scaffolds to the process of scientific inquiry, learning by doingas key message, being part of a community as key message, every visit brings a reward,and value users and their time.

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Citizen science impact event at The Open University

Book launch and latest developments in citizen science and learning

There will be a citizen science impact event on the 20th of November (Monday), between 10 am – 3:30 pm, at the Open University to celebrate the launch of the Citizen Inquiry book and present developments in citizen science research.

Professor Muki Haklay and Professor Mike Sharples will be keynote speakers along with other experts presenting their work on citizen science and learning.

Registration is free and complimentary lunch and coffee will be provided on the day.

To register please visit:

For any inquiries, please contact: Christothea Herodotou (@herodotouc) or Maria Aristeidou (@aristeidoum)

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

New book: ‘Citizen inquiry: Synthesizing science and inquiry learning’!

Citizen science or crowdsourcing has gained an increasing popularity the last few years with web-based platform such as Zooniverse and iSpot scaffolding interactions between scientists and members of the public. Yet, little emphasis has been given to the educational benefits of citizen science, in particular for volunteers or members of the public who wish to contribute to citizen science activities.

Citizen inquiry: Synthesizing science and inquiry learning recently published by Routledge is the first book of its kind to draw the emphasis on inquiry-based learning from participation in citizen science activities. This innovative edited volume by Christothea Herodotou, Mike Sharples and Eileen Scanlon introduces the concept of ‘citizen inquiry’ to emphasize the active engagement of the public in citizen science activities, which refers to, not only participation in collecting or analysing data but also initiation, implementation, and completion of personally meaningful scientific projects. Citizen science projects enacted by the public can be supported by mass participation, professional scientists, and online and mobile tools. Also, citizen inquiry expands across diverse disciplines; citizen science projects have been originally focused on natural and physical sciences. Citizen inquiry suggests that mass participation in scientific activities could span diverse disciplines including education, psychology, sociology and medicine.

The book presents empirical evidence about how learning can be achieved or facilitated in a range of citizen science projects taking place in both formal and informal learning contexts. These exemplar case-studies showcase how citizen inquiry, as a new approach to learning can contribute to scientific thinking, collaboration and life-long learning as well as how citizen science and inquiry learning, when merged together can lead to certain pedagogical advantages such as the identification of sound solutions to real-life problems.

The introduction of the book is open and free to access. More information can be found here

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Tomorrow’s World nQuire

The Open University and the BBC have set up a joint project to develop a web platform for running large-scale public experiments in psychology and social science.  

The BBC has experience in running mass-participation experiments through Lab UK which was launched in 2009 and ran until 2015, engaging members of the public in investigating aspects of psychology, sociology and health. The Open University has developed the nQuire-it platform to explore ‘citizen inquiry’, which helps people learn by doing large-scale science.

During 2017, the existing nQuire-it site will be developed and extended to include support for a new type of ‘mission’ involving surveys and quizzes. Scientists, and members of the public, will be able to create and run online studies to explore attitudes and personality. This will involve providing new ways to enter responses, secure handling of personal data, and ways for participants to see overview results. The work will also involve re-implementing nQuire-it to run large studies linked to TV or radio programmes.

Citizen science is growing in importance, as scientists find new ways to involve members of the public in collecting or analysing data – for example through Garden Birdwatch to monitor birds, or Galaxy Zoo to assist astronomers in analysing telescope images. Citizen inquiry focuses on helping people to learn by doing big science – from providing guides on how to visualise and interpret data, to helping people set up their own big-scale studies.

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment