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Ms Vickie Curtis

Profile summary

  • Research Student
  • Research Student
  • Institute of Educational Technology

Professional biography

I am currently a PhD student at the Institute of Educational Technology.   I began my project in October 2011, and submitted my thesis on September 29 2014.

Before going back to full-time study, I worked in a number of different areas within the commercial sector including corporate communication, science communication (including media work), regulatory affairs and corporate social responsibility.

I have a background in biological anthropology, but have gradually moved into the area of 'science and society'.

Research interests

Science communication.

Science and society.

Open science.

Online citizen science.

Distributed computing.

Science-based comuter games.

Astronomy outreach.

Public participation in science.

Online citizen science projects: an exploration of motivation, contribution and participation

Citizen science projects enable non-specialist individuals to become directly involved in large-scale scientific projects and to address authentic research problems with professional scientists.  Advances in digital technology, particularly the rise of the Internet and improvement in scientific instrumentation, data generation and storage (the 'data deluge') have lead to the development of citizen science projects that are conducted entirely online with particicpants analysing data provided by professional scientists.   There are over one hundred of these projects and tens of thousands of 'citizen scientists' currently participate.  However, there are aspects of participation that are poorly understood.  For example, who do these projects appeal to, why do people take part, and are there different ways that people can participate.  I have explored some of these questions as part of my PhD research, and I have investigated how communities of citizen scientists interact online, both with each other, and with the scientists who set up and manage these projects.

I have explored three online citizen science projects in detail.

  • Folding@home, a distributed computing project where participants contribute by downloading software that analyses packages of data with their personal computers or games consoles.  In this project, participants run simulations of protein folding (
  • Planet Hunters, one of the Zooniverse projects where participants help to look for evidence of exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system) within data collected as part of the NASA Kepler space mission (
  • Foldit, a citizen science game'where the mechanics of protein folding, which is a poorly understood process, has been re-packaged as an online computer game (