Socially Networked Citizen Science and the Crowd-Sourcing of Pro-Environmental Collective Actions

  • Janis L. DickinsonEmail author
  • Rhiannon L. Crain
Part of the Lecture Notes in Social Networks book series (LNSN)


The social Web has changed the nature of human collaboration with new possibilities for massive-scale cooperation in such important endeavors as scientific research and environmentally important collective action. While first generation citizen science projects have successfully used the Web to crowd-source environmental data collection, “next generation” citizen science practice networks combine crowd-sourcing, joint sense of purpose, and soft institutional governance with the distributed intelligence and efficacy of online social networks. Here we tap into evolutionary theory and social psychology to generate hypotheses for how such “next generation” citizen projects can best support pro-environmental behaviors like habitat restoration and energy conservation. Recent research on the evolution of cooperation highlights the potential for reputational mechanisms and scorekeeping to foster cooperation in online social networks. Nested bordered tug-of-war models suggest that challenges that elicit between-group competition will increase within-group cooperation. Based on social psychology, we note that increased levels of interest and cooperation can be fostered by social norms comparisons in combination with visually compelling representations of individual and collective benchmarks. Finally, we explore how properties of social networks themselves enhance the spread of behaviors through the three degrees rule, homophily, social contagion, and the strength of weak ties. In an age where environmental toxins, habitat loss, population growth, and climate change threaten our future health and survival, we present testable hypotheses and argue for the importance of field experiments to better understand the nexus between the social self, group identity, social networking effects, and potential for supporting collective action via the social Web.


Social Capital Geographic Information System Collective Action Citizen Science Online Social Network 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Walter Koenig and two anonymous reviewers for comments on this chapter. Our work is supported by NSF (DRL) ISE grant # 0917487.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Citizen Science Program, The Cornell Lab of OrnithologyIthacaUSA

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