Increasing citizen science contribution using a virtual peer

Jeffrey Laut, Francesco Cappa, Oded Nov, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Online participation is becoming an increasingly common means for individuals to contribute to citizen science projects, yet such projects often rely on only a small fraction of participants to make the majority of contributions. Here, we investigate a means for influencing the performance of citizen scientists toward enhancing overall participation. Building on past social comparison research, we pair citizen scientists with a software-based virtual peer in an environmental monitoring project. Through a series of experiments in which virtual peers outperform, underperform, or perform similarly to human participants, we investigate the influence of their presence on citizen science participation. To offer insight into the psychological determinants to the response to this intervention, we propose a new dynamic model describing the bidirectional interaction between humans and virtual peers. Our results demonstrate that participant contribution can be enhanced through the presence of a virtual peer, creating a feedback loop where participants tend to increase or decrease their contribution in response to their peers' performance. By including virtual peers that systematically outperform the participants, we demonstrate a fourfold increase in their contribution to the citizen science project.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-593
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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