Using demographics toward efficient data classification in citizen science: A bayesian approach

Pietro De Lellis, Shinnosuke Nakayama, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Public participation in scientific activities, often called citizen science, offers a possibility to collect and analyze an unprecedentedly large amount of data. However, diversity of volunteers poses a challenge to obtain accurate information when these data are aggregated. To overcome this problem, we propose a classification algorithm using Bayesian inference that harnesses diversity of volunteers to improve data accuracy. In the algorithm, each volunteer is grouped into a distinct class based on a survey regarding either their level of education or motivation to citizen science. We obtained the behavior of each class through a training set, which was then used as a prior information to estimate performance of new volunteers. By applying this approach to an existing citizen science dataset to classify images into categories, we demonstrate improvement in data accuracy, compared to the traditional majority voting. Our algorithm offers a simple, yet powerful, way to improve data accuracy under limited effort of volunteers by predicting the behavior of a class of individuals, rather than attempting at a granular description of each of them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere239
JournalPeerJ Computer Science
StatePublished - 2019


  • Algorithms
  • Bayesian estimation
  • Citizen science
  • Data classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science


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