Ethical topics of greatest importance

Which ethical topics matter most to you and why? Do any of these require more attention from our community?

I think a lot of these tasks the people complete in the citizen science games are things that people used to be paid money to do before the task was turned into a game. I realize that many people enjoy volunteering for these tasks, and doing these things for free, but sometimes I feel like it would be nice if one could get paid for playing citizen science games. I know there is psychological literature to suggest that when you pay people to complete a task, they actually rate the task is less interesting than when you don’t pay them anything at all, so it may be that many people would find being paid to complete a task actually demotivating, but some people might like the idea of being paid to play a game. I’ve played a couple games online that you can actually get paid in cryptocurrency for playing the game. I have not been paid yet, so it’s possible that it may be a scam, but I have seen a few games like this online where people say that they have been paid in cryptocurrency for playing a game.

1 Like

That’s a very interesting point you’re addressing. I’m curious to learn what others think about financial remuneration in citizen science!
Also, in the chat during the workshop, a participant mentioned that there even exist citizen science projects where people pay to go on a trip to collect research data. What do you think about this?

Sorry Libuse, I don’t understand your question. “pay to go on a trip to collect research data”.

Did really a scientist pay a Citizen to collect data or did really a Citizen pay for a trip to collect data for a scientist?

As in who pays for the data collection?

Best, Eva

@MikeLandau hits on the financial issues of citizen science. If any person or any company is gaining financially as a result of utilizing “free” citizen science labor then they have crossed the ethical line. Citizen science should be reserved for general public good. If someone can monetize and profit from the results, then they should pay the citizen scientists for their contributions. Each citizen science project needs to be very transparent about who benefits from the research and who gets the results of the citizen science efforts. I could see a set of “for profit” projects utilizing the citizen science work-force if they provide a payment scheme. The “not for profit” projects should clearly show the value of the effort to society and how this will be shared for the benefit of the public. (Some data results may be shielded to protect endangered species, etc, but the benefits should be clear to all.)

Another theme I did not think about yet.
Good to mention it.

I am not shure If I would want to be paid for my contribution to a Sci project. As it would complicate taxpays. And I would expect my tax fees to raise so the money I’d get would be consumed up to taxes.

But you have the point. If someone can use my work to make profit that’s unfair.
(in Germany there is the discussion - swimmbath costs the community a lot - so to safe money use unsalaried work.) that seems to me similar to the unsalaried work of citizens scientists.
Some may like just to do something useful, some say, my time has financial value. Some may prefer getting products as a form of compensation (where I don’t know if Eg getting an voucher Eg for a restaurant is to be paid taxes for).

Best, Eva

@Eva and @gcalkins started a list of Ethics topics under the why someone would be motivated for ethical review thread. It is probably more appropriate for the list itself to be under this forum topic.

Ethics Issues or Topics for Citizen Science.
1.) Must be good science. At the core the projects should be well thought through (designed) so that when results are obtained, they are useful for answering the scientific questions that have been asked. This might include a “do no harm” clause for medical research projects.
2.) Should be efficient. Although citizen science labor may be free, it is a resource that shouldn’t be wasted. Is the experimental design efficient? Is the approach being taken for answering the question the best use of a limited resource?
3.) Quality of input. Does the citizen science project need to screen the contributors? Is there a possibility that bad input by an unqualified citizen scientist could do more harm than good? Should you achieve higher efficiency by limiting the citizen scientists who participate?
4.) Transparency. The citizen science project should clearly establish who benefits from the research. Does this citizen science project only support the public good? Will the research be shared to solve societal issues or is this being done to profit a corporation?
5.) Feedback to citizen scientists. Citizen science projects need to provide feedback about their ongoing progress and the final results. The investment of time by the citizen scientist must be rewarded with specific and tangible feedback about the project. The citizen scientist should never have to wonder what happened to their input.
6.) Appropriateness rating or disclosure. Some projects may contain explicit images that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Just like with films/movies you could include a rating about some images that may not be suitable for all audiences. Possible medical procedures, blood, biological specimens, etc.
7.) Treatment of animals. This item may fall under the transparency topic, but discloses how the research data is collected and how laboratory animals are treated and/or euthanized. People vary widely on what kind of procedures are acceptable in the collection of research data. This is a tricky topic since it could also lead to some activist groups taking action against citizen science research that harms animals.

Feel free to suggest more categories or topics that should be considered.

1 Like

Sorry, I didn’t want to flag it, I wanted to give this list to Mark it as a favourite to find it again.

Hi Eva! Sorry for the confusion. In the example mentioned in the chat volunteers book and pay for a journey where they participate in a research project by collecting data.

Hi LVep,
Thanks for the explanation.

This is in my opinion real bad!
I don’t get paid for the work. Okay, that’s fine with me. I just like it as a hobby. But I’ll even pay to do the work? That’s completely redicculus for me. (in Germany there is a expression for “someone does or doesn’t do something. I don’t know how to phrase it in English. So I used” I do something "-just to express what I think about the topic. It does not mean I would pay for the job. Sorry, if it is a confusing word)

Okay, we could talk about if citizens scientists should be paid for the job or get any compensation.

But I don’t be sure if it’s ethical to let them even pay!

Best, Eva

Hallo, Eva. If it helps, an example of a project I’d happily consider paying to travel to and participate in here in the States would be to assist at a fossil dig site. Climbing rocks and digging dirt and learning stuff from seasoned paleontologists sounds like a fine vacation to me! Best,
Mike C.

1 Like

Many thanks @gcalkins and @Eva for this interesting list! I’m curious what others think about the individual points and if someone could think of any other important issues.
I’m especially interested in your first issue about “good science”: Who do you think should be included in which way in this process of designing a “good” research project?

Who gets involved in “good science” depends on which phase of the scientific process is being conducted.
1.) Question - Asking the right questions is the start to good science. Have the originators of the project actually researched the topic sufficiently? Does the answer to their question already exist? Have they reached out to other experts in the field to exhaust the known research on the topic? Is the citizen science project just an attempt to reveal more indeterminate observations with no real purpose other than to elucidate more data on an area of curiosity? Citizen scientists could be asked for input if only to uncover unknown facts and or research that may be relevant.
2.) Hypothesis - Does the project have a testable hypothesis? I would look to other experts in the field to help develop and sharpen the hypothesis to ensure that the ensuing experiment, data collection, and analysis will actually yield an accept or reject result. This should be done by the scientists and not the citizen scientists before any experiment is conducted.
3.) Experiment Design- Does the experimental design actually test the hypothesis? Is the design efficient? Who is qualified to conduct and administer the experiment? This explores the who, what, where and when of the experiment. Again, this should be planned by the scientists. A peer review would be worthwhile prior to execution to identify any gaps or shortcomings in the design.
4.) Data Collection - Execution of the experiment should be conducted by people qualified and trained to adhere to the design parameters. This could include citizen scientists if the design is robust and they can be trained to collect the data without introducing data collection errors. Image analysis tasks are a subset of data collection, where humans are identifying potential objects within images.
5.) Data Analysis - Completed by the scientists conducting the experiment. This may be the confirmation of data collected by citizen scientists through 100% inspection or a sampling scheme. Then followed by the statistical data analysis needed to support or reject the hypothesis.
6.) Results/Conclusions - Reported by the scientists. Peer review would be reasonable. Feedback to citizen science community would be expected.

I am sure I have missed a few points along the way.


Hi gcalkins,
You did make a great abstract how to gather the information.
You do obviously have a great insight into the process of creating a study.
I am curious: in medical studies bevor
(4) Data Collection there is a ethics committee as I remember the process - Eg to check if animal testing is necessary, if the tests bevor are valid enough to “allow” tests in/with animals.

I am completely unsure if a kind of external overview (a kind of ethics committee) should step in bevor data collection?

Well, I just can compare with medical issues. I don’t know if every study should be designed with an ethics code by law yet.
But as I understand the questions here there is no law for ethics code in Citizen Science.

To my opinion bevor citizens are asked to take a part there should be an external check.

What do you think?

What do you all think?

The rest of the process described by you seems to be controlled on one hand by other scientists like a kind of peer review or on the other hand
{5} data analysis quote"100% inspection " - seems to be an overview of the data (by the scientists or external committees?)

Again my respect for your list of procedures.
It helped me a lot to get some idea of the process of designing a study.

Best, Eva

Hi @LVep, it was @gcalkins who had the idea and made the effort.
He or she should get the credit for.
But thanks for the compliment.

Good science: maybe a bit of “doing good to the world”?
As in save the earth, heal the wounded, cure the ill, save the rainforest…

Don’t know how to word it without being pathetic.

Sorry for mentioning it, hope you all understand what I mean. Scientist may even have a “good reason” but could in hypothesis go on a wrong way to their aim?

Nowadays this “good reason” to do something could be led on a wrong way - I make it up:
Brazils Rainforest and a president who doesn’t seem to care of it. Could this lead to “go into the Dschungel, collect every plants to search for new antibiotics or other medicines without caring for the” last of their kind ", the animals, the people…

So" good science “would mean to me a moral behaviour like” don’t do harm".

Best, Eva

1 Like

Hi Mike,
Wow. Sounds really fantastic!
I understand that it is a compelling thought to be a part of this team.

And maybe even a financial “loss” would be acceptable to you. As you get the experience, the fun.

Feels like a adventure trip.

But I would expect then to be an other way for a kind of compensation.
(more than being mentioned in the team list).

Or citizens science is only a “job” for those able to pay for the fun.

But I understand what you said. Thanks for the example.

Funny, now as I understand you it is not as ridiculous to me like before.
But I still wouldn’t work and pay for it.

This seems to be a point for our ethics discussion.
To pay or not to pay. (poor Shakespeare).

Best, Eva

Hi Eva -
The concept of paying to volunteer has been in existence for many decades. The social services industry has used this approach extensively. Look for “vacation volunteering”, “voluntourism”, “volunteer tourism”, etc. These volunteers pay for the chance to live with families in foreign countries. While there they may help build or repair homes, assist in women’s shelters, help teachers in elementary schools, work with local volunteer organizations to set up new community centers and services, etc. These communities that are being served simply don’t have the money to pay volunteers to complete this volunteer work.

Perhaps citizen science is similar. Many educational and non-profit organizations simply can’t afford to pay people to do this valuable research. If the work is helping society to solve environmental or medical problems that may not otherwise be solved, then it is worth asking for free help from volunteers. This is why the projects need to be transparent. If a company is simply exploiting free labor to maximize their profits then citizen scientists are being exploited. This would poison the well and we will lose many volunteers who want to do good things for society. This is where the citizen science review board could be helpful to ensure that these corporate projects are called out and exposed so people don’t become victims.

Hi @gcalkins,
Thanks a lot for your explanations and impression on the need to help.

Thats a good argument “paying to volunteer being in existence long”.

It didn’t come to my mind! So glad you explained it to me.

I couldn’t afford such trips. That may explain why I had so a negative attitude.
And I was worried about the people paying being exploited.

Like you said “if the work is helping society… It is worth asking for free help”.
Great you explained this further to me.

And your solution how to make sure the work will used where needed and not to make profit is really great.
Thanks for your time!

I do too like the feeling of “being useful” and I like the chance to do something that helps our environment. So to me, I don’t need to be paid for the “little job and time I can do while on an evening walk”.
But it is nice to get an answer back.
Like in “loss of night” when finished with the measurements there comes a text “thank you” and a number of how many stars are visible and an ratio.
I would not be sure if it would make as much fun without the “thanks and ratio”.

Thanks for your time and help.

Have a good time, best, Eva

1 Like

Hi Everyone!

Thank you for contributing to this fruitful discussion and for bringing up so many interesting points!

And thank you @gcalkins for explaining your perspective on “good science”. I think you list some very important aspects. How would you describe the task of Stall Catchers players for example? Primarily, they do not collect data but analyze the collected data, right? I’m just curious :slight_smile:


Hi @LVep
As mentioned under “Data Collection”

Citizen Scientists for Stall Catchers are providing the image analysis which is still a part of collecting stall data. Although the images themselves were photographed by the scientists in the lab, the data collection has not been completed yet for identifying or counting the stalls. Citizen scientists are identifying the potential stalls in the images. These candidate stalls are then reviewed by the project scientists to confirm the stalled capillaries.

Image analysis should not be confused with data analysis. Data analysis is looking at the trends, patterns, statistical significance, etc. contained within the measurement data after it has been collected. Finding the stalls in Stall Catchers is still a part of data collection (counting), not data analysis, in my opinion.

This would be similar to citizen scientists collecting water samples from rivers in a geographic area and mailing those samples to a central lab. The scientists would still need to process (measure) those water samples in order to complete the data collection. They may be counting living organisms or measuring toxicity of the samples. Once the measurements are complete, then the data analysis can begin to look at the trends and patterns found within the samples.

Another example would be taking a population survey of a bird species based on photographs and having citizen scientists counting the populations in the image. This would still be a part of data collection. The data analysis begins after the counting has been completed over several years worth of photographs to start determining trends in the changing populations.

I hope this clarifies my distinction between data collection and data analysis.