Co-Designing Technologies for Citizen Scientist Engagement & Saving Species

Call for Abstracts!

This full-day workshop will explore of how human computer interaction (HCI) design approaches can expand, diversify, and improve ways that members of the public engage with nature and science as citizen scientists. Activities during the workshop will enable members of the design and citizen science communities to network and generate ideas together. It is anticipated this workshop will result in a white paper discussing ideas generated.


Citizen science as a field is steadily growing and diversifying in design strategies (frameworks reviewed by Shirk and Bonney, 2015), technology use, and scientific disciplines, both in Australia and globally. Citizen science has been a powerful tool to improve species and habitat conservation science, management, and protection (McKinley, et al., 2017). While most citizen science projects are focused on biodiversity and conservation biology research (Pocock, Tweddle, Savage, Robinson and Roy, 2017), there are also projects that investigate aspects of astronomy (e.g. Galaxy Zoo; Cox, et al., 2015), human health (e.g. Foldit; Gaston and Cooper, 2017), and other areas of science.

Scientists and community group members developing many projects, often lack technology and design expertise (Figure 1). Thus, collaboration with the HCI community is needed. HCI can bring creative and user-centered approaches to citizen science in order to make more delightful and engaging interaction, increase understanding, scope and scale of participation. This is particularly important to save threatened species.

Figure: Summary of challenges for citizen science and human computer interaction (See Preece, 2016 for detailed diagram)

The HCI community is involved in research in engagement and design for major citizen science project, such as Zooniverse (Cox, et al., 2015). Sullivan, et al. (2014) have explored collection and upload of bird observations via mobile devices for eBird. Cooper, et al. (2010) have explored collaborative work in citizen science. However, there is scope to rethink interaction in citizen science and how interaction might reach a more diverse community of participants.

Who Can Participate?

Prospective participants may include HCI researchers, student and professional designers, as well as members of the citizen science community. Participants are welcome from academic, industry, not-for-profit, or other backgrounds.

How to Participate?

Prospective participants are to submit an abstract from 500 to 2,000 words, depending upon whether you wish to briefly describe an idea or elaborate in more detail. Abstracts might propose ideas for:

  • a new project,
  • enhancements to an existing project, or
  • an HCI topic relevant to citizen science engagement (e.g. interaction designs, methods, theories).
  • Participants should also consider including a bit of background and/or research experience in relation to themselves and their proposed ideas.

    Proposals from the HCI community may relate to the participant’s own research, so long as concepts are extendable to citizen science, such as:

  • Gamification
  • Participatory Design
  • Data Visualization
  • Internet of Things
  • Critical Design
  • Cultural Studies
  • And other innovative HCI topics
  • Abstracts should be emailed directly as a PDF to the workshop Chair, Jessie Cappadonna-Oliver at

    Important Dates

    • Deadline for submission: October 22
    • Notification of acceptance: October 29
    • Workshop day: November 28

    Beyond October 29th, abstracts will be considered depending on available space.

    Proposed Plan

    A brief overview of the state of play of citizen science and related crowdsourcing will be given by workshop organizers. Accepted participants will introduce themselves and their respective project or HCI topic pitch to the group in the morning. After a coffee break, the group will divide into teams in order to explore themes and projects that emerge from morning discussions. We will also engage in a hands-on design activity. An open discussion will commence after lunch with each subgroup sharing their ideas and learnings. A wrap-up will include exchange of contact details between participants and organizers to continue networking and disseminate workshop outcomes.


    Jessie Cappadonna-Oliver

    Jessie is passionate about avian ecology and science communication. In recent years, this led her to work with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Point Blue Conservation Science, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and University of Queensland's Environmental Decisions Group. Jessie is now investigating how to engage citizen scientists with acoustics to find threatened bird species as a PhD student at QUT. Jessie is a management committee member for the Australian Citizen Science Association and on a local committee for BirdLife Australia. Follow Jessie via Twitter at and see for research project updates!

    Dr Mark Cottman-Fields

    Mark Cottman-Fields has a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction and a Bachelor of Information Technology from QUT. His PhD research explored how to enable bird watchers to review audio recordings collected by environmental sensors. More broadly, Mark’s research interests are in applied computer science: developing and validating novel software, data processing applications, and interfaces to support researchers. Follow Mark via Twitter

    Professor Margot Brereton

    Margot Brereton researches the participatory interaction design of ubiquitous computing technologies and their interfaces. She develops innovative designs, methods, and theoretical understandings by designing to support real user communities in selected challenging contexts. Her approach is highly iterative and often involves growing user communities as the design evolves, by understanding and responding to socio-cultural factors.

    Professor Paul Roe

    Paul is in the Science and Engineering Faculty at QUT. He undertakes novel interdisciplinary research, including ecological acoustic monitoring systems, which enable new scales of environmental monitoring through big data collection and analysis, and novel computer systems supporting communication and collaboration in remote Aboriginal communities.


    Cooper, S., Khatib, F., Treuille, A., Barbero, J., Lee, J., Beenen, M., . . . players, F. Predicting protein structures with a multiplayer online game. Nature, 466, 7307, 756-760.

    Cox, J., Young Oh, E., Simmons, B., Lintott, C., Masters, K., Greenhill, A., . . . Holmes, K. Defining and measuring success in online citizen science: A case study of Zooniverse projects. Computing in Science & Engineering, 17, 4, 28-41.

    Gaston, J. and Cooper, S. To Three or not to Three: Improving Human Computation Game Onboarding with a Three-Star System. In Proc. CHI 2017, ACM Press (2017), 5034-5039.

    McKinley, D. C., Miller-Rushing, A. J., Ballard, H. L., Bonney, R., Brown, H., Cook-Patton, S. C., . . . Soukup, M. A. Citizen science can improve conservation science, natural resource management, and environmental protection. Biological Conservation, 208, 15-28.

    O'Brien, H. L. and Toms, E. G. What is user engagement? A conceptual framework for defining user engagement with technology. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59, 6 (2008), 938-955.

    Pocock, M. J. O., Tweddle, J. C., Savage, J., Robinson, L. D. and Roy, H. E. The diversity and evolution of ecological and environmental citizen science. PLOS ONE, 12, 4 (2017), e0172579.

    Preece, J. Citizen Science: New Research Challenges for Human–Computer Interaction. International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 32, 8, 585-612.

    Shirk, J. and Bonney, R. Developing a Citizen Science Program: A Synthesis of Citizen Science Frameworks. An Independent Science Review: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

    Sullivan, B. L., Aycrigg, J. L., Barry, J. H., Bonney, R. E., Bruns, N., Cooper, C. B., . . . Kelling, S. The eBird enterprise: An integrated approach to development and application of citizen science. Biological Conservation, 169 (2014), 31-40.