The growth in the digital economy has dramatically affected the way in which people interact with each other and engage with a number of activities. Although the commercial and social aspects of this transition have previously been explored in some depth, third-sector and volunteering activity has not been subjected to the same degree of analysis from the economic and management sciences. This proposal will fill a significant gap in the understanding and modelling of volunteering practices in the digital economy.

The particular focus of this research project is the group of websites known as the Zooniverse, a highly successful grouping of online citizen science and crowdsourcing projects such as Galaxy Zoo and Cell Slider. Volunteers to these sites donate their time to classifying data of scientific interest, ranging from images of distant galaxies to weather patterns and cancer cells.

This project will re-evaluate existing economic models of volunteering in light of data obtained directly from Zooniverse volunteers, including attitudes, behaviours and responses to incentives. The research will allow for the development of new economic models of volunteering and crowdsourcing that will offer more effective explanations for participation and engagement with online volunteering and citizen science initiatives. The project will also investigate ways in which volunteering levels can be increased and sustained through the optimisation a specific and tailored series of direct interactions with participants. The results will be used to refine develop new models for the management and organisation of citizen science initiatives in order to enhance the creation of scientific progress and social value.

Read publications related to the project on the UKRI website.

Dr Joe Cox (PI)

Dr Karen Masters (CoI)

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