What motivates volunteers to engage in health-related citizen science initiatives? A case study of our outdoors

Elizabeth Lehman*, Ruth Jepson, John McAteer, Daryll Archibald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Citizen science is increasing in popularity but remains largely located in the disciplines of environmental and natural sciences. However, it has the potential to be a useful tool in other disciplines such as health. The aim of this study was to identify the factors for involvement (or non-involvement) in health-related citizen science projects using the Our Outdoors citizen science initiative as an example. Our Outdoors aims to understand how urban and rural shared outdoors spaces (e.g., parks, lakes, rivers, beaches) can affect human health and well-being (both positively and negatively). Understanding the motivations for involvement in such a program is likely to be useful for increasing participation rates and involvement. Qualitative research methods were used in this study in which semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 participants from two community projects in Scotland, United Kingdom. A thematic analysis revealed five key themes pertaining to the factors that motivated engagement with health-related citizen science projects such as Our Outdoors. These include enhancing social connectedness; personal learning development; making a difference in the community; gaining health and well-being benefits; and finally, demotivating factors relating to time constraints and the term “citizen science”. This study concludes that emphasising motivating factors in the promotional material for health-related citizen science projects may increase recruitment and the active involvement of participants. Similarly, reducing the presence of demotivating factors and considering the use of the term “citizen science” is likely to encourage participation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6950
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number19
Early online date23 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • citizen science
  • environmental volunteering
  • motivations
  • public health


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