The DITOs escalator was developed as part of the “Doing It Together Science” project and represent a conceptual framework that positions citizen science within the wider set of activities that we can consider as public engagement in science – from the act of reading an article about scientific discovery in a newspaper to developing your own Do It Yourself Biology (DIY Bio) project.
The idea behind the escalator concept is that people can move to different levels of activities according to changes in life stages or events, and that the movement can be up as well as down, but what about the evidence that this is happening?
Luckily, with a Wan Kam, a student at the UCL MSc in Behaviour Change, it was possible to test one possible scenario. While there is a lot of interest in youth engagement in citizen science, we considered how people in their later years – 40-60 – might get into citizen science. This might be because at a later stage, people are more settled, the children has grown up, and they might have more leisure time. So are people interested in moving from “active consumption of science” in the form of visiting a museum (a Natural History Museum) to engagement in citizen science? Wan went of and tested this in the UCL Grant Museum and, by working with Julia Lorke, at London magnificent Natural History Museum. Wan carried out both rapid interviews and surveys, as well as more in depth survey. The work was then turn to a paper for the journal Public Understanding of Science and is now out. The paper can be found here (it is beyond a paywall, but I’ll be happy to share a copy – email me). Here is the abstract:
Citizen science has grown as a form of public engagement in science. Middle-aged citizens who are already consuming scientific information should be a potential outreach group. Behaviour change research in citizen science participation among the demographic is lacking. A total of 47 museum visitors aged 40–60 years took part in qualitative questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis with the aid of theoretical domains framework and capability opportunity motivation-behaviour model revealed eight themes: (1) limited awareness of citizen science; (2) curiosity, competence and other significant characteristics and skills; (3) important beliefs about one’s capability; (4) importance of clear project purpose and impacts; (5) interest, enjoyment and incentives; (6) lasting impacts of family upbringing; (7) project details that make participation easy, better project promotion; and (8) the living environment, availability of free time and money. Addressing a maximum number of these factors with behaviour change techniques can improve the likelihood of citizen science participation.