Using Social Media to Support a Citizen Science Community of Practice



Thursday 23 February




Nancy Longnecker


Andrea Liberatore

Research Assistant

Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago


Citizen science relies upon unpaid contributors and so both attraction and retention of participants is critical. Communities of practice provide a forum for learning, which has been identified as an important outcome of volunteering by environmental volunteers. Social media can provide the setting for an online community of practice that can support dispersed groups of volunteers. A Facebook group was established to support and encourage volunteers participating in the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey. The group is used to share knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm about New Zealand’s garden birds. A wide range of birding knowledge, from novice to expert, is displayed and while the NZ Garden Bird Survey runs for only 9 days each winter, the Facebook group has continued to be active and attract new members throughout the year. Interactions within the group display aspects of an active community of practice including shared interests, stories and collective learning.


Nancy Longnecker is Professor of Science Communication at University of Otago in New Zealand. Before moving to NZ, she developed and delivered UWA’s science communication program between 2002 and 2014. Her research program aims to develop an evidence base to determine impact and effectiveness of citizen science programs and other science engagement initiatives. She and her group examine factors that affect peoples’ attitudes towards science-related issues. They also examine how information can be used to change attitudes and behaviour while respecting values and different sources of knowledge. Most of her group’s research projects relate to environmental issues and sustainability or to attitudes about science more generally.

Andrea Liberatore is a research assistant at the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication. She holds a Masters in Natural Resources & Environment and has worked in the field of informal science education.

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