As part of the NYU UX class taught by Regine Gilbert, we were asked by Arisa Lab to take part in the redesign process of the Eclipse Soundscapes: Citizen Science Project that is studying how eclipses affect life on Earth. The project is supported by NASA’s Space Science Education Consortium and our group was asked to focus on the recruitment process of citizen scientists.
01 Problem Statement
The lack of awareness around citizen science and accessibility barriers in scientific research present difficulties in the recruitment of citizen scientists.
02 Background Research
To begin this research we looked at the academic literature that had already been written on citizen science research and what key takeaways we could take from it.
Our first finding explored the motivational factors at different stages of participation and highlighted that the recruitment process matters (not having too long information sessions, making sure to highlight what CSers can get out of the research, and finding ways to recognize and appreciate their research contributions, even if it is just feedback).
Secondly, one journal discussed that although the representation of scientists with disabilities has increased over the last ten years, there are still practices to improve. One of the key inclusionary practices suggested is to keep scientists with disabilities included in all conversations to ensure that different needs of accommodation and resource needs are considered.
We then designed our survey based on where we identified gaps in the literature as well as we started thinking about potential solutions.
The survey was conducted through Qualtrics and some of the survey questions were:
04 Survey Findings
In total, we had 159 participants who took our survey with a female-identifying majority of 60%.
90% of the participants fell within the age range of 18-34 years old.
General survey insights:
General lack of motivation to participate in a citizen scientist project when there were no relevant incentives.
Unawareness of citizen science.
Not easily accessible.
No projects of specific interest.
06 Designing our Solution
Based on survey feedback, we created two design solutions that focus on inclusivity and accessibility to increase awareness and engagement in citizen science.
First is an accessible poster that can be used both in physical and digital spaces to allow participants of all age ranges to learn more about Eclipse Soundscapes and how to get involved. The poster also has braille on it so that it is also accessible to the blind and low-vision community and it could be placed in spaces like the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library on the poster wall that already has braille posters. The QR code directs you to the Eclipse Soundscapes websites where participants can join a project and get more information.
Secondly is a solution to recruit younger citizen scientists and an attempt to make it a joyful experience that is fun and interactive: Instagram AR filters. Below are a few different designs for what it could look like: one is a quiz-style filter about eclipses, another one is a more informative filter where users can learn about eclipses, and the third one is more of a decorative filter. These could all be developed through the Eclipse Soundscapes Instagram and give the project more exposure.
Filter 1: Entertaining and interactive where users can quiz themselves and learn more about eclipses
Filter 2: An educational filter to help users access eclipse knowledge through Instagram
Filter 3: Fun and informative filter where users can take selfies and learn more about eclipses.
Final thoughts and lessons learned
This experience was a great insight into what it is like to design with marketing decisions in mind. In addition, we learned a lot about the lack of representation of scientists with disabilities and key inclusionary practices to make science a more accessible space to enter.
For future work on this project, we would suggest adding physical posters to spaces like the Braille library where there are already existing ones in a more natural environment for blind individuals to find this style of poster.
We would also advise considering how citizen scientists’ contributions are acknowledged. Maybe there is a certificate or a form of recognition that could make it more attractive to partake in this type of research so that citizen scientists can add it to their resumes.