Unit 6: Aviary pheasant way to collect data

In unit 6, we covered how data gathering and analysis can be done in different ways, and how these effect decisions making. Today I’d like to show you an example of Citizen Science, an initiative run by Birdlife Australia.

Birdlife Australia, a not for profit bird conservation organization, has created a central database for all projects that they have have collaborated on. One method they engage to collect data is using citizen science. The initiative has been named, the Aussie Backyard Bird Count.

Accessed 20/10/2015(Birdlife, 2015)

This program engages the public to partake in an annual nationwide survey of birds of Australia over a 7 day period. The public are encouraged to sit “anyplace [they] feel at home”. With the use of a 3g mobile phone, a citizen sits down for a period of time (from 1min-20min) and counts the number and type of birds they see within the time period. They then submit this timed period as a ‘checklist” and can submit as many checklists as they want throughout the course of the week, which this year is between 19-25 October 2015. Below is a pictograph released describing the data collected by last year’s count.

2014 infographic1.1(Birdlife, 2015)

The Aussie Backyard bird count is an excellent example of how citizen science can be an important research tool in addition to an opportunity to include meaningful public participation in scientific research. An age old criticism of the process is that of data validity (Crain et al. 2014). Some believe that because the data is not collected by technocratic experts, that the potential for introducing human error is higher. I think that this is an artifact of science being previously studied in a silo methodology. Wiggins et al (2011) suggests that when using non-professional scientists for data collection, that different data quality control methods need to be put in place. They suggest that a framework should be adapted to “[consider’ the scale of participation and expectations of [the contributors’ skills]”.

As such, I believe that we will continue to see the use of citizen science in the future of scientific research.


Birdlife .( 2015). Aussie Backyard Bird Count [Online]. Available: http://aussiebirdcount.org.au/ [Accessed 20/10/2015

Crain, R., Cooper, C., & Dickinson, J. L. (2014). Citizen science: a tool for integrating studies of human and natural systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 39(1), 641.

Wiggins, A., Newman, G., Stevenson, R. D., & Crowston, K. (2011, December). Mechanisms for data quality and validation in citizen science. In e-Science Workshops (eScienceW), 2011 IEEE Seventh International Conference on (pp. 14-19). IEEE.

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