New Zealand Context

Online Citizen Scientists

Science is a key strategic focus of primary and secondary education in New Zealand. In 2014, the government launched a national strategic initiative entitled A Nation of Curious Minds – He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara, aimed at improving public engagement with science and technology, and building greater scientific literacy amongst the New Zealand citizenry. One key aim is to enhance the role of education in improving engagement with science.
Evidence shows however, that student engagement with science is declining, reflecting international trends. New Zealand research suggests both a decline in engagement with school science as students move through the education system and that this decline is happening at younger ages than previously. Given these trends, the problem of how to improve scientific engagement is a significant one. One way of doing so may be through online citizen science. Citizen science projects are those which involve members of the public in some way, in scientific or technological research. Online citizen science (OCS) is the sub-field of participatory science that makes use of systems on the World Wide Web to let volunteers contribute to real scientific endeavours. OCS projects have great potential to help increase children’s science capabilities at different ages, while also supporting the development of basic skills such as counting and reading, and advancing digital literacy.

Our major research question is: How can OCS be purposefully embedded for Year 3-8 students in New Zealand primary classrooms in ways that meet the aims and intentions of the Nature of Science strand of the New Zealand Curriculum?

About Project

This project explores the impact on student learning and engagement with science of incorporating online citizen science projects in classrooms.
  • Online citizen science uses the web to let volunteers contribute to scientific projects. For example, volunteers can explore populations of species on the seafloor or on the Antarctic Peninsula . They can classify images of the formation of galaxies or suspected planets . They can help create a 3D atlas of the human brain .
  • These projects can provide a range of science opportunities for participants. There is strong potential for the kind of learning required by NZC in science to be developed from participation in them.
  • Research shows that people using these sites do learn about scientific challenges and develop scientific skills , but little is known about the impact of their use purposefully in schools. We are interested in how they can address the intentions of the NZC, particularly with respect to the science capabilities for citizenship.


Markus Luczak Roesch Dr Markus Luczak-Roesch is a senior lecturer in information systems at the School for Information Management at Victoria University of Wellington. A computer scientist by education, Markus asks research questions on the fundamental properties of information in socio-technical systems as well as humans in the information age. Among the information systems Markus is studying are online communities, peer-production as well as crowdsourcing systems, and, most significantly, citizen science platforms.
Dayle Anderson Dr Dayle Anderson is a senior lecturer in initial teacher education and an experienced researcher in the field of primary science education with many international publications. She has designed and led the professional development for the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Science Teaching Leadership Programme since 2010. This programme includes a strong focus on the Science Capabilities for Citizenship.
Cathal Doyle Dr Cathal Doyle is a lecturer in information systems at the School of Information Management at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Cathal’s main research interests are around information technology and learning, with a particular focus on understanding the impacts of social media on collaborative learning.
Brigitte Glasson Brigitte Glasson is a science education consultant. Starting out as a teacher of secondary science she has also been a lecturer in science education and most recently rounded out her experience teaching at a full primary school. As a science education consultant, much of Brigitte’s work involves designing and leading professional learning and development for the Royal Society Te Apārangi Science Teaching Leadership Programme (STLP), with which she has been involved since 2010.
Jane Li Yevgeniya Li (Jane) is a PhD scholar at the School of Information Management at Victoria University of Wellington. Yevgeniya’s research interests include information diffusion and virality, data computation, social computing, social media, crisis communication and management.
Prem Khanal Prem Khanal is a PhD scholar at the School of Information Management at Victoria University of Wellington. Prem’s research interest includes IT enabled innovations, frugal innovation, reverse innovation, bop innovation, entrepreneurship, effectuation, digital, effectuation, IT affordances, IT business alignment, and IT project management.