Eleventh Galaxy Zoo paper submitted!

My colleagues and I are happy to say that the eleventh Galaxy Zoo paper has now been submitted to the journal Astronomy Education Review. The paper is called “Galaxy Zoo: Exploring the Motivations of Citizen Science Volunteers,” and the authors are myself, Georgia Bracey, Pamela, and Chris, Phil, Kevin, Alex, and Jan of the original Galaxy Zoo team. In addition to being the eleventh paper overall, it is also the first paper to study the Galaxy Zoo volunteer community – that is, you!

We are grateful for your collaboration with us even more than usual, because for this paper, you not only classified galaxies, but some of you agreed to give a half-hour of your time to participate in an instant message or phone interview.

As with all the other papers, this paper is being sent out by the journal’s editors to one or more anonymous “peer reviewers” – practicing education researchers who read the paper and recommend that the journal either accept or reject the paper, or (most commonly) request that the authors resubmit the paper after making some improvements. The process can sometimes go a few cycles of changing and resubmitting before the paper is finally accepted. This peer review process helps ensure that scientific studies meet quality standards as judged by the community.

You might have noticed that I haven’t talked about this research on the blog yet, as other team members have done with their research. I wish I could have shared more, but there was an important reason for saving all the explanation until after the paper was submitted. It is well-known in social science research that if the group being studied is aware of the study results, all sorts of unpredictable things can happen.

However, now that the study is over, we can and will gladly share our results. I’ll do that in a series of posts, first by giving a quick summary of what we found, then writing about the ethics of conducting research with people, then about ways to avoid bias in social science, and finally posting a detailed explanation of what we found in the study and what it means.

Now for the quick summary: based on our interviews, we identified 12 motivations that volunteers have given for participating in Galaxy Zoo – 12 reasons why people like you participate. These 12 reasons are:

Motivation (the category name we used in the paper) Description (what we said on the survey)
1. Contribute I am excited to contribute to original scientific research.
2. Learning I find the site and forums helpful in learning about astronomy.
3. Discovery I can look at galaxies that few people have seen before.
4. Community I can meet other people with similar interests.
5. Teaching I find Galaxy Zoo to be a useful resource for teaching other people.
6. Beauty I enjoy looking at the beautiful galaxy images.
7. Fun I had a lot of fun categorizing the galaxies.
8. Vastness I am amazed by the vast scale of the universe.
9. Helping I am happy to help.
10. Zoo I am interested in the Galaxy Zoo project.
11. Astronomy I am interested in astronomy.
12. Science I am interested in science.

We included these motivations in an online survey that many of you took (thanks!), and we are now analyzing the results of that survey to find out which motivations are common and which are rare.

Knowing your motivations for participating will be greatly helpful to us and to other citizen science projects by helping us understand you better. As we understand what appeals to you about Galaxy Zoo, we can design future Zoos to meet those needs and wants. So, this research is helping us create the best Zoos we can create for you.

I really enjoyed doing the interviews, and going through all your forum responses. It’s clear that many of you have many different reasons for being a part of Galaxy Zoo, and many different and eloquent ways of expressing your reasons. A few of the reasons that you gave as part of the forum discussion stuck out in my mind. One of you said “just knowing how small you are is something that’s really hard to explain.” Another said “getting to know, at least a little, some fans and professionals in the GalaxyZoo community.” Another of you said “I’m so proud to be with You, the whole project, to be a part of something bigger than wars or politics. Because science and discovering the truth are the only things that matter.” And there were many, many others.

It’s been a real pleasure getting to know so many of your reasons for being a part of this great enterprise we call Galaxy Zoo, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with all of you!

About The Zooniverse

Online citizen science projects. The Zooniverse is doing real science online,.

11 responses to “Eleventh Galaxy Zoo paper submitted!”

  1. jules says :

    Looking forward to reading that! 🙂

  2. Alice says :

    Me too, this looks awesome!

  3. Half65 says :

    And we are here to help with a real pleasure

  4. zeus2007 says :

    How good it feels, not only do we get an exclusive peek at what’s out there, but we also contribute to real science which may, in the future, help new generations to understand better the cosmos and our place in it. It’s truly incredible to know that when we get to old age, we’re able to tell our grandkids about how our inexperienced and untrained brain cells helped professionals to get a better picture of the whole masterpiece called The Universe. It is very comfortable to know that some of our input may live longer than ourselves and transcend the limits of the human imagination and become a reality. Wouldn’t it be amazing to find an astronomer pointing at a rare object at the sky and thinking to ourselves, my pals over at the Zoo and I helped to discover and understand that object which is now being studied by the smartest people on the planet! That’s one feeling to last a thousand lifetimes and beyond.

  5. Jim says :

    It is really all about meaning in life and a broadening sense of reality.

  6. Jordan says :

    Thanks, everybody! I’ll post a link to the paper here as soon as it’s accepted by the journal.

  7. elizatbeth says :

    wonderful news cannot wait to read the paper

  8. Waveney says :

    Having just brought all the papers together in the forum, I can now inform you this was the twelfth paper…

  9. Neal Hanson says :

    This is very interesting (and a little unlucky for me) as I am working on a dissertation around a similar topic.

    Looking forward to the papers final approval and publication.

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