Zooniverse Project - Volunteer Participation and Engagement in Crowdsourcing Projects

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EPSRC funded Zooniverse aims to establish why people give up their time to help scientists better understand some of the biggest mysteries, from searching for the cure for cancer to trying to understand the galaxies that fill our universe. The project will also investigate ways in which volunteering can be optimised and sustained through strategic interactions and interventions on the part of the managers of these resources.

Zooniverse is a three year research project funded by the EPSRC and NEMODE in the UK, bringing together a team of researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Portsmouth, Oxford, and Manchester. The VOLCROWE project aims to develop a greater understanding of volunteer participation and engagement in crowd-sourcing projects. 

Building upon and challenging the existing literature on the economics of altruism, the project is developing new models of digital volunteering that will challenge a range of commonly held assumptions, in particular relating to the impact and sources of social capital formation and the role of religiosity in determining intensity of engagement.

The validity of these models is being tested through detailed quantitative and qualitative analysis of participation data derived directly from the ‘Zooniverse’, a well-known group of highly successful crowdsourcing initiatives based at Oxford University such as ‘Galaxy Zoo’ and ‘Ancient Lives’ where volunteering takes place entirely online within a virtual community. 

The project team will also be exploring the capabilities of the Zooniverse management team to explain how they achieve competitive advantage and asset accumulation, as well as the potential for transferability to crowd-sourcing in the commercial sector.