Citizen Science And Dog Behavior Research
Citizen science, research conducted by members of the public for scientific endeavors, has become an increasingly popular and useful method for gathering information on topics ranging from tracing human genetics to tracking particles of space dust. This article, published in Behavioral Processes, explores current and potential future applications of citizen science for canine behavior research. Specifically, the paper identifies benefits and challenges of three types of citizen science projects:
- Projects in which participants both provide and analyze data (e.g., a participant plays a game with his dog and records the results): These projects enable researchers to reach far-off dog populations and gather information on fleeting events but can entail a wide room for error and a need for training on the part of participants.
- Projects in which participants only provide data (e.g., participants attach a streaming video to their dogs’ collars): Researchers benefit from these projects by gaining access to data on real-life scenarios but may be faced with overwhelming amounts of data and may have difficulty finding a representative sample of people to participate.
- Projects in which participants only provide data (e.g., volunteers characterize dog vocalizations): These projects can save time and effort on the part of researchers but may require training and entail errors on the part of participants.
The paper also provides a nice overview of several broad issues surrounding citizen science projects, including problems with data quality, areas of bias, ethics and responsibilities to participants, and participant motivations and outcomes. Finally, the paper notes that while citizen science could certainly be a useful tool for investigating canine behavior, few such projects currently exist. It recommends that researchers consider conducting well-structured citizen science initiatives as both a method of gathering and analyzing novel data and way of teaching the public about topics such as dog behavior, dog bite prevention, dog biology, and indicators of good welfare.
[Contributed by Jen Wyglinski]