Early View Article: “Trust in Citizen Science Research: A Case Study of the Groundwater Education Through Water Evaluation & Testing Program,” by Teresa Thornton, and Jessica Leahy.
Data collected by citizen scientists, including K-12 students, have been validated by the scientific community through quality assurance/quality control tests and publication of results in peer-reviewed journal articles. However, if citizen science data are to be used by local communities, research is needed to determine which factors contribute to local community member trust in citizen science data, and how to increase the benefits and use of citizen science programs.
This article describes the Groundwater Education Through Water Evaluation & Testing (GET WET!) program that employs middle and high school students, state and local government employees, environmental nongovernmental organization leaders, business representatives, college faculty and students, and other volunteers as citizen scientists to create a database of groundwater quality for use as a baseline for local water resources management. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews pre- and post-involvement from 40 participants in this citizen science program conducted in five states in the northeastern United States. Results indicate that factors of trust are largely based on interpersonal trust and familiarity. The authors conclude with recommendations and future research that may improve local community member willingness to trust citizen science data generated by students.