Intelligent Recommendations for Citizen Science

Daniel Ben Zaken, Kobi Gal, Guy Shani, Avi Segal, Darlene Cavalier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Citizen science refers to scientKobiific research that is carried out by volunteers, often in collaboration with professional scientists. The spread of the internet has allowed volunteers to contribute to citizen science projects in dramatically new ways while creating scientific value and gaining pedagogical and social benefits. Given the sheer size of available projects, finding the right project, which best suits the user preferences and capabilities, has become a major challenge and is essential for keeping volunteers motivated and active contributors. We address this challenge by developing a system for personalizing project recommendations which was fully deployed in the wild. We adapted several recommendation algorithms to the citizen science domain from the literature based on memory-based and model-based collaborative filtering approaches. The algorithms were trained on historical data of users' interactions in the SciStarter platform - a leading citizen science site - as well as their contributions to different projects. The trained algorithms were evaluated in SciStarter and involved hundreds of users who were provided with personalized recommendations for new projects they had not contributed to before. The results show that using the new recommendation system led people to increased participation in new SciStarter projects when compared to groups that were recommended projects using nonpersonalized recommendation approaches, and compared to behavior before recommendations. In particular, the group of volunteers receiving recommendations created by an SVD algorithm (matrix factorization) exhibited the highest levels of contributions to new projects, when compared to the other cohorts. A follow-up survey conducted with the SciStarter community confirmed that users felt that the recommendations matched their personal interests and goals. Based on these results, our recommendation system is now fully integrated into the SciStarter portal, positively affecting hundreds of users each week, and leading to social and educational benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication35th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2021
PublisherAssociation for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781713835974
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021
Event35th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 2 Feb 20219 Feb 2021

Publication series

Name35th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2021


Conference35th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2021
CityVirtual, Online

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence


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