Crowdsourcing Global Perspectives in Ecology Using Social Media Academic Article uri icon


  • Transparent, open, and reproducible research is still far from routine, and the full potential of open science has not yet been realized. Crowdsourcingdefined as the usage of a flexible open call to a heterogeneous group of individuals to recruit volunteers for a task is an emerging scientific model that encourages larger and more outwardly transparent collaborations. While crowdsourcing, particularly through citizen- or community-based science, has been increasing over the last decade in ecological research, it remains infrequently used as a means of generating scientific knowledge in comparison to more traditional approaches. We explored a new implementation of crowdsourcing by using an open call on social media to assess its utility to address fundamental ecological questions. We specifically focused on pervasive challenges in predicting, mitigating, and understanding the consequences of disturbances. In this paper, we briefly review open science concepts and their benefits, and then focus on the new methods we used to generate a scientific publication. We share our approach, lessons learned, and potential pathways forward for expanding open science. Our model is based on the beliefs that social media can be a powerful tool for idea generation and that open collaborative writing processes can enhance scientific outcomes. We structured the project in five phases: (1) draft idea generation, (2) leadership team recruitment and project development, (3) open collaborator recruitment via social media, (4) iterative paper development, and (5) final editing, authorship assignment, and submission by the leadership team. We observed benefits including: facilitating connections between unusual networks of scientists, providing opportunities for early career and underrepresented groups of scientists, and rapid knowledge exchange that generated multidisciplinary ideas. We also identified areas for improvement, highlighting biases in the individuals that self-selected participation and acknowledging remaining barriers to contributing new or incompletely formed ideas into a public document. While shifting scientific paradigms to completely open science is a long-term process, our hope in publishing this work is to encourage others to build upon and improve our efforts in new and creative ways.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 2.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Graham, E. B., & Smith, A. P.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Graham, Emily B||Smith, A Peyton

publication date

  • January 2021