Transference of citizen science program impacts: A theory grounded in public participation in scientific research

Louise I. Lynch-O’brien, Wayne A. Babchuk, Jenny M. Dauer, Tiffany Heng-Moss, Doug Golick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Citizen science is known for increasing the geographic, spatial, and temporal scale from which scientists can gather data. It is championed for its potential to provide experiential learning opportunities to the public. Documentation of educational outcomes and benefits for citizen scientists continues to grow. This study proposes an added benefit of these collaborations: The transference of program impacts to individuals outside of the program. The experiences of fifteen citizen scientists in entomology citizen science programs were analyzed using a constructivist grounded theory methodology. We propose the substantive-level theory of transference to describe the social process by which the educational and attitudinal impacts intended by program leaders for the program participants are filtered by citizen scientists and transferred to others. This process involves individual and external phases, each with associated actions. Transference occurred in participants who had maintained a long-term interest in nature, joined a citizen science program, shared science knowledge and experiences, acquired an expert role to others, and influenced change in others. Transference has implications for how citizen scientists are perceived by professional communities, understanding of the broader impacts and contributions of citizen science to wicked problems, program evaluation, and the design of these programs as informal science education opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number339
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Citizen science
  • Evaluation
  • Insect conservation
  • Program impacts
  • Transference
  • Wicked problems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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