Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication and Information

Major Professor

Suzie Allard

Committee Members

Carol Tenopir, Mark Littmann, Harry Dahms


Citizen science, the participation of non-scientists in scientific research, has grown over the last 20 years. The current study explores the communication frames used to describe citizen science and how they are created. It also investigates the effects of citizen science on the relationship between the public and science. It also situates citizen science in a larger historical context that critques normal science and intersects with a number of other scholarly discussions including science and technology studies, citizenship, expertise, professionalism, and participation.

The dissertation draws on theory from the social worlds analysis of Anselm Strauss, framing in science communication, the philosophy of John Dewey on inquiry and the public, and the communicative action theory of Jurgen Habermas. It uses these theorists to build a potential analysis of the social impact of citizen science and the effects on science-public interaction.

The study examined 166 news articles, 13 press releases, and 10 interviews collected between July 2013 and April 2014. Situational analysis was used to analyze the material and to map the social arena of citizen science.

The results show that current communication frames used to study science communication do not adequetely reflect the frames used with regard to citizen science. The most common frame promoted by researchers and staff involved with citizen science projects is educational. It also describes the tension within citizen science between emancipatory-participative and instrumental-pragmatic goals.

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