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Citizen Science and Gamification

According to the mainstream conception of research involving human participants, researchers have been trained scientists acting within institutions and have been the individuals doing the studying, while participants, who are nonscientist members of the public, have been the individuals being studied. The relationship between the public and scientists is evolving, however, giving rise to several new concepts, including crowdsourcing and citizen science. In addition, the practice of gamification has been applied to research protocols. The role of gamified, crowdsourced citizen scientist is new in the domain of scientific research and does not fit into the existing taxonomy of researchers and participants. We delineate and explicate this role and show that, while traditional roles are governed by well-established norms and regulations, individuals engaged in gamified, crowdsourced citizen science—gamers—fall through the cracks of research protections and regulations. We consider the issues this raises, including exploitation and the absence of responsibility and accountability. Finally, we offer suggestions for how the current lack of appropriate norms may be rectified.

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