Lessons from Fraxinus, a crowd-sourced citizen science game in genomics
In 2013, in response to an epidemic of ash dieback disease in England the previous year, we launched a Facebook-based game called Fraxinus to enable non-scientists to contribute to genomics studies of the pathogen that causes the disease and the ash trees that are devastated by it. Over a period of 51 weeks players were able to match computational alignments of genetic sequences in 78% of cases, and to improve them in 15% of cases. We also found that most players were only transiently interested in the game, and that the majority of the work done was performed by a small group of dedicated players. Based on our experiences we have built a linear model for the length of time that contributors are likely to donate to a crowd-sourced citizen science project. This model could serve a guide for the design and implementation of future crowd-sourced citizen science initiatives.