Only days before the NASA Stardust spacecraft beamed home comet photos long awaited by astronomers, other researchers revealed the factors that motivated citizens to volunteer without pay to examine more than a million images of space dust captured by the spacecraft's predecessor.
The team of researchers headed by Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) Assistant Professor of Technology Management Oded Nov reported citizen astronomers were best motivated to spend unpaid hours looking for microscopic stardust particles by the project's objectives, the fun they experienced and the reaction they expected from their friends and family. Some of those motivations varied significantly from other crowd-sourced projects.
The iConference 2011, held February 8 - 11, 2011 in Seattle, chose "Dusting for Science: Motivation and Participation of Digital Citizen Science Volunteers" for its Best Paper Award. Co-authors are Nov, Ofer Arazy of the University of Alberta School of Business and David Anderson of Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). A few days after the conference closed, on February 14, the second Stardust spacecraft beamed home its comet images. Meanwhile, thousands of volunteers have been sifting for years through 1.6 million series of digital images in search of interstellar dust captured by the predecessor Stardust spacecraft. That daunting volunteer project, called Stardust@home and headed by UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory Associate Director Andrew Westphal, was studied by Nov and his colleagues.