Today, the terms “citizen science” and “crowd science” are quite the buzzwords. Searching the internet for these terms will render millions of hits. However, what happens when you search the Web of Science for the actual scientific publications? Is citizen and crowd science really publishing properly peer-reviewed articles, and if so, where can these articles be found?
We used the following search string in the Thomson-Reuters Web of Science Core Collection (requires subscription) to cover as much citizen/crowd science as possible:
TS="crowd science" OR TS="citizen science" OR TS="crowdsourcing" OR TS="crowd sourcing"
The search produced 1462 articles, which we then imported to a clever application called HistCite, which allows you to sort and search the output data. HistCite makes possible, for example, to sort the publications according to journals (click on the image below to access the data interactively):
The journal with the most citizen/crowd science publications is the open-access multidisciplinary Plos One. Skipping the conference proceedings for now, the next journal in line is Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment followed by the computer science journal IEEE Internet Computing. The rest of the list seems to concern biology, conservation, ecology and one medicine journal. As a very preliminary observation, there appears to be a tendency for the mainstream of citizen/crowd science to appear within the disciplines of “life”, “computers” and “medicine”.
However, there are other things that you can do with scientometric data. Using the application VosViewer, it is possible to visualize the journal according to a principle called bibliographic coupling of sources. This means, that articles that cite similar sources (other articles, books, etc.) are regarded as being “close” to each other. This can also be performed on a journal level. What we see below is, thus, journals that have clustered together closely because they cite similar references.
(click to enlarge)
Here we find one cluster on the right hand side (red) that focuses on ecology/zoology/conservation and another blue cluster on the left side, which is dominated by computer science journals. In the middle, the single journal Plos one forms a center of gravity. This seems to verify, at least visually, the top-10 list that we produced above.
If we zoom in on the red cluster (if your computer supports Java, you can do this interactively), we see the following:
Here, at least from a preliminary point of view, there seems to be an interesting line of research. What you can do then is to return to HistCite and look for the most cited authors, the individual articles that are most cited globally, or the publications that are the most cited within the dataset (n=1462).
Of course, this is not a complete picture. Scientific publications always lag behind “science in action”. If there is a strong trend right now, it will not show in the publication data until years later.