Galaxy zoo: Science content knowledge of citizen scientists

Michael Jordan Raddick, Edward E. Prather, Colin S. Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We report the results of a large-scale study of the state of science content knowledge of volunteers in Galaxy Zoo (, an online citizen science project in which public volunteers classify galaxies in an effort to benefit cutting-edge astronomy research. We were interested in whether participating in Galaxy Zoo leads to any increase in participants’ astrophysical content knowledge. To assess volunteer content knowledge, we examined the responses of 1476 Galaxy Zoo volunteers to 32 conceptually challenging multiple-choice questions. We looked for any relationships between participants’ assessment scores and the number of galaxies classified upon answering the first assessment question, the number of galaxies classified between their first response and their final response to the assessment, and the length of time since they first created their Galaxy Zoo account. All relationships were of small effect size. These results suggest that participation in the project’s central galaxy classification task, in and of itself, is not associated with increased astrophysical content knowledge. We strongly recommend that future studies of online citizen science environments examine how volunteers take advantage of opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills outside of the self-contained central task, especially in the context of opportunities for interactions with other volunteers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-651
Number of pages16
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Galaxy Zoo
  • Zooniverse
  • assessment
  • astronomy
  • citizen science
  • content knowledge
  • informal science education
  • learning
  • science education research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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