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How media presence triggers participation in citizen science : The case of the mosquito monitoring project ‘Mückenatlas‘

Since 2012, the citizen science project ‘Mückenatlas’ has been supplementing the German mosquito monitoring programme with over 28,000 submissions of physical insect samples. As the factors triggering people to catch mosquitoes for science are still unknown, we analysed the influence of mass media reports on mosquito submission numbers. Based on a theoretical framework of how mass media affect citizen responsiveness, we identified five possible influencing factors related to citizen science: (i) project awareness and knowledge, (ii) attention (economy), (iii) individual characteristics of citizen scientists and targeted communication, (iv) spatial differences and varying affectedness, and (v) media landscape. Hypotheses based on these influencing factors were quantitatively and qualitatively tested with two datasets: clipping data of mass media reports (online, television, radio and print) referring to or focussing on the ‘Mückenatlas’, and corresponding data of ‘Mückenatlas’ submissions between 2014 and 2017. In general, the number of media reports positively affected the number of mosquito submissions on a temporal and spatial scale, i.e. many media reports provoke many mosquito submissions. We found that an already heightened public and media awareness of mosquito-relevant topics combined with a direct call-to-action in a media report title led to a maximum participation. Differences on federal state level, however, suggest that factors additional to quantitative media coverage trigger participation in the ‘Mückenatlas’, in particular the mosquito affectedness of the resident population. Lastly, media types appear to differ in their effects on the number of submissions. Our results show under which circumstances the media presence of the ’Mückenatlas’ is most effective in activating people to submit mosquito samples, and thus provide advice for designing communication strategies for citizen science projects.



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