Exploring the potential of citizen science for public health through an alcohol advertising case study

Jessica A. Thomas, Joshua Trigg, Julia Morris, Emma Miller, Paul R. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Citizen science connects academic researchers with the public through combined efforts in scientific inquiry. The importance of involving impacted populations in health research is well established. However, how to achieve meaningful participation and the methodological impact of citizen science needs further examination. We examined the feasibility of using citizen science to understand the impact of alcohol advertising on Australian women through a breast cancer prevention project. Two hundred and eighty-two ('participants') citizen scientists completed demographic and behavioural questions via an online survey. The research participants moved into the role of citizen scientists by completing the data collection tasks of capturing and classifying images of alcohol advertising they saw online. Interrater reliability tests found high levels of agreement between citizen scientists and academic researchers with the classification of alcohol advertising brand (Kappa = 0.964, p < 0.001) and image type (Kappa = 0.936, p < 0.000). The citizen scientists were women aged 18 and over, with 62% between 35 and 55 years old. The majority were from major cities (78%), had attained a bachelor's degree or higher-level education (62%) and were recruited via email or Facebook (86%). The use of citizen science provided methodological gains through the creation of a unique dataset with higher levels of validity than the existing literature, which employed traditional investigator-driven research methodologies. Citizen science enriched the dataset and provided a powerful methodological vehicle to understand an environmental determinant of health. The study illuminates how public participation benefitted the research process, the challenges and the potential for citizen science to improve public health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdaab139
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • alcohol
  • breast cancer
  • citizen science
  • community engagement
  • methodology


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