Stirring the strategic direction of scuba diving marine Citizen Science: A survey of active and potential participants
Citizen Science (CS) strengthens the relationship between society and science through education and engagement, with win-win benefits. Marine Citizen Science (MCS) is increasingly popular, thanks to society’s growing interest in marine environments and marine issues. Scuba diving significantly increases the potential of MCS, thanks to the skills and behavioural properties of people who participate in the sport. To be able to exploit this potential, however, MCS needs to face challenges related to CS, to scuba diving activities and to the broader scuba diving industry. In particular, engagement and recruitment of potential volunteers, as well as retention of active participants, represent key milestones. In order to reach these milestones, information is required on current participation levels of scuba divers in MCS, as well as the motivations behind participation, and the opinions held by potential participants in MCS. This study explored different case studies and methods of data collection to provide an overview of actual and potential participation in MCS by the scuba diving community. The results show that scuba divers, whether active or potential marine citizen scientists, are well disposed towards MCS. Some barriers, however, prevent the full participation of scuba divers as marine citizen scientists. Certain barriers extend beyond the control of both divers and MCS projects, while others, such as limited access to MCS projects and poor feedback after participation, can and should be addressed. The recommendations of this research provide strategic direction to MCS, so that the broad scuba diving community can be successfully integrated into MCS. These recommendations acknowledge the important role played by stakeholders in the scuba diving industry, as well as professional intermediaries and hired experts.