Working in the Shadow: Anonymous Contributions by Citizen Scientists

Publication Type:



Working paper, Syracuse University School of Information Studies, Syracuse, NY, USA (2016)


Citizen Science, crowdsourcing


Newcomers play an important role in crowdsourced production communities and many a growing literature rely trace data to identify, contact or track this population. However, many new users engage in ways that leave no or few traces leaving researchers with the conundrum of dealing with missing user data from a formative period in their participation. To address this issue the present paper strives to understand the differences and regularities in the content submitted by anonymous compared to registered users in online production communities. Specifically, the paper characterizes anonymous activities at the project, session, and user level across the two citizen science projects at the The results provides a taxonomy of user types taken from clustering sequences of volunteer sessions and suggest some volunteers are {\it dedicated anonymous} volunteers and contribute a substantial amount of work in the project.The findings have consequences for researchers using trace data in online communities.