Linking the motivations and outcomes of volunteers to understand participation in marine community science

Benedict McAteer*, Wesley Flannery, Brendan Murtagh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
78 Downloads (Pure)


To achieve sustained participation, community science projects aim to satisfy the motivations and desired personal outcomes of their volunteers. Evaluating participation is, therefore, crucial, with projects seeking to assess volunteers’ motivations for engagement and the complex outcomes that they achieve through their participation. Many assessments have, however, ineffectively examined the relationship between volunteers’ motivations and how they relate to the personal outcomes that they wish to pursue. Evaluations of the personal outcomes achieved by volunteers often fail to consider whether these outcomes were desired or if they aligned with volunteers’ motivations, and tend to narrowly focus on general outcomes, such as developing scientific or environmental literacy. Failing to link motivations and outcomes can mean that participation becomes unfulfilling for volunteers, as their desires may not be achieved, lessening the likelihood of sustained engagement. If the satisfaction of volunteers is to be accurately understood, assessing the full scope of their motivations in conjunction with their desired outcomes is crucial. We address this research gap by conducting a survey (n = 308) with the participants of 8 marine community science projects in Ireland and the UK, critically assessing volunteers’ roles, motivations, outcomes and experiences of participation through an exploratory factor analysis. We find a range of patterns amongst respondents and identify 4 types of volunteer profiles: Activists, Conservationists, Professionals and Hobbyists. We discuss how categorising volunteers in this manner can better reflect the motivations and desires of volunteers and highlight the factors that support or inhibit the realisation of these intentions within specific projects. We conclude by suggesting that projects seeking to better understand participation should broaden their evaluative scope to embrace a wider range of volunteer motivational pathways, discussing how this can improve a project’s management of volunteers and its capacity to realise both project and volunteer outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104375
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2020


  • Citizen science, Marine conservation, Participation, Volunteerism, Knowledge, Learning, Community


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