The Animal Attractiveness Survey: crowd-sourcing data

Citizen science and other types of participatory activities can be tremendously engaging for people when properly designed. But by adopting some of the principles that make these approaches
engaging, we can also design research-oriented, crowd-sourcing instruments that engage large numbers of participants and allow researchers to easily collect massive amounts of social science data. As part of CAUL Hub’s project ‘The Shared Urban Habitat,’ my colleagues and I have developed the Animal Attractiveness Survey – a photo-preference and quantitative social science instrument that is collecting data on the visual and social features that make animals attractive and charismatic to people. Developed in 2018, the survey aims to reach a diverse range of participants from all over the world.

The data from this survey will feed into the decision-making framework we are currently developing, called ‘Bringing Nature Back into Cities’. We believe that the success of any action to bring nature back into cities ultimately depends on the ability of decision-makers to target the most suitable and appropriate species. A key question to ask when conceptualising the social dimension of this model is how charismatic is the species? The Animal Attractiveness Survey was
conceived to address this question. The photo-preference technique of the survey was adopted from a scientific paper that used this approach to study mammal charisma in five countries. Interestingly, the study showed that, to a degree, Australians found local species more charismatic than other more traditionally charismatic megafauna, such as tigers and elephants. By developing a survey that can potentially reach people in every country around the world, we are interested to see whether this pattern can be generalised to other regions. We are hoping the survey data will also help us explore whether people prefer specific animal taxa over others, for example mammals over birds, and whether people prefer animals that are biologically related to humans, such as apes, monkeys and lemurs.

When work on the Animal Attractiveness Survey began, I was surprised to learn that no open-access platform existed to conduct research-oriented, crowd-sourced data collection. At the time, I had been involved in a few expert elicitation exercises, which sought to inform research through the knowledge of domain experts. The Public Elicitation Platform was born from this idea – to support research themes in which everyone can be an expert.

Take part in the Animal Attractiveness Survey by heading over to the Public Elicitation Platform:

– Luis Mata, leader of subproject 5.2

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