I recently put the question out on the CitSci.org listserv, 'How do you motivate citizen scientists to see the value of the 'zero data' point?' We had a colorful and sometimes humorous series of replies back and forth from the various PIs on the list, unfortunately, not possible to summarize here (some involving unicorns and pixies) with most acknowledging the extent of this problem in the world of citizen science.
A cursory search of the literature reveals that there doesn't appear to be too much out there on *motivating* citizen scientists to see the value of zero data, except, perhaps in fixed-area, single species population studies. As most of you are probably aware, it's difficult enough to motivate CSs to collect *positive* data, let alone negative data. Except for those who already have a science background, the general attitude seems to be 'What do you mean, you want me to enter 'zero' ( species X) shark? What on earth is the point of that? Aren't we here to count them?'
Of course, you can explain to them the value of zero data in population studies and some will get it--no problem. Nonetheless, sometimes it is difficult enough motivating divers to log what they actually see--asking them to log what they do not see, at times, seems asking too much.
So my question here, to continue the conversation, is not so much *how* to get them to enter the zero data point itself, as it it can be simply included in your scientific protocol.
My question is: how do you motivate them to see the intrinsic value of 'zero' as data?