We need to talk about nonprobability samples

Boyd, Robin J. ORCID:; Powney, Gary D.; Pescott, Oliver L.. 2023 We need to talk about nonprobability samples. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 38 (6). 521-531.

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In most circumstances, probability sampling is the only way to ensure unbiased inference about population quantities where a complete census is not possible. As we enter the era of ‘big data’, however, nonprobability samples, whose sampling mechanisms are unknown, are undergoing a renaissance. We explain why the use of nonprobability samples can lead to spurious conclusions, and why seemingly large nonprobability samples can be (effectively) very small. We also review some recent controversies surrounding the use of nonprobability samples in biodiversity monitoring. These points notwithstanding, we argue that nonprobability samples can be useful, provided that their limitations are assessed, mitigated where possible and clearly communicated. Ecologists can learn much from other disciplines on each of these fronts.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0169-5347
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: biodiversity monitoring, convenience sample, risk-of-bias, sample representativeness, citizen science, selection bias
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
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Date made live: 29 Mar 2023 15:24 +0 (UTC)

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