Citizen scientists come from all walks of life and have made invaluable contributions to scientific knowledge and understanding. Consider:
- Charles Darwin: Darwin often relied on the observations of amateur and passionate naturalists during his research
- Mary Anning: A Fossil Collector in the Early 19th Century
- William Herschel: an astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus
- EO Wilson: an influential biologist and ecologist who promoted citizen science initiatives such as “School of Ants”
- Margaret and Geoffrey Leaney: Husband and wife team who developed insect breeding methods
Are you interested? Here’s what you need to know:
Human scientific endeavors have steadily expanded in scope and complexity over the past two centuries. From thinking about simple natural processes such as transitions between day and night to complex ones genomic studiesscience has come a long way.
Apart from painstaking studies carried out in complex laboratories, science also relies on data collection, observations and statistical analysis. Extending the scope has led to larger experiments that require the involvement of large groups of individuals in the process. This is where citizen science comes in.
Scientists are often strapped for time, cognitively overloaded and exhausted due to the already demanding nature of their professions. They often need extra pairs of eyes to help them perform various scientific tasks such as data collection, data processing, collation, and even statistical studies.
Citizen science enables the general public to participate in important scientific studies, partnering with scientists and assisting them in work that is crucial to improving human knowledge. It allows participants, from young children to retirees, to take part in important scientific work. A classic example of teamwork, citizen science is a community effort that brings together both professionals and novices to help bring about change for the greater good.
Understanding Citizen Science
Citizen science or community science involves collaboration between scientists and public volunteers in performing key tasks such as experiments, collecting data, and answering real-world questions.
The general public and scientists combine their efforts to carry out large-scale activities so that the manpower involved in the projects is distributed. Such projects are especially useful in population studies, wildlife conservation efforts, psychological surveys, and behavioral research.
Citizen scientists have also been involved in efforts to mainstream science awareness and education among the general masses. Fields such as genetics and astronomy have also benefited from the collaborative approach, and key developments have come about thanks to the contributions of many interested people. Participants in citizen science programs are sometimes referred to as amateur or lay scientists.
Essentially, citizen science aims to improve the reach and capacity of the science framework. In addition to providing researchers with much-needed support, citizen science exposes interested non-professionals or students to the realities of scientific work. This provides budding scientists and amateur contributors with much-needed knowledge of the scientific method.
The history of citizen science
Science before the 19th and 20th centuries was practiced by interested people whose curiosities in the natural world were self-funded. This included gentlemen scientists such as Darwin and Newton, who were involved in science more as a hobby or activity as opposed to a formalized profession.
Towards the end of the 19th century, science and science education were formalized, after which institutionalized efforts in research and experimentation were more common. Examples of citizen science date back to the colonization of the Americas when British settlers often attempted to record the weather during their explorations.
Some experts even consider great historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci to be among the first citizen scientists who popularized the natural intrigue of the general public.
The 20th century was one in which radical changes in the structure and method of science took shape. Following the institutionalization of science, research and inquiry have become a profession in their own right. In addition, the two world wars required rapid research and innovation. This led to the creation of a science-based funding approach that we see today.
Grants and donations have become commonplace, providing both competition and incentive to innovate and answer fundamental questions in science. However, these patterns, along with the limitations of the professional scientific community, have become apparent. This has led to the popularization of citizen science.
Interestingly, however, the very first citizen science program was led by the famous ornithologist Wells Cook and was set up in 1881. It enlisted ornithology enthusiasts to gather information on the migratory patterns of birds. Its popularity grew dramatically, and Cooke’s efforts were formalized by the US government which established the North American Avian Phenology Program.
Why is citizen science important?
Citizen science has many benefits not only for the scientific community, but also for students and interested civilians who participate in these projects. While the involvement of large numbers of individuals and its impact on productivity is an obvious outcome, community involvement in scientific endeavors presents several unique opportunities for everyone involved.
Scientific research involves several field realities and interdisciplinary aspects to which students and the general public are not exposed. Participation in community science ventures allows these groups to become more familiar with these nuanced characteristics of scientific inquiry.
Citizen science projects have been instrumental in communicating the importance of scientific research to students and community members. Projects such as disc detective from NASA have helped to classify several objects of interest around young stars likely to form planetary systems. Such projects generate public interest while achieving key scientific discoveries.
- Contributions and Recognition
The contributions of citizen scientists are actively recognized and key discoveries are credited to these groups of individuals by including them in the list of contributors. This is of particular interest to students considering a career in research, as these contributions have a positive impact on their prospects.
- Critical thinking and scientific culture
Exposure to the scientific community and its methods enhances the approaches of student and amateur volunteer scientists to specific problems. In addition to fostering empiricism, citizen science also instills a foundation for common research methods and practices and the development of evidence-based solutions to tangible problems.
The challenges of citizen science
Like all endeavours, citizen science is also not free from shortcomings and challenges. Addressing these barriers will be key to harnessing the true potential of citizen scientists and their abilities to improve outcomes.
- Most participation in citizen science projects is voluntary and participants have a limited amount of time. Finding a balance between other commitments and the project could be a challenge that citizen scientists will have to overcome before getting involved.
- Protocol and data collection management is a notable issue in this area, as many participants are unaware of scientific standards when undertaking these tasks. Training and the provision of instructions could be helpful.
- Normalizing data from multiple sources is another issue. Not all participants provide the same scope or nature of data. Streamlining and validating these multiple sources can take time.
- Not all scientists are interested in involving the general public. Balancing their concerns with public participation will be key to mainstreaming citizen science projects.
- Ethical concerns and considerations are of particular importance in citizen science. Participants may be involved with sensitive information or may work with other living beings. Establishing protocol, confidentiality and informed consent will be important.
How to Become a Citizen Scientist
Here is a quick five-step guide to becoming a citizen scientist:
- Outline your goals and decide what you intend to achieve by participating in a citizen science program.
- Choose your areas of interest and shortlist at least three potential disciplines.
- Start researching upcoming or ongoing citizen science projects in newspapers, magazines, or on relevant government and organizational websites. Pay close attention to prerequisites such as time requirements, travel, equipment, training period, and previous experience.
- Assess your existing commitments against project requirements. Shortlist programs that match your interests and skills.
- Sign up for the program and wait for confirmation.
Citizen science combines engagement, community, research and cooperation. It offers many opportunities for students and the general population, bringing them closer to useful scientific tools. contributions. Finally, in addition to the knowledge gained, these projects also strengthen community ties and raise people’s scientific temperament.
Sophia is an online ESL/EFL instructor and a passionate science educator. She found her true calling – teaching – while juggling writing and a 9am-5pm office job. Her active online presence demonstrates her strong belief in the power of networking. If you want to connect, you can find it on Facebook, Twitter, AVERAGEand his blog Essay writing and more.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over 100 technical resources, including a K-12 Technology Program, K-8 keyboard program, K-8 Digital Citizenship Curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in technical education, master teacher, webmaster for four blogs, a Voice of the Amazon Vineeditor of CSTA presentations, freelance journalist on technology education topics, contributor to NEA todayand author of technological thrillers, Chase a submarine And twenty four days. You can find his resources at Structured learning.