Citizen Science

– Thousands of eyes, ears & minds at your service.

Have you ever had an idea that you would love to research, a question that you burn to answer but have abandoned simply because the amount of time and effort required to do so is beyond the capabilities of one man/woman. Well the Citizen Scientist can help you!

An increasing number of researchers, institutions, and organisations are enlisting those from outside the realm of science to help collect masses of data and quickly. Oh, and did I mention for free?

Citizen scientists are . . .

Of course volunteer based data collection does have its limitations. Where the science entails gruelling, technical, complex methods, or an in depth knowledge of the subject investigated, the effort is left for us.

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What I want to know is do you trust the data collected by citizen scientists?                 Source: Modified from  Wikimedia Commons

The entire notion of citizen science depends upon our faith in the data collected. If people with a reduced level of interest or commitment contribute to data collection there is potential for dishonesty, unintentional mistakes, or sloppiness. It’s the same as filling out a questionnaire or answering telemarketer’s questions. I would hope that the very act of volunteering would weed out those who would fabricate or misrepresent observations.

There are many ways to safeguard against inaccuracies in the information collected. Most projects attempt to do so by putting standardised, unambiguous methods in place which leave no room for human error. Others compare the data delivered by the public with data previously collected by trained scientists in order to assess levels of confidence. Nevertheless there is that niggling doubt.

If you were an editor, would you publish a paper that stems purely from citizen science?

The list of projects which depend upon input from the public is diverse and endless.

Check out http://www.scienceforcitizens.net/ for a comprehensive list of ventures. It’s pretty awesome stuff! Or download one of the many citizen science apps.


One Response to “Citizen Science”

  1. Andrew Katsis says:

    Love the Doctor Sam logo! I do think Citizen Science has value: it’d be foolish to ignore all those extra eyes if they’re enthusiastic enough to offer them. But, like you say, you do have to be careful about quality control. A species sighting from an avid birdwatcher, for example, would be of more value than some city slicker who thinks he spotted the elusive Night Parrot. Do the programmes you mention utilise some sort of weighting system to chart the reliability of public contributions?