What is Citizen Science?
As we face global challenges, we may want to find local ways to make a difference in protecting endangered species, safeguarding water sources, preventing disease or accelerating medical research. Science needs more eyes, ears and perspectives than any scientist possesses. Enter citizen science: a collaboration between scientists and those of us who are just curious or concerned and motivated to make a difference. People just like you are collecting data by taking photos of clouds or streams, documenting changes in nature, using smartphone sensors to help scientists monitor water and air quality or playing games to help advance health and medical research. A citizen science project can involve one person or millions of people collaborating towards a common goal. Typically, public involvement is in data collection, analysis or reporting.
Here are four common features of citizen science practice:
(a) anyone can participate
(b) participants use the same protocol so data can be combined and be high quality
(c) data can help real scientists come to real conclusions
(d) a wide community of scientists and volunteers work together and share data to which the public, as well as scientists, have access.
The fields that citizen science advances are diverse: ecology, astronomy, medicine, computer science, statistics, psychology, genetics, engineering and many more.
Who can be a citizen scientist?
Citizen scientists typically are not professional scientists. Rather, they are curious or concerned people who collaborate with professional scientists in ways that advance scientific research on topics they care about.
Today, citizen scientists come from all walks of life including retirees seeking to socially connect with others while applying their seasoned knowledge and experiences in ways that help others; online gamers who lend their skills to specially designed programs to analyse folding protein structures and shape the building blocks of life; educators and students who want a more hands-on experience outside the classroom; environmental justice advocates who want to see critical data with their own eyes among others.
How can I get involved?
Today’s opportunities to participate in citizen science are boundless.
The Nore Vision Project is a community development Biodiversity programme. It is a locally led initiative, working with 6 localities across the catchment areas along the river Nore.
It aims to promote awareness of the importance of the River Nore for us, the 110,000 residents on the catchment, our children and the generations to come.
The project also aims to animate local working groups to initiate their own projects on the river and via the New River Nore Trust, apply for community based funding to become gatekeepers of their section of the River or it’s tributaries.
Why not get involved and find out about simple and unexpected Ways You Can Help the Environment Right Now!
How will citizen science affect the future of scientific research?
Bridging gaps. Citizen science bridges gaps by harnessing the power of people who are motivated by curiosity or concern or a desire to advance research in their communities, then connecting them to projects that benefit from their energy and dedication.
Scope. In the past, collecting or analysing large samples of data or research was time-consuming and expensive. However, with today’s interconnected world, millions of people from around the world remotely contribute to studies and provide, analyse or report data researchers and policymakers use. Public participation enables investigations that would not otherwise be possible, ones that push new frontiers in our understanding of our world.
Policy. Increased public participation in scientific research cultivates a citizenry that is knowledgeable about the scientific enterprise. Citizen science encourages people to take a stake in the world around them. As a result, the hope is that this informed public will play a valuable role in influencing larger decisions about science policy.