Citizen science? No, you’re right, it’s not some sort of Big Brother spin off*, or Truman Show style experiment. It’s power to the people.
It’s one great huge collaborative effort, that combines the man-power across the globe to solve life’s great mysteries. Citizen science projects utlises the time, enthusiasm and passions of a far-flung network of busy-bees (you lot) to help with scientific research.
Definition: citizen science is ‘engaging the public in a scientific project’.
Bonney et al. 2014 among many agree. Easy-peasy.
I guess you could say that citizen-science has been around since the time when researchers such as Charles Darwin were alive, self-funding themselves in the pursuit of knowledge (Though, I guess this is still the case for those bloomin’ passionate PhD students). However nowadays, citizen science, in the era of the big world wide web, has boomed. Available to everyone with internet access, you can hit your mouse a couple of times, and you’re part of a team. Whether you get your kicks from exploring behaviour in nematode worms.to watching quite utterly adorable penguins there are hundreds of projects available at your fingertips.
Yes. There is potential for bias and error, like any large dataset, many hands = many different views… but that is the key. Many hands. The ability to engage large numbers of volunteers gives an edge that is simply impossible by just one lone researcher trapped in a laboratory. It’s simple maths. One person, spends 2600 days (62400 hours, or 7 years) analyzing images looking for sunspots, gets a headache approximately 45 minutes into staring at black and white images and has to stop for a lie down before repeating until they inevitably end up in a crumbled heap on the floor. Or. 62400 willing volunteers can spend an hour each, and get the same amount of work done all within 24 neat little hours. Without the breakdown. Kapeesh? Many hands make light work.
My point is this: if you want vast datasets analyses to run alongside your deep insightful hypotheses, this is your golden ticket.
Until someone invests time-travel, for scientists, citizen science allows data to be collected that would otherwise be impossible due to time and resources. Theobald et al. 2015 highlighted that areas such as geographical ecology, biodiversity and landscape ecology, which rely on analyzing large spatial scales will be hugely benefited by citizen science. So if you’re like me, and wanting to contribute to science whenever you can, maybe spare an hour or so and explore the vast array of projects out there on the web, you’ll be amazed what you can find yourself looking at with just a few clicks of a button.
*though this kinda citizen science is… ‘Big Brother for Bugs’