At times, scientists are at a loss to collect and analyze the vast amount of data necessary for an in-depth study of a subject. It is left to members of the public to take up that role, typically in collaboration with professional scientists. Citizen science both adds to our pool of scientific at breakneck speed, helps us monitor the goals, and improves community action and awareness.
The involvement of citizens has tremendous potential for helping us make real progress in science. Empowering citizens to add to our knowledge base helps build societies where practices of knowledge creation aren’t locked away from the public. This allows citizen science to flourish.
Citizen science has the obvious advantage of generating new knowledge that benefits both science and society. Additionally, it benefits research, societies, and the participant, in different ways.
Citizen Science Over The Years
The concept of ordinary citizens’ participation in complex scientific processes has been popular for almost a century. But it has taken a massive leap with the advent of the internet. The information technology revolution has transformed the ability of the scientific community to reach out and involve citizen science volunteers in multiple fields of research work.
For citizen science to thrive, there has to be a rich tradition of science in that period. The Renaissance or the Age of Enlightenment was not conducive to the thriving of the citizen science community. Instead, some amateur scientists delved into various aspects of the natural world, but who did not, or could not, share it with a greater community comprising scientists who followed rigorous methods of research based on such data.
The concept of regular professional scientists only emerged in the 19th century. And along with it emerged the opportunity for citizen science to thrive.
One of the earliest scientists who encouraged the development of citizen scientists was Wells Cooke, the eminent ornithologist. He encouraged birding enthusiasts to gather information on the migratory patterns of birds. This program later evolved into the famous North American Bird Phenology Program.
The information gathered by such bird watchers was noted in cards. This vast collection has now been included in a huge digital database and is one of the most comprehensive research ever done on birds. It will be a treasure trove of information for future researchers studying the migratory pattern of various birds.
A similar partnership is the longest-running community science bird project which transformed a traditional annual bird hunt into a Christmas Bird Census that counted birds during the festival holidays instead of hunting them down. It was pioneered by Frank M. Chapman, an ornithologist in 1900. He was an early officer in the then blossoming Audubon Society.
On Christmas Day in 1900, 25 bird counts were held by a team of 27 dedicated bird enthusiasts. The locations were varied, ranging from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove in California. The original team of 27 citizen science volunteers collected combined data on 90 bird species from various points.
Benefits Of Citizen Science For Participants
It has become critical that we access scientific research to provide the basis for debates on vital issues including global health and climate change. Getting more people involved in the workings of science is a sure-fire method to fight against superstition and fake news.
Citizen science helps in knowledge-making and learning simultaneously. It involves common people in the process of scientific studies and enhances their scientific literacy in fields that are relevant to their real life.
Through the process of participation in citizen science projects, people can have more commitment to and a greater say in research and science.
It gives the necessary knowledge and empowerment to participating communities to strive to make a difference to their surrounding environment, which in turn uplifts their social wellbeing.
Citizen science helps to bridge the gaps in knowledge and perception and harnesses the power of motivated and focused people to participate in advanced research. This helps them stay connected to project that benefit from their energy and dedication.
The input given by citizen scientists is crucial for many forms of research. Without these inputs, many projects that are driven by data would be impossible or impractical.
It is vital to note that citizen science and amateur research are different things. The key difference is connectivity. For instance, an enthusiast may have collected a vast number of insects as part of his interests. But unless they connect it to larger organized research run by a professional group, the effort will not be considered citizen science.
The Benefits Citizen Science Give To Researchers
Scientists have realized that opening up their research processes to the public can lead to a scale of discovery that scientists and their fellow researchers can never hope to achieve alone. Getting large samples of data from a varied region was one of the most challenging tasks for a scientific initiative.
But thanks to the interconnected world of today, thousands of people can contribute valuable data to a research process. Many investigations can now be conducted thanks to the process of citizen science.
Research can now be conducted on a more exact and deep scale. Getting citizens involved in the collection and analysis of scientific data can lead to the creation of a vast database that is too labor-intensive for any particular research group to achieve.
One of the greatest help is the unexpected input possible through citizen science. It could lead to a new line of research and lead to more questions.
Including citizen science aspects into a project sends out a clear statement that you care about the impact your research will have on society and how it is linked to the public.
Citizen science helps make science and research far more accessible to a wide group of audience and increases its footprint. It leads to the building of paths that ultimately recognizes the impact and utility of humanities research.
The Benefits Citizen Science Bring To Society
Citizen science makes certain that scientific agendas are in line with the challenges that society faces. It builds trust in society about the process of scientific research and aids in funding research projects who make a better investment in future innovation and development.
Citizen science is one of the strongest tools that make the crossing point between science and academia to the common public more smooth and hurdle-free.
Peeling away the layers of inaccessibility to knowledge and knowledge production has a positive impact on social mobility.
Citizens science encourages people to have a stake in the process of scientific research in their lives. It could ultimately lead to informed citizens playing a greater role and influencing large decisions about science.
Climate Science And The Environment
The world faces an increasing and potent siege from environmental threats such as habitat destruction, climate change, and pollution. There is an immediate need to take action. The assistance of citizen science volunteers is urgently needed to identify a sustainable solution to address some of the greatest changes the environment, and by extension, humanity faces.
By supporting relevant, impactful, and rigorous science, we can help shape new environmental policies to stand up to the challenge of threatened habitats and species. This will advance the scientific study of global change.
the climate crisis needs a strategic and focused response, one that is informed by solution-oriented science and has the participation of ordinary citizens from the inception. We need to develop and fortify the evidence base with a rigorous collection of data to mitigate against the intensifying impacts of global change, and to adapt to the shifts that have already occurred.
For this, we need to mobilize a network of environmental emissaries who are informed and poised, and willing to take action. Through a greater understanding of the threats faced by the planet, we can identify solutions to safeguard our critical natural systems.
Citizen science volunteers from every walk of life can team up with scientists to study and devise ways to protect the ecosystem and the threatened species of plants and animals within all corners of the world. This has been possible in recent years thanks to the great strides in technology.
Climate science enables rigorous, hypothesis-driven scientific research that informs the development of management plans and strategies. This helps restore and conserve biodiversity, ecosystem services, and community resilience.
With the pace at which environmental degradation is taking place, there is a need for urgent action. With a greater focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we need to set a target on a global scale to achieve a more sustainable world and address global challenges. The role of citizen science volunteers is indispensable in this regard.
To stay at the forefront of ecological research, we need to keep such people – scientists, community members, and citizen science volunteers who can embody the values, mission, spirit, and conviction for a sustainable future.
The Contribution Of The Internet To Citizen Science
The collection of the vast amount of data from multiple areas in real-time in a simple method became possible only after the development of the internet across the globe. Certain categories of data gathering are especially convenient for citizen science volunteers, especially when it involves the use of relatively modest tools readily available to them.
In many cases, groups of citizen scientists have organized volunteers who were involved in multiple fields such as monitoring of waterways, observation of birds and insects, monitoring the local weather, astronomical surveillance, and the observation of wildlife and plants.
With proper guidance, citizen scientists can collect multiple data points that helped in making meaning analysis on a vast scale. In other cases, work done by multiple citizen scientists covering multiple locations were even able to make important discoveries such as comets that were missed even by experts in the field.
The internet has also made it possible to even send photographic evidence that is especially helpful in collecting data on wildlife. The various application allows citizen scientists to even perform limited research that was only possible through specialized equipment before.
With such applications, it has been possible to easily identify animals and plants, measure the quality of air and local temperature, and identify textures and colors. All this is possible with a smartphone that is available to most people even in developing countries, thus obviating the need for extra investment.
Multiple institutions are engaged in creating opportunities for more volunteers to get involved in such efforts. NASA and Smithsonian are some of the major institutes that are involved in this world of citizen science.
Recent Impact Of Citizen Science
The positive impact of citizen science has been greatly felt in recent years. the quality of inputs has greatly improved with the advances in technology. It has enabled high-quality data and a vast array of fields in which such volunteers have been able to involve themselves.
This participation has always been a two-way street. Volunteers have learned about the local environment and also have been enlightened to the ways and rigors of scientific methods of analysis.
Students have got the opportunity to involve themselves in more meaningful processes that have given them an impetus in their careers.
The dissemination of the spirit of scientific inquiry among the general population has helped dispel wrong notions about various subjects.
Getting Involved In The Process
It is an exciting time to be in if you are enthusiastic about science with the vast opportunities. If you are interested in getting involved, the trickiest part is choosing the right project.
The rational way would be getting involved in an area that involves your interest which could be the environment, wildlife plants, and its multiple branches, stars, or health and medicine.
The next step would be deciding the extent to which you could involve yourself; the time you could devote. While some projects might require a one-off involvement of days, other projects could be continuous and require involvement stretching for months and years.
The extent of initial training is another aspect to be considered. While some citizen science projects don’t require more than mere rudimentary knowledge, others might require a certain amount of initial training before you can involve yourself as a citizen scientist. You also need to decide whether you wish to be confined to the virtual world, doing online research, or get involved in the real world.
You also need to decide on the type of organization that you want to join. And also do you want to join an international effort or confine yourself to local projects.
A huge interactive database on citizen science offers a vast array of opportunities for wannabe citizen scientists. The database of such groups are both specialized, limited to a subject, or offer opportunities on a vast number of subjects.