Citizen Scientists: They’re All the Rage

Our time has come!

As a kid, perhaps you wanted to grow up and be a scientist…and baseball player, famous chef, president, or first [fill-in-the-blank] astronaut.

Then came middle school and the emergence of hormones/testosterone and stereotypical overtures reminding you that science is for geeky boys or socially dysfunctional girls. High school just ramped all of this up but at least in middle school you did some cool classroom science experiments.

Some science-loving adolescents (like the Science Cheerleader) weren’t swayed by any of this, but couldn’t afford college, started a family or chose other careers.

Well, have I got news for you folks! People like us, untrained in the sciences, are clamoring to be engaged in science at rates unmatched since the days of Ben Franklin. A growing number of so-called “citizen scientists” are not waiting for invitations to participate in science policy discussions or hoping the next generation will improve its dismal science literacy rates. Instead, they are jumping in to change the way science gets done. And having a lot of fun in the process!

Citizen scientists monitor water quality, tag butterflies , count birds, record earthquake tremors and observe and record celestial patterns. Here are three good resource sites where you can learn about other cool citizen science opportunities: Terrie Miller’s Citizen Science blog, Cornell University’s Citizen Science ToolKit and the Society for Amateur Scientists.

In July, news of Sky Survey,an international collaboration mapping a large section of the universe, spread over the web. Within a few months, more than 100,000 volunteer citizen scientists classified more than 1 million galaxies.

John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, notes that as “more and more amateurs and the researchers they work with realize the potential, and people see that their contributions matter, the era of the citizen scientist will explode.”

Are more scientists learning to trust the public’s capacity to learn, draw conclusions, and contribute to science discussions? It appears so.

I hope they invite the public to do more science.

An important step towards building teamwork between the public, scientists and the government.

Are you a Citizen Scientist? Tell us about your experience!

Where do you think the Citizen Science movement is heading? What does the future hold?

Cheers!

-The Science Cheerleader

  • Margaret Loewy

    it is amazing how we forget the importance of science. Society really takes science and the research of science for granted and sometimes we don’t realize science is the most important part of our future……….or there will be no furture.

    great job!

  • Margaret Loewy

    it is amazing how we forget the importance of science. Society really takes science and the research of science for granted and sometimes we don’t realize science is the most important part of our future……….or there will be no furture.

    great job!

  • Pingback: Nest Watching? Sounds (awfully) boring, but read on… | Science Cheerleader()

  • Tom B.

    Here’s a couple of other ideas for citizen science projects:

    First is Grid or Distributed Computing: Some scientific problems need enormous amounts of computer processing power — more than is affordable to the researchers. At the same time, your personal computer’s processor does nothing 99% of the time*, so you have the solution right in front of you. Grid computing uses special software that runs the research on personal computers — only when they’re idle, so it doesn’t interfere with the owners’ use of the computer — and sends the results back to the researchers. There are a large number of projects including researching cures for AIDS and cancer, studying malaria, modeling climate change (global warming), searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI, famous from the movie Contact), modeling protein folding (a central problem in biology), and far more. Some have hundreds of thousands of computers participating, and are backed by leading organizations, such as IBM, Stanford, Oxford, the National Science Foundation and the British government. You can find a list of projects here (http://tinyurl.com/grzdf) and read more about it here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_computing).

    Another great project is Personal Weather Stations (PWS). It used to be that the only weather observations available were from the airport or other large institutions. Now, thanks to PWSs, you can collect observations right from your home. At weatherunderground.com, they publish PWS observations from all over your town (such as Philadelphia – http://tinyurl.com/3uxc4). Setup your own weather station and become your neighborhood weatherperson, or join a group like the Citizen Weather Observer Program (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_weather_observer_program) and help the National Weather Service and other researchers collect local data.

    Congratulations on your interesting site.

    * To see for yourself, click Start >> Run, type “taskmgr.exe” and press Enter. Click on the Processes tab and find the process called “System Idle Process”. Note that 99% of the time, that’s what your computer is doing — nothing.

  • Tom B.

    Here’s a couple of other ideas for citizen science projects:

    First is Grid or Distributed Computing: Some scientific problems need enormous amounts of computer processing power — more than is affordable to the researchers. At the same time, your personal computer’s processor does nothing 99% of the time*, so you have the solution right in front of you. Grid computing uses special software that runs the research on personal computers — only when they’re idle, so it doesn’t interfere with the owners’ use of the computer — and sends the results back to the researchers. There are a large number of projects including researching cures for AIDS and cancer, studying malaria, modeling climate change (global warming), searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI, famous from the movie Contact), modeling protein folding (a central problem in biology), and far more. Some have hundreds of thousands of computers participating, and are backed by leading organizations, such as IBM, Stanford, Oxford, the National Science Foundation and the British government. You can find a list of projects here (http://tinyurl.com/grzdf) and read more about it here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_computing).

    Another great project is Personal Weather Stations (PWS). It used to be that the only weather observations available were from the airport or other large institutions. Now, thanks to PWSs, you can collect observations right from your home. At weatherunderground.com, they publish PWS observations from all over your town (such as Philadelphia – http://tinyurl.com/3uxc4). Setup your own weather station and become your neighborhood weatherperson, or join a group like the Citizen Weather Observer Program (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_weather_observer_program) and help the National Weather Service and other researchers collect local data.

    Congratulations on your interesting site.

    * To see for yourself, click Start >> Run, type “taskmgr.exe” and press Enter. Click on the Processes tab and find the process called “System Idle Process”. Note that 99% of the time, that’s what your computer is doing — nothing.

  • Pingback: Citizen Science Projects » Blog Archive » Links from around the web()

  • Pingback: If they build it, will you come? | Science Cheerleader()

  • Pingback: Anyone can be a Citizen Scientist « greener loudoun()

  • Amber

    i need an idea for a high school science fair project that has to do with cheerleading and stunting

  • Amber

    i need an idea for a high school science fair project that has to do with cheerleading and stunting

  • Pingback: 11,800 fireflies spotted and recorded by citizen scientists | Science Cheerleader()

  • Pingback: Getting back to our roots as everyday scientists: Permaculture. | Science Cheerleader()

  • Pingback: Google as a Public Servant? | Science Cheerleader()

  • Pingback: Neat News from Nova (PBS) | Science Cheerleader()

  • Pingback: Eagles vs. Cardinals. The battle of the birds. | Science Cheerleader()

  • Pingback: Calling all citizen scientists! | Science Cheerleader()

  • It is nice to know that there are still people who liked to be involved in Science no matter how dynamic it is.