‘Project Finder’ Lifts Off!

China\'s first space-walkers blasted off last month. This month, we\'ve got our own launch: the Project Finder!Today is launch day for a new wing of the Science Cheerleader blog: the Project Finder!

In a nutshell, the Project Finder is where we’ll point to projects and activities that will give regular folks the chance to participate in scientific research.

That’s right, we’re broadening the Cheerleader’s focus. We’ll continue to cover the important issue of involving the public in discussions and decisions about science policy. But we also want to help you actually do science.

Starting today, we’ll be writing regular profiles and recommendations of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of citizen science programs and projects that are out there waiting for you. Everything from counting fireflies to sorting through stardust, from archeological digs to kitchen counter-top chemistry, from food testing to earthquake monitoring.

We’ll organize it all into categories that you can browse through based on your areas of interest. We’ll also “tag” these postings so that you’ll be able to zero in on activities that line up with certain personal preferences you may have: For instance, can the project be done close to home, is it indoors or outdoors, does it involve travel, is it free or do you have to pay to take part, will you need any special equipment, and will you be working with a professional scientist?

Project X: Coming Soon

We’ll let you in on a secret: This new wing of the Cheerleader blog is really just a little preview of a much larger Web site that’s in the works. That upcoming site, Science For Citizens, will be a one-stop shop where people can learn about, get hooked by, and take part in scientific research and related activities. Rather than re-invent a big wheel that already exists out there, Science For Citizens will aggregate, classify, point to, and help you choose among all that great citizen science material–activity-based Web sites, citizen science blogs, opportunities tied to government and academic projects, and all the rest.

At Science For Citizens, the Project Finder will be a powerful, comprehensive, database-driven matching tool. Think of it as a cross between Craigslist and Match.com for people who want to do science. We think it will be pretty cool.

We’ll have a lot more to say in the coming months about the mission and plans for our larger site. Meanwhile, we invite you to get involved in doing science here using the blog-based version of our Project Finder. Please tell us what you think of this new effort, let us know about your own citizen science pursuits, and help us add to our listings by suggesting a project.

Who’s We?

Lastly, you may be wondering who this “we” is. I’m happy to introduce to you Michael Gold, who has been helping the Science Cheerleader behind the scenes since its debut. Michael will be joining me in writing the citizen science project postings and building out the Project Finder. He is also my partner in dreaming up and launching the big shiny new Science For Citizens site.

Michael has always been in touch with his inner researcher, first as a telescoping-toting teenager, then as an aspiring astronaut, and then as a science journalist at various newspapers and national magazines. Since 1994, he has run a consulting firm (West Gold Editorial) that helps publishers invent, launch, and improve Web sites and magazines. He’s really the perfect co-conspirator.

So let’s all get into our lab coats (break out our butterfly nets, fire up the multi-testers, grab our pick axes…) and have some fun.