The democratizing of science is already happening. Once the hobby of mostly wealthy men, then the career field for professional investigators, science is more open than ever when “citizen scientists” get involved. And the success stories are piling up.
Citizen science projects range from observations of the natural world to analysis of data distributed via the web. Anyone, regardless of professional qualifications, can sign into or join up with a citizen science project, learning how to contribute as they go along. But, there is still a bit of understandable skepticism from the scientific community. What they need? Well, probably some evidence. You can see the changing viewpoint for one particular scientist who proudly wrote about the results of the Great Koala Count back in April.
However, that’s not the only place where citizen science has really contributed to science, even recently, as the title seems to suggest. In fact, Caren Cooper blogs regular updates of citizen science findings at “Coop’s Cit Sci Scoop” for PLOS blogs. Discoveries range from AIDS research to traffic noise to meteors. Over at CosmoQuest where I work, we were super excited to announce our first paper using citizen crater counts on the Moon, showing that they did JUST AS WELL as the experts. Rock on, Mappers.
So don’t get discouraged if you’re looking at these projects and don’t think you can contribute. You CAN, especially with a little bit of practice, and help move science along in some small way. As I always do, I suggest checking out SciStarter as a place to find just the right citizen science project for you, based on topic, time, age, and resources.