What is “Citizen Science” and how can someone get involved?
Since even as far back as the time of Charles Darwin, scientific experts have sought the volunteer efforts of regular citizens to help improve their data. As the notion of citizen science evolves, some groups are wondering how it will ultimately impact the validity of science overall. Although the greatest authority still appears to lie with those in the highly skilled and scrutinously gleaned areas of academia, ordinary citizens are, and long have been, seeking participation in order to both assure transparency in matters that involve all of us, and develop their own expertise in the fields.
While some insist all scientific data should be open to public viewing, others advocate for a more moderate approach, insisting that “forcing open the lab doors” could lead to misinterpretation and other negative effects. However, most agree that working hand in hand, scientists and the public can collaborate effectively and contribute to a mutually beneficial relationship. The public gives a rich context to the data while the scientists analyze it with specialized skill.
If you’re interested in getting involved as a citizen science, the only challenge appears to be choosing from the limitless options available. A great majority of the projects are web-based and can be done from the comfort of your own home. Take a peek at just a few we’ve uncovered to see if any might interest you or your friends and family:
- Scientific American has a vast array of assorted projects seeking citizen scientist participation, as does National Geographic, NASA, and the NOAA , to name just a few. If those don’t strike your fancy, there are countless more.
- Other projects ask you to track the location and behavior of the endangered California Condor.
- Log what you see through the Spitzer Space telescope
- Help monitor a colony of penguins
- Transcribe old ship logs on weather to help predict climate fluctuations
- Make water quality and marine life observations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Track bees here, or here
- Or monarch butterflies here
- Or learn how to create a pollinator-friendly garden here
- Submit your wilderness wildlife sightings here
- Or, just for fun, drop in on various wildlife webcams viewing pandas, the rainforest, puffins, orphaned baby rhinos, elephants, bald eagles, and underwater marine animals—and be sure to comment your observations!
As you can clearly see, there is no shortage of options if citizen science is your thing. Don’t hesitate to give it a shot—your contributions may help make a real difference for humanity and the world!