Thursday, June 13, 2013

Citizen Science as a Novel Scientific Instrument

In the way that smart phones have permeated our culture, citizen science seems equally ubiquitous, appearing at science conferences, museums, conservation organizations, government agencies, journal articles, web sites and yes, in blogs. Citizen science covers a diverse collection of activities in which groups undertake investigations alongside or under the supervision of scientists....

Over the past decade I have been a local leader in monitoring Alewife populations, an anadromous fish, like shad and salmon, that return to fresh water to spawn, and a participant in protecting the rare Blanding’s turtle during nesting season.

Through my experiences, I’ve come to think that the citizens in citizen science are like a new kind of scientific instrument. This new instrument can make measurements that are not possible using the capacity and approaches of standard scientific enterprise. This new instrument can process large amounts of data relatively quickly. This is the difference between a scientist going out and doing all the work or enlisting the help of citizens to gather observations that are shared with the scientific community, be it one scientist or a whole organization. Citizens can allow a project to be sustained longer than what a traditional funding source can provide. Citizens can also cover a wider geographical range, where scientists will be limited by the scope of the their range, by the area that one person can humanly traverse.

PLoS Blog
12 Jun 2013
C Cooper

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