Citizen Science … science for everyone

Crowdsourcing, citizen science, networked science, collective intelligence … these are some of the things I’ve been thinking about recently.

Since we are finding new ways to collect, organize, and distribute information, we are also opening up some incredible opportunities to involve more people in solving problems.  The general term for this is crowdsourcing, which is the idea that some problems can be better solved by harnessing the energy and work of a large group of people than relying on a few experts.

Citizen-science projects link up people who are interested in contributing to science with experts who have a project in need of help.  Not only might this help solve problems more quickly, but it could also get people excited about contributing to and learning about science.  Just about anyone can contribute new data and observations — like bird sightings or weather observations — but there are also many opportunities to help organize and interpret the vast amount of data that keeps piling up.

Notable Citizen Science projects (mostly with an environmental theme)

  • Foldit — Within a gaming format, help solve the three-dimensional structure of proteins.  This is especially fun for people who like spatial puzzles.
  • Phylo — Also within a gaming format, help researchers compare and organize genetic information from different organisms … with to goal of understanding evolution and genetic diseases.
  • GalaxyZoo — Help researchers categorize the hundreds of thousands of galaxies that have been photographed by astronomers.  This is among the earliest and most successful projects and is on it’s third research cycle (at least).
  • eBird  — Get involved in birdwatching and contribute your observations here.
  • Old Weather — Help interpret weather observations from the log books of old British navy ships.

Websites, organizations, blogs