Thursday, August 4, 2011

I'm back for More, But Wondering What Citizen Science Really Is

Utah's Rainbow Bridge
Courtesy of DPCShots
It's been three weeks since leaving for Utah and stepping away from OpenScientist for a little bit.  The State was beautiful and I learned so much about it's unique geology...around every corner was an education in the powers of wind, water, and plate tectonics.  Now I'm refreshed and back with ideas for new features on this blog, such as starting a number of longer-term projects to work on through the blog. 

So far I've been dabbling with different projects and moving on to another, but it's time to both create my own and spend some more time really getting to work on a topic.  This isn't just about me though...I'd like to bring you along too.  Everything I'm working on will be posted up here with my thoughts but your thoughts are incredibly important too.  Let's make this a true community effort.

The first one we'll look at may seem a bit introductory but it's an area where not enough has been done, and we are perfectly placed to contribute.  It's also something I've been working on behind-the-scenes while working on this blog.   Basically, developing a new classification and understanding of what citizen science is, and how it differs from other community thinking efforts (such as so-called "Web 2.0 Projects", "Crowdsourcing", and other concepts).   With the budding collection of project listings we've collected it's time to better classify them and help people better access them.

As a very basic starter, Wikipedia (a crowdsourced initiative itself) defines Citizen Science as "...projects or ongoing program of scientific work in which individual volunteers or networks of volunteers, many of whom may have no specific scientific training, perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement, or computation."  From my perspective there are definite holes in this definition, but before I cloud the field with my own thoughts I'm curious about your thoughts to these questions:
  • What is Citizen Science?
  • What is not Citizen Science?
  • Why is this differentiation important? 
Hopefully you can come up with a few ideas on your own...feel free to brainstorm and don't worry whether it's a fully-formed idea or not.  Just add it to the comments and let it inspire thoughts in others.  The more brains we can put on this question the more depth we can get to the conversation.

If you have trouble coming up with ideas take a look at a recent blog post on the Classification of Citizen Science Activities by researcher Muki Haklay from the University of London.  He's looking at the same question from an academic standpoint, and may provide some additional inspiration for your own thoughts.

So let me know your thoughts in comments below and I'll try to put together an analysis combining those ideas next week.  And in the meantime OpenScientistBlog will still feature new projects you can join in other areas.  Sounds like a fair trade to me!

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