|Photo Courtesy: Booksworm|
There are two definitions that come closest, so let's examine each one in turn. The first is from Silvertown:
"A citizen scientist is a volunteer who collects and/or processes data as part of a scientific enquiry."
I haven't talked much about Bounty projects on this site since there haven't been many good examples of them developed so far. But I expect to see them in the future and think this is an exciting area for future development in the field. Not only will it help science generally but it will also help overcome the monetization problem needed to make citizen science increasingly mainstream and incorporate citizen scientists more firmly in the corporate science environment. Similar to Challenge projects they use profit as a motive, but don't use it to spur innovation. Instead rewards are used to incentivize the collection of data that may not be a goal in and of itself, but which is needed for others to fulfill the scientific goal. Examples are data collection projects that base raffle-style drawings based on the amount of data each user collects, or which offers prizes for hitting certain levels of participation. I'll have much more on this in future posts (after doing some more research) as it's an exciting new area for potential growth.
The second definition is more of a description, and comes from the Po Ve Sham blog of Muki Haklay (who is apparently writing a book chapter on citizen science in GIS - Geographic Information Sciences):
"[Citizen Science is defined as]...scientific activities in which non-professional scientists volunteer to participate in data collection, analysis and dissemination of a scientific project..."
Another problem with this description is it's circularity that defines citizen scientists as performing scientific activities in a scientific project. Instead I'd prefer a definition that describes the nature of science without using that term, such as dictionary definitions involving systematic explorations/discoveries of natural phenomena. Or we could just use synonymous terms such as "Investigator" or "Researcher". It's admittedly a minor point, and possibly a bit pedantic, but we should keep it in mind.
Looking at everything said over the last few blog posts (here, here and here), any definition needs to capture professional scientists working outside their discipline. And it can't be relegated to just certain disciplines currently popular in citizen science such as ecology or astronomy. So I'm offering the following alternatives for people to comment on.
Citizen Scientist: Researcher who participates in the systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of natural phenomena; and the dissemination of these activities on an avocational basis.
Citizen Science: The systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of natural phenomena; and the dissemination of these activities by researchers on a primarily avocational basis.
So what do you think? Does this go to far? Is there anything missing? Should dissemination be included? Is it too wordy or even just not very poetic? Leave me your comments below and we can come up with the most definitive (no pun intended) version we can.
UPDATE: Added "systematic" to each definition to emphasize that citizen science does not occur in a vacuum, but involves the whole scientific community.
Update 2: Added the qualifier "primarily avocational" to avoid excluding vocational researchers who participate in citizen science as an addition to their work.