Monday, January 26, 2015

Citizen Science and Employment in High Technology Industries

Last week I wrote an article on Industry Niches for Citizen Science (Part 1) that tried to identify high-technology sectors of the U.S. economy.  Although the papers I found were not definitive they gqve us a great head start. So let's continue pushing forward to see what we find.

As a reminder, the list of high-tech industries was determined through a number of different factors. The first was based on the relative employment by each of people in various high-technology occupations.  But what are those occupations and how do they connect to the work of citizen scientists?    Reviewing the Hecker article again,
"High-technology occupations are scientific, engineering, and technician occupations, the same group of occupations used to define high-tech industries in this and earlier studies. They include the following occupational groups and detailed occupations: computer and mathematical scientists, Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) 15-0000; engineers, SOC 17– 2000; drafters, engineering, and mapping technicians, SOC 17– 3000; life scientists, SOC 19–1000; physical scientists, SOC 19– 2000; life, physical, and social science technicians, SOC 19–4000; computer and information systems managers, SOC 11–3020; engineering managers, SOC 11–9040; and natural sciences managers, SOC 11–9120...Some technology-oriented workers are engaged in R&D, increasing scientific knowledge and using it to develop products and production processes; others apply technology in other activities, including the design of equipment, processes, and structures; computer applications; sales, purchasing, and marketing; quality management; and the management of these activities."
This is still academic.  Relating it back to citizen science, I now ask the question of what are the jobs these people do, and what is the citizen scientist activity equivalent to those jobs?  In other words, What do these people actually do?  Here's a new version of the list but with list of common citizen scientist activities attached to each.

  1. Computer systems design and related services - Computer coding (hardware and software), Electrical engineering
  2. Software publishers - Computer coding (software)
  3. Architectural, engineering, and related services - Electrical, engineering
  4. Scientific research and development services - Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Ecology, Medicine, Electrical engineering, Mechanical engineering, Bioengineering, Computer coding (hardware and software)
  5. Internet service providers and web search portals - Computer coding (hardware and software), Electrical engineering,
  6. Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing - Computer coding (hardware and software), Electrical engineering
  7. Internet publishing and broadcasting - Writing, Computer coding (software)
  8. Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing - Computer coding (hardware and software), Electrical engineering, Design
  9. Data processing, hosting, and related services - Computer coding (hardware and software), Electrical engineering
  10. Aerospace product and parts manufacturing - Electrical engineering, Design
  11. Communications equipment manufacturing - Computer coding (hardware and software), Electrical engineering
  12. Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing - Computer coding (hardware), Electrical engineering
  13. Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing - Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, Mechanical engineering, Bioengineering
  14. Other telecommunications - Electrical engineering
  15. Oil and gas extraction - Geology, Chemistry, Mechanical engineering
  16. Forestry - Biology, Ecology
  17. Commercial and service industry machinery manufacturing - Electrical engineering, Mechanical engineering
  18. Manufacturing and reproducing magnetic and optical media - Electrical engineering, Mechanical engineering
  19. Basic chemical manufacturing - Chemistry, Mechanical engineering
  20. Professional and commercial equipment and supply merchant manufacturing - Chemistry, Physics, Electrical engineering, Mechanical engineering, Computer coding (hardware and software)
  21. Industrial machinery manufacturing - Mechanical engineering
  22. Federal government, excluding postal service - Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics, Ecology, Medicine, Electrical engineering, Mechanical engineering, Bioengineering, Computer coding (hardware and software)
  23. Management, scientific, and technical consulting services - Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics, Ecology, Medicine, Electrical engineering, Mechanical engineering, Bioengineering, Computer coding (hardware and software)
  24. Audio and video equipment manufacturing - Computer coding (hardware and software), Electrical engineering, Design
  25. Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution - Electrical engineering, Mechanical engineering
  26. Resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial synthetic fibers and filaments manufacturing - Chemistry, mechanical engineering
This starts to give us some insight, especially if we start to "clump" some of these industries together based on the type of work they do. Even if the scientific field is somewhat different there are general similarities.  For example, 
  • Manufacturing industries (numbers 3, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, and 26)
  • IT and computer coding (numbers 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, and 18). 
  • Industries that (positively or negatively) focus on Environmental concerns, such as Forestry (16), Oil and gas extraction (15) and Management, scientific and technical consulting services.
  • "Traditional" science and technology fields (numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9,10, 11, 12, 13, 19, and 23) and more "Applied" (7, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, and 26).
There are even a few other items to note, such as the interesting addition of "Writing" in the seventh-largest high-technology field of Internet publishing and broadcasting.  There are also some that span a wide variety of products and activities, such as Federal Government, excluding postal service (#22) and Management, scientific, and technical consulting services (#23). 

The inclusion of "Consulting" in the last item is most interesting to me.  This means a lot of different things to a lot of people, and in fact can even be included with it's counterpart of the Federal government, since much consulting (even scientific/technical) is actually performed on behalf of the government.  So this is potentially a very large opportunity as far as high-technology employment is concerned.

But what most intrigues me is the idea of consulting and what it can mean for citizen science.  Typically the term "consulting" implies firms bringing in outside experts to offer advice and direction in a specialized area.  This can include advice on an area outside of the companies focus (e.g., a chemist advising on a specific reaction of interest to a pharmaceutical firm) or to perform a project for a defined length of time (e.g.,, an IT consultant upgrading computer systems of a chemical firm).  

In some ways we already see examples of both types in existing platforms such as the Innocentive challenge web site.  The Ideation and Theoretical challenges are very similar to the model of bringing in outside advice, while the Reduction-to-Practice is similar to the short-term project model.  Obviously there is overlap and it is not a 100 percent match, but the concept is pretty close.  

Both offer real possibilities for citizen scientists.   For the first, where outside experts provide advice, there is no reason these need to be "Professionals" or degreed experts in those fields.  It can be anyone with the proper knowledge and experience the company is looking for.  Even better is that often these people can be brought in from areas widely different than the firm, providing a unique perspective that is often to key important breakthroughs.   For the second, it just requires citizen scientists to take their ideas and put them into practice, either in developing a product, performing a service, or taking on some larger challenge.

All these opportunities go by different names.  Statistically they may be called consultants.  Innocentive calls them Solvers.  But in every case just replace that word with "citizen scientist".

Of course there are many more to apply this concept to entrepreneurship and helping citizen scientists profit from their work.  But I'll leave much of that for San Jose and many future posts!

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