Citizen Science Thoughts and Opinions

OpenScientist is a great place to find citizen science projects and hear about exciting updates in the field.  But it can be even more than that.  It is also a place where we discuss emerging trends in the field, analyze what works, critique what doesn't, and find ways for the field to expand beyond it's current scope.  So I've dedicated this page to all the opinion pieces I've posted so you can catch up with all of our exciting discussions.

There are four areas we've been talking about recently that you may find interesting:

  • Improving Public Charities with Citizen Science:  I've been thinking a lot about expanding the benefits of citizen science so it not just impacts the research community, but can be used to solve unemployment, poverty, and other societal issues.  I'm also wondering what the best type of charitable contribution is that advances these societal and scientific goals.  The conversation is just getting started so join the discussion here.
  • Defining Citizen Science and Citizen Scientists:  As someone who looks at citizen science projects all week, I was surprised to see there is still much debate over it's acual definition.  Many people have attempted to come up with a conclusive answer, such as the various attempts found in the scientific literature and within the citizen science projects themselves.  I also look at the question of whether distributed computing should be considered citizen science (I think it is).  I started the project with this introductory brainstorming-style post and worked toward the final definition post here.   In case you're curious, here are the answers we came up with:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Classifying  Various Types of Citizen Science Projects:  An important part of defining citizen science if classifying the various project types falling under that name.  In this article, I separate them all into five distinct categories (Distributed Computing, Transcription, Observational Measurement, Observational Analysis, Research Analysis, Game, and Challenge) with various sub-categories underneath.  Read the article for definitions of each and where they come from, and look here for a listing of all the projects discussed on OpenScientist classified under these headings.
  • Increasing the use of "Bounties" in Citizen Science Projects:  One of the sub-classifications we identified were "Bounty" projects that pay citizen scientists for very discrete accomplishments (such as seing the first flowers of spring) or activities (recording ten weather observations or analyzing water from five lakes).  These are very similar to "Challenge" projects but are much more narrowly focused.  This is a burgeoning area I'd like to see grow rapidly  .Bounties have not been very popular with many of the projects available right now but I forecast a bright future for them. Read all about my description of bounty projects and possibilities for their future use here.

As a blogger with years of experience writing and participating in citizen science projects these posts are a great opportunity to think broadly about where the field is heading.  After seeing hundreds of projects various trends and themes emerge that I like to talk about.  But please join me.  Many of these posts are questions I'm attempting to answer myself, and though I have a few theories you're insights always strengthen our understanding of the issue.  So make comments and get involved.  If there's a conversation you want to contribute to please don't hesitate.  Even if it's an older post I read all comments and am always happy to revisit our older ideas.  Science is all about change, and so are our thoughts on Citizen Science.


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