Power to the People

In our last post we discussed why people should take part in citizen science. There are countless benefits to participating in citizen science from educational opportunities to entertainment to contributing real data to scientific research. But what about afterwards? After you have a fun time observing nature, recording data or photographing animals, relay the data back to the scientist for their research. The data a volunteer or amateur can provide is as significant as an expert observation. After all, the observations are usually straight forward such as determining color or shape. With these seemingly simple observations you can make significant contributions to science.

Where to begin

The NSF has spend about $4 million on citizen science projects because they build literacy in the young students and adults, according to a Scientific American article. The NSF also announced Tuesday plans to increase awareness of citizen science projects. There will be journals and science conferences in the month of August to inform the public about the wide potential and benefits of citizen science. The purpose of these projects and grants is to get people involved in science. Whether you’re a writer, avid reader, mathematician, artist or scientist there is a a place for you in the realm of citizen science. As a citizen scientist you will join a real science team. Whether they’re in your neighborhood or across the globe your work, data and photographs matter. After all, a research team doesn’t have eyes everywhere. They can’t explore the depths of your backyard or that mysterious patch of woods in the park. You become remote members of a larger team and whether you took the photograph with your iPhone or a high end camera your work is significant. What makes citizen science effective is the same feature that makes it appealing. It’s a group effort. It’s not about individuals doing single individual tasks. Citizen Science is about the group as a whole. Even if you explore nature and contribute the data by yourself, it’s still not individual work. The data from the researchers and the citizen scientists are combined and together they make for real and important scientific discoveries. They’re are hundreds and hundreds of available citizen science projects and according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the number of participants keeps on growing.

Citizen scientists are usually volunteers or amateurs. They don’t need expert knowledge on insects or plants to participate or join the research team. That in itself is a large benefit. With citizen scientist doesn’t just come people power but also a fresh eye. after years of research and photographing, a new perspective can make a world of a difference. Citizen science is also an educational tool, it puts science right in your hands. Whether it’s photographing an insect or recording the pollution in a river, the process of becoming and working as a citizen scientist is an automatic education booster. Some projects require a short course or handbook to read. Usually to get some information on the animal or plant the project studies. There is also an educational feature in the field, a learning by doing feel. The actual recording of data or photographing is another way to learn. Firstly it usually requires patience and persistence but the benefits easily outweigh the time. After all, who can say spending time outside, taking photos and helping with scientific research isn’t fun?

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