Turning Participatory Microbiome Research into Usable Data: Lessons from the American Gut Project
The role of the human microbiome is the subject of continued investigation resulting in increased understanding. However, current microbiome research has only scratched the surface of the variety of healthy microbiomes. Public participation in science through crowdsourcing and crowdfunding microbiome research provides a novel opportunity for both participants and investigators. However, turning participatory science into publishable data can be challenging. Clear communication with the participant base and among researchers can ameliorate some challenges. Three major aspects need to be considered: recruitment and ongoing interaction, sample collection, and data analysis. Usable data can be maximized through diligent participant interaction, careful survey design, and maintaining an open source pipeline. While participatory science will complement rather than replace traditional avenues, it presents new opportunities for studies in the microbiome and beyond.
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