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The Power of Engaging Citizen Scientists for Scientific Progress

    Authors: Jeanne Garbarino1, Christopher E. Mason2,3,4,*
    VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: Science Outreach Program, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065; 2: Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10021; 3: The HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Institute for Computational Biomedicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10021; 4: The Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, New York, NY 10021
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 01 March 2016
    • ©2016 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: 1305 York Ave., 13th floor, Rm. Y13-04, Box 140, New York, NY 10021. Phone: 203-668-1448. Fax: 646-962-0383. E-mail: chm2042@med.cornell.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2016 vol. 17 no. 1 7-12. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.1052
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    Abstract:

    Citizen science has become a powerful force for scientific inquiry, providing researchers with access to a vast array of data points while connecting nonscientists to the authentic process of science. This citizen-researcher relationship creates an incredible synergy, allowing for the creation, execution, and analysis of research projects that would otherwise prove impossible in traditional research settings, namely due to the scope of needed human or financial resources (or both). However, citizen-science projects are not without their challenges. For instance, as projects are scaled up, there is concern regarding the rigor and usability of data collected by citizens who are not formally trained in research science. While these concerns are legitimate, we have seen examples of highly successful citizen-science projects from multiple scientific disciplines that have enhanced our collective understanding of science, such as how RNA molecules fold or determining the microbial metagenomic snapshot of an entire public transportation system. These and other emerging citizen-science projects show how improved protocols for reliable, large-scale science can realize both an improvement of scientific understanding for the general public and novel views of the world around us.

Key Concept Ranking

Protein Folding
0.52380955
Microbial Ecosystems
0.49934247
0.52380955

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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.1052
2016-03-01
2017-09-24

Abstract:

Citizen science has become a powerful force for scientific inquiry, providing researchers with access to a vast array of data points while connecting nonscientists to the authentic process of science. This citizen-researcher relationship creates an incredible synergy, allowing for the creation, execution, and analysis of research projects that would otherwise prove impossible in traditional research settings, namely due to the scope of needed human or financial resources (or both). However, citizen-science projects are not without their challenges. For instance, as projects are scaled up, there is concern regarding the rigor and usability of data collected by citizens who are not formally trained in research science. While these concerns are legitimate, we have seen examples of highly successful citizen-science projects from multiple scientific disciplines that have enhanced our collective understanding of science, such as how RNA molecules fold or determining the microbial metagenomic snapshot of an entire public transportation system. These and other emerging citizen-science projects show how improved protocols for reliable, large-scale science can realize both an improvement of scientific understanding for the general public and novel views of the world around us.

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