Citizen Science is a rapidly growing genre of research that engages citizens (and students) with scientific research on various topics around the world. Citizen Science projects invite volunteers to participate in activities such as monitoring climate phenomena, water quality, bird circulation, analysis of historical documents, and the discovery of new planets and galaxies. It has the unique potential to simultaneously contribute to science, citizens (students) and to the environment.
Citizen Science Projects Initiated by Leading Academic Institutions
Most of the Citizen Science projects are initiated by academic institute and research labs, it provides an opportunity to accelerate research by including citizens knowledge and experience. Examples of citizen science projects include crowd-sourcing interfaces that enable citizens to collect and contribute ecological data. Different leading research institutes have been engaged in developing these initiatives, the following is a brief example of few of them:
Cornell Lab initiated recording sightings of birds in a CS project known as eBird (www.ebird.org). This global project revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information on bird abundance and distribution. It hailed as an example of democratizing science, treating citizens as scientists, allowing the public to access and use their own data and the collective data generated by others. As of November 2016, over 330,000 unique users have submitted over 26 million checklists, more than 366 million observations, and data for over 10,300 species to the program. eBird’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network. The data are then available via internet queries in a variety of formats.
University of Washington, Center for Game Science, Department of Biochemistry in collaboration with University of Washington Institute for Protein Design, Northeastern University, Vanderbilt University, University of California, Davis, and University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth developed Foldit. Foldit is a revolutionary crowdsourcing computer puzzle game enabling citizens as well as students to contribute to an important scientific research. Foldit explores the process by which living beings create the primary structure of proteins, determining how the primary structure of a protein turns into a functioning three-dimensional structure – how the molecule “folds”.Foldit is an online puzzle video game with over 240,000 registered players and 57,000 players providing useful results (www.fold.it).
Oxford University founded Galaxy Zoo (www.galaxyzoo.org). The Galaxy Zoo is a crowdsourced astronomy project which invites people to assist in the morphological classification of large numbers of galaxies. It is an example for people powered research. Today it is the largest Citizen Science initiative in the world with over 1.6 million registered participants and 81 different research projects. Zooniverse enables everyone to take part in real cutting edge research in many fields across the sciences, humanities, and more. Zooniverse believes that this is a great way to discover, teach and learn and thus it creates opportunities for citizens as well as students to unlock answers and contribute to real discoveries.