Random thoughts on citizen science

Random thoughts on citizen science

Engaging the public with science creates more opportunities for people to learn and collaborate with scientists, as well as, it increases the opportunities for scientists to get more data from the public. In these chapters the author discusses the challenges that both scientists and academics have in engaging with the public (e.g. participating in online communities, positing on Wikipedia), and also the challenges of having an open source science. On the one hand, democratizing science, and making it accessible by public, help citizens to be more aware of different phenomena and try one way or another to contribute, or even think how it is related to their lives. Yet, the question is about the quality of such contribution, and to what extend accessibility to data and science make people have a deep learning experience.
Democratizing science and making publications accessible to the public, is something I believe in and advocate for, however, some challenges I see as an academic are related to privacy, quality of content, and retention of readers. Adding to that, with the bureaucracy we have in universities (on things like patents etc.) it is always hard to know what type of data or knowledge we can share with the public.


In the current research project I am involved in, some of the questions we are trying to answer are around how agency and citizenship awareness can increase public participation in science. I am aware that self-efficacy as construct is not enough to address such topic, but, I do  assume that increasing students agency and social responsibility towards their societies could increase their participation and engagement in science practices and discussions, even with small contributions.


Why do I think introducing public to science tools is important? Technology can be good and/or bad, depends how people use it. I aways try to look on the positive side of technology. Citizen science practices and communities of Do-it-yourself made it possible for thousands of young scientists and people who are thrilled about science to do different experiments with low-cost, this means that such young scientists, and citizen science activists now have accessibility to resources that may cost them thousands of dollars if they order them from factories. Examples for that are many, for example, creating DIY centrifuge machine for PCR  to duplicate DNA, using laser cut and arduino system http://www.instructables.com/id/OpenFuge/


Some questions I am thinking of…
– How might we define the criterion for what is considered as “citizen science”? To what extend DIY practices conducted by individuals would be categorized as citizen science?
– The concept of DIY and accessibility to science may challenge the status quo of monopoly on science by institutions and labs, yet my question is, with the fact that even if marginalized communities find DIY tools useful to solve different problems, how might we overcome the equity issue in access to low-cost DIY citizen science tools?



Nielsen, M. (2011). Reinventing discovery: the new era of networked science. Princeton University Press.



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