Did you know that A Day for Science coincides with Citizen Science Day? That’s one of the reasons why we’ll be featuring some of the great local citizen science opportunities you can get involved in; also, citizen science is just cool!
Citizen science is defined by SciStarter as “the public involvement in inquiry and discovery of new scientific knowledge.” In the 21st century, that often translates to crowdsourced data collection, though it can also include analysis and reporting. The internet makes it possible to easily collect data from many people in many different locations, and there is now a proliferation of websites and apps to make that data collection even easier. The resulting data sets are being used to support research and scientific publications, and to create some amazing and beautiful visualizations like the migration heat map taken from eBird, above!
Long-time birdwatchers will be familiar with this type of citizen science through Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count, which has been taking place for 117 years!
But citizen science isn’t just about counting individuals of a particular species. It can also help with environmental quality issues like identifying locations with storm water erosion, and tracking light pollution around the globe. Some citizen science projects even take the form of sophisticated online games like EVE Online, where you can help astronomers search for real-life exoplanets within EVE’s virtual universe.
SciStarter is great place to look for online projects you can contribute to, and simply to explore the variety of citizen science opportunities. As their What Is Citizen Science? page points out, citizen science can help to bridge gaps between scientists and motivated citizens; expand the scope of scientific data gathering; and cultivate a citizenship that is knowledgeable about the scientific enterprise who will be engaged advocates for science policy.
We hope you’ll be inspired to try citizen science, if you haven’t already! See you on Citizen Science Day!