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Citizen science (also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, or networked science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, often by crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Formally, citizen science has been defined as "the systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of natural phenomena; and the dissemination of these activities by researchers on a primarily avocational basis". Citizen science is sometimes called "public participation in scientific research."
The "Green Paper on Citizen Science: Citizen Science for Europe" refers to "the general public engagement in scientific research activities when citizens actively contribute to science either with their intellectual effort or surrounding knowledge or with their tools and resources. Participants provide experimental data and facilities for researchers, raise new questions and co-create a new scientific culture. While adding value, volunteers acquire new learning and skills, and deeper understanding of the scientific work in an appealing way. As a result of this open, networked and trans-disciplinary scenario, science-society-policy interactions are improved leading to a more democratic research, based on evidence-informed decision making as is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or non professional scientists."
Citizen science may be performed by individuals, teams, or networks of volunteers. Citizen scientists often partner with professional scientists to achieve common goals. Large volunteer networks often allow scientists to accomplish tasks that would be too expensive or time consuming to accomplish through other means.
Some observers report that Rick Bonney of Cornell's Laboratory of Ornithology coined the term "citizen science" in the 1980s or 90s; however, the term was first applied to the growing realm of amateur naturalists by Drs. Don McCrimmon and Cal Smith, then also of the Lab, sometime during 1979 - 1981. Nevertheless and without doubt, the continuing success of the program and the term is attributable to Rick Bonney.
Citizen science has evolved over the past four decades. Recent projects place more emphasis on scientifically sound practices and measurable goals for public education. Modern citizen science differs from its historical forms primarily in the access for, and subsequent scale of, public participation; technology is credited as one of the main drivers of the recent explosion of citizen science activity.
(2) the engagement of nonscientists in true decision-making about policy issues that have technical or scientific components; and (3) the engagement of research scientists in the democratic and policy process.
Scientists and scholars who have used these other definitions include Frank Von Hippel, Stephen Schneider, Neal Lane, Jon Beckwith, and Alan Irwin. Alternative terminology proposed for these definitions are "civic science" and "civic scientist."
Some projects, such as SETI@home, use the Internet to take advantage of distributed computing. These projects are generally passive. Computation tasks are performed by volunteers' computers and require little involvement beyond initial setup. There is disagreement as to whether these projects should be classified as citizen science. Yale astrophysicist and Galaxy Zoo co-founder Kevin Schawinski, said,
- "We prefer to call this Galaxy Zoo citizen science because it's a better description of what you're doing; you're a regular citizen but you're doing science. Crowd sourcing sounds a bit like, well, you're just a member of the crowd and you're not; you're our collaborator. You're pro-actively involved in the process of science by participating."
- -- Kevin Schawinski
Compared to SETI@home, "Galaxy Zoo volunteers do real work. They're not just passively running something on their computer and hoping that they'll be the first person to find aliens. They have a stake in science that comes out of it, which means that they are now interested in what we do with it, and what we find."
In a research report published by the U.S. National Park Service, Brett Amy Thelen and Rachel K. Thiet mention the following concerns, previously reported in the literature, about the validity of volunteer-generated data:
- Some projects may not be suitable for volunteers, for instance when they use complex research methods or require arduous or repetitive work.
- Because volunteers have insufficient training in research and monitoring protocols, they are more at risk of introducing bias into the data.
- Members may lie about data. This risk is even greater when bounties are awarded as an incentive to participate.
"Citizen science" is a fairly new term but an old practice. Prior to the 20th century, science was often the pursuit of gentleman scientists, amateur or self-funded researchers such as Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles Darwin. By the mid-20th Century, however, science was dominated by researchers employed by universities and government research laboratories. By the 1970s, this transformation was being called into question. Philosopher Paul Feyerabend called for a "democratization of science." Biochemist Erwin Chargaff advocated a return to science by nature-loving amateurs in the tradition of Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Buffon, and Darwin—science dominated by "amateurship instead of money-biased technical bureaucrats."
Collectively, amateur astronomers observe a variety of celestial objects and phenomena sometimes with equipment that they build themselves. Common targets of amateur astronomers include the Moon, planets, stars, comets, meteor showers, and a variety of deep-sky objects such as star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae. Observations of comets and stars are also used to measure the local level of artificial skyglow. One branch of amateur astronomy, amateur astrophotography, involves the taking of photos of the night sky. Many amateurs like to specialize in the observation of particular objects, types of objects, or types of events which interest them.
The American Association of Variable Star Observers has gathered data on variable stars for educational and professional analysis since 1911 and promotes participation beyond its membership on its Citizen Sky website.
Citizen science projects have become increasingly focused providing benefits to scientific research. The Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count, which began in 1900, is an example of a long standing tradition of citizen science which has persisted to the present day. Citizen scientists help gather data that will be analyzed by professional researchers.
Newer technologies have increased the options for citizen science. Citizen scientists can build and operate their own instruments to gather data for their own experiments or as part of a larger project. Examples include amateur radio, amateur astronomy, Six Sigma Projects, and Maker activities.
Video technology has enabled expanded citizen science. The Citizen Science Center in the Nature Research Center wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences exhibits how to get involved in scientific research and experience being a citizen scientist. For example, visitors can observe birdfeeders at the Prairie Ridge Ecostation satellite facility via live video feed and record which species they see.
The Internet has been a boon to citizen science, particularly through gamification. One of the first Internet-based citizen science experiments was NASA's Clickworkers, which enabled the general public to assist in the classification of images, greatly reducing the time to analyze large data sets. Another example is Quantum Moves, a game developed by the Center for Driven Community Research, Aarhus University which uses online community efforts to solve quantum physics problems. The solutions found by players can then be used in the lab to feed computational algorithms used in building a scalable quantum computer.
The internet has also enabled citizen scientists to gather data which will be analyzed by professional researchers. Citizen science networks are often involved in the observation of cyclic events of nature (phenology), such as effects of global warming on plant and animal life in different geographic areas, and in monitoring programs for natural-resource management. On BugGuide.Net, an online community of naturalists who share observations of arthropods, amateurs and professional researchers contribute to the analysis.
Mobile technology has further boosted the opportunities for citizen science. Examples include the San Francisco project, the WildLab, iNaturalist, and Project Noah iPhone apps for monitoring birds, marine wildlife, and other organisms, the Loss of the Night app,
Since 2005, the Genographic Project has used the latest genetic technology to expand our knowledge of the human story, and its pioneering use of DNA testing to engage and involve the public in the research effort has helped to create a new breed of "citizen scientist." Geno 2.0 expands the scope for citizen science, harnessing the power of the crowd to discover new details of human population history. This includes supporting, organization and dissemination of personal DNA (genetic) testing. Like Amateur astronomy, citizen scientists encouraged by volunteer organizations like ISOGG - the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, have provided valuable information and research to the professional scientific community.
Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, seeks to combine citizen science with citizen space exploration. Citizens in Space is training citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators on suborbital reusable spacecraft that are now in development. Citizens in Space will also be developing, and encouraging others to develop, citizen-science payloads to fly on suborbital vehicles. Citizens in Space has already acquired a contract for 10 flights on the Lynx suborbital vehicle, being developed by XCOR Aerospace, and plans to acquire additional flights on Lynx and other suborbital vehicles in the future.
Citizens in Space believes that "The development of low-cost reusable suborbital spacecraft will be the next great enabler, allowing citizens to participate in space exploration and space science." 
The first Conference on Public Participation in Scientific Research was held in Portland, Oregon in August 2012. Citizen science is now often a theme at large conferences, such as the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
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- http://www.parkscan.org ParkScan ParkScan project
- http://www.thewildlab.org The Wildlab
- http://www.inaturalist.org iNaturalist
- http://www.projectnoah.org Project Noah
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- http://www.astrodrone.org AstroDrone app
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