6 Citizen Science Adventures

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Citizen science. Crowdsourcing research. Do these terms sound like something from a school science fair or an MBA program? They are the realities of next-generation science discovery. Such activities, sponsored by many organizations, allow everyday people to become involved in and contribute to scientific research. As an August 2012 Guardian article explains, "collaborative health research is creating potentially life-saving global partnerships between pharmaceutical companies, academic researchers, disease advocates and even the general public, who are drawn into the world of science through crowdsourcing."

Some projects have been around for years, while others are relatively new. Here are six organizations with noteworthy projects:

  1. Citizen Science at Cornell University—Created in 1915, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology engages over 200,000 participants in the study of bird conservation.
  2. Scientific American has a list of citizen science featured projects that focus on Energy & Sustainability, Evolution, Health, Mind & Brain, Space, and Technology.
  3. The Fold—Folding@home (FAH or F@h)—is a distributed-computing project for disease research that simulates protein folding, computational drug design, and other types of molecular dynamics. The project uses the idle resources of personal computers owned by volunteers from all over the world.
  4. Many citizen science projects can be found on Zooniverse, which creates sites for crowdsourced science such as the The Milky Way Project. This particular project uses citizens to help look through tens of thousands of images from the Spitzer Space Telescope. The project seeks to better understand how stars form by gathering input from what participants see in this infrared data.
  5. The Xerces Society currently has projects concerning the conservation of bumblebees, dragonflies, and western monarch butterfly populations.
  6. The goal of the United Genomes Project [http://www.unitedgenomes.org/] is to develop a comprehensive, open genetic database of African populations and an educational platform for training students and scientists on the use of genetic data in medicine, which is a new field of medicine called genomic medicine.


What citizen science projects are you excited about?