Citizen Science is the completion of scientific tasks by individuals who are not professionally trained scientists. Citizen scientists work closely with research scientists on such tasks as monitoring environmental conditions, recording the occurrence of species and biological events, transcribing biodiversity information, deciphering research photographs, and processing data. The tasks themselves require minimal training yet through involving citizen scientists, researchers can expand their work across broad geographies and ecosystems.
Many of today’s wicked problems are occurring at a global scale and can therefore only be addressed with large-scale monitoring and observations. By involving citizen scientists, researchers can vastly increase the amount of data collected for a project and can carry out numerous simultaneous data collection events that would be impossible with only a single researcher. One of the most impressive examples of this is Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird. Through eBird, tens of thousands of citizen scientists around the world have contributed freely accessible bird observations that have enabled researchers to analyse migration patterns over time and relative to weather variables, to help conservation efforts, and to build beautiful, dynamic visualisations. Through participation in eBird and other Citizen Science projects, individuals have improved their understanding of the natural world and have been able to observe natural phenomena in their own backyards.
As the field of Citizen Science grows, citizen scientists are increasingly gaining experiences that enable them to take on organisational roles in research and to have a voice in co-creating scientific research projects. Equally important is the role that Citizen Science has in improving scientific literacy among participants, building support and community around timely scientific research.
Defined by Elizabeth Ellwood