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article imageCitizen science plays a key role in research

By Tim Sandle     Nov 25, 2012 in Science
A growing citizen science movement has become increasingly successful. A recent U.K. report has heralded the success of science activists.
According to a review undertaken by the UK Environmental Observation Framework (UK-EOF), supported by the Nerc Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and the Natural History Museum, London, the global citizen science movement is becoming increasingly successful and the movement has contributed to the work of professional scientists and academics.
So, what is 'citizen science? As a minimum it involves people participating in both scientific thinking and data collection. UK-EOF notes that there are several, sometimes competing designations. The body sets out its own interpretation as the activity of:
“volunteer collection of biodiversity and environmental data which contributes to expanding our knowledge of the natural environment, including biological monitoring and the collection or interpretation of environmental observations”
The review includes a guide, designed to provide the citizen scientific community with advice on how to develop, implement and evaluate citizen science projects. This includes advice on how to collect data and how to harness technology, like smartphone, to provide digital data. The guide is written by Dr John Tweddle from London's Natural History Museum.
The biggest success has come from citizen scientists collecting data relating to the environment. Dr Helen Roy, an ecologist from the CEH is quoted by the BBC as saying:
"Participation with environmental science and natural history has a long history, especially in Britain, long before it was termed 'citizen science'. However, the development of communication technologies through the internet offers many new options which will help even more people to get involved in contributing information for monitoring our environment, which is under increasing pressure."
On a global scale, the Citizen Science Alliance has been set up to encourage citizen scientists (and potential scientists) to become involved and to share ideas and research.
The Alliance encourages citizen scientists to help analyze data that has been gathered by professional researchers. Examples include projects like Zooniverse (research from classifying galaxies to collating climate data).
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