Citizen Science’s New Wave

Scientists are getting more citizens than ever involved in research projects that could impact their communities.

By | February 17, 2012

image: Citizen Science’s New Wave Bayaka family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Wikimedia Commons, L. Petheram/USAID

Bayaka family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, L. PETHERAM/USAID

This week’s London Citizen Cyberscience Summit, organized by the Citizen Cyberscience Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, will bring together citizens and scientists to discuss ongoing projects in the growing arena of citizen science.

Researchers around the world are working to expand the bounds of citizen science, so that anyone, anywhere, regardless of expertise or education level, can gather data, reported Nature. Scientists hope that citizens will become involved not only in amassing data, but in shaping the research questions that impact their communities.

The new research group Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) at University College London is one team that is actively developing research tools intended for use by anyone, with the goal of aiding local communities. ExCiteS co-director Muki Haklay calls this “extreme” citizen science because the projects aren’t limited to relying on highly educated volunteers, and it can get extreme in location as well. One study employing the new ideas is ongoing in the Congo Basin, where Bayaka pygmies carry hand-held GPS devices to map poaching and deforestation they encounter during their travels.

Not all scientists are ready to start recruiting, however. The reliability and accuracy of this scale of citizen-garnered data is untested, they argue, and how duties should be divided between scientists and laypeople could be problematic. Others are concerned that science could become too closely associated with community activism, compromising scientific objectivity.

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Comments

Avatar of: tresgatas

tresgatas

Posts: 2

February 22, 2012

thank you

Avatar of: tresgatas

tresgatas

Posts: 2

February 22, 2012

I fully support the contribution of what we call “Local
Expertsâ€쳌 in Citizen Science. As mentioned in the article, some measure of
“Observer Reliabilityâ€쳌 should be conducted, on all participants, regardless of
educational background (Elbroch et al. 2011. The Value, Limitations, and
Challenges of Employing Local Experts in Conservation Research. Conservation
Biology. Vol 25, Issue 5). I suggest that the author write a follow-up story on
a system that predates these and has been in operation since 1997. The CyberTracker
system (http://cybertracker.org/) was developed
by Louis Liebenberg (louis@cybertracker.co.za)
in Southern Africa, and is freely available because Louis mission’ was to
create something that people (not just well-funded scientists) could use in
long-term monitoring of the environment. This software was originally developed
to enable employment of non-literate Kalahari Bushmen (of Lone Tree in the
Kalahari) in track-based data collection for wildlife management. The software is
 icon driven, and GPS enabled, and allows
the employment and contributions of non-literate people who have PhD level
knowledge of their environment. Louis soon noticed that there were different
skill levels among trackers, evidenced by some anomalies in the data collected
– and developed a tracking evaluation system to complement his software, i.e. a
measure of observer reliability. Since its conception, CyberTracker has is
being  used all over the world in
national parks, scientific research, citizen science, education, forestry,
social surveys, health surveys, crime prevention and disaster relief. 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 22, 2012

thank you

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 22, 2012

I fully support the contribution of what we call “Local
Expertsâ€쳌 in Citizen Science. As mentioned in the article, some measure of
“Observer Reliabilityâ€쳌 should be conducted, on all participants, regardless of
educational background (Elbroch et al. 2011. The Value, Limitations, and
Challenges of Employing Local Experts in Conservation Research. Conservation
Biology. Vol 25, Issue 5). I suggest that the author write a follow-up story on
a system that predates these and has been in operation since 1997. The CyberTracker
system (http://cybertracker.org/) was developed
by Louis Liebenberg (louis@cybertracker.co.za)
in Southern Africa, and is freely available because Louis mission’ was to
create something that people (not just well-funded scientists) could use in
long-term monitoring of the environment. This software was originally developed
to enable employment of non-literate Kalahari Bushmen (of Lone Tree in the
Kalahari) in track-based data collection for wildlife management. The software is
 icon driven, and GPS enabled, and allows
the employment and contributions of non-literate people who have PhD level
knowledge of their environment. Louis soon noticed that there were different
skill levels among trackers, evidenced by some anomalies in the data collected
– and developed a tracking evaluation system to complement his software, i.e. a
measure of observer reliability. Since its conception, CyberTracker has is
being  used all over the world in
national parks, scientific research, citizen science, education, forestry,
social surveys, health surveys, crime prevention and disaster relief. 

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