Involving Citizens in Research: A platform for students and teachers to participate in scientific projects
Going back to a bird counting project in 1900 the approach of gaining scientific knowledge by involving non-scientists in the process of research gained growing attention in the last decades. Especially the appearance of the New Media as a basis for the power of an interconnected crowd boosted the perceived potentials of the idea. Nowadays non-scientists can be part of every phase of the research process – from defining relevant research questions through data collection to analysis and interpretation.
According to scientists like Henry Sauermann (EMTS Berlin) Citizen Science could be capable of solving major societal problems in various fields. In fact even the YES! project is a Citizen Science project as students, who are no scientists at first glance, develop approaches to master contemporary challenges. But besides all hopes, there are deficits as well. First of all questions of data quality, awareness, participation and acceptance within the scientific community impede the success of Citizen Science.
Our approach to deal with those problems is a connection between Citizen Science and the growing demand for meaningful as well as subject-oriented projects in schools. If we manage to move students and whole classes around the country to participate in Citizen Science projects, there will be a higher number of participants and a higher level of awareness in the first place. We suppose that students getting used to participate in Citizen Science projects will be prone to do such projects in later years. Furthermore, a higher number of participants could enable effective measures to ensure higher data quality by multiple counterchecks leading to growing acceptance within the scientific community after all.
The practical application of our approach to bringing Citizen Science into classrooms is a platform that interconnects scientists with their scientific projects on the one hand and teachers looking for subject-oriented projects to get their students to action on the other hand. The user interface facilitates matching projects with the contents of school curricula by subject and keyword indexing for scientists as well as subject and keyword searching for teachers.
To get students involved in the projects and motivated to participate on a high level of quality a connection between them and the scientists has to be established. Knowing the persons behind the project and the underlying higher goals lead to motivation and commitment. To achieve this every project is uploaded on the platform with an introductory video within which the scientist personally explains the fundamentals of his research project. Furthermore, the students get access to a project webpage that is updated regularly with information about the project and – as soon as completed – a short outline of the most important outcomes.