Citizens take pictures of the sky that allow an app to calculate the particulate pollution. Photo: Jörg Farys / BUND
YES! topic 2018
Involving Citizens in Research: Improving Science and Society?
by Henry Sauermann, a researcher at ESMT Berlin.
Selected by Alfred Nobel Gesamtschule Potsdam and Oberstufenzentrum Lübben/Königs Wusterhausen
For the last century, scientific research has been done primarily by professional scientists such as professors in academia or scientists and engineers in large firms. More recently, science has opened up through the involvement of citizens in research, a phenomenon that is called “citizen science” or “crowd science”.
For example, hundreds of thousands of people have helped scientists on the platform Zooniverse with the coding of galaxy images produced by the Hubble Telescope, with the identification of animals on photographs taken in the Serengeti, or the discovery of new planets. Citizen Science is getting much attention because it may accomplish two critical goals. First, it can help with the production of more and better research because citizens provide valuable inputs such as labour and time, ideas, or knowledge about real-world problems.
Second, being involved in research may also benefit citizens by allowing them to learn about the research process, to get a better understanding of the value of data and evidence-based decision making, and to feel more connected to the research enterprise. Despite high hopes, however, it is not clear how well Citizen Science achieves these goals. The challenge is to understand potential barriers to the success of Citizen Science and to develop ideas on how these barriers can be overcome.