As the field of citizen science grows rapidly, multiple factors are emerging to consider and troubleshoot. In a recent article, “Next Steps for Citizen Science,” published in the journal Science, the authors outline a roadmap for the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead as the field begins to emerge.
The authors’ main call is to build capacity in the field through open-source data management and analysis and project management and evaluation services. By fortifying these services, the field can address the skepticism that comes with the nature of non-professional data collection.
Training for data-gathering. Women from Komo (Republic of the Congo) learning to map in the forest, as part of the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) Intelligent Maps project. Photo Credit: Gill Conquest, EXCITES, University College London.
One of the many benefits of citizen science are the dual scientific and social goals that can be realized through community-driven research, according to the article. These initiatives capitalize on “under-utilized local knowledge to uncover or regulate air and water quality, deforestation, and rare species distribution questions.” Building infrastructure capacity to maintain these partnerships will strengthen the role science plays in society.
The authors say another challenge is the growing number of citizen science projects. As technology empowers and enables communities to begin their own projects we have seen a proliferation and a variety of repeat projects. This results in either repeat data collection or loss of power in large datasets. To avoid redundancy, the field needs to do a careful inventory of existing projects.
The article ends with an introduction to the newly formed international Citizen Science Association which aims to promote and support best practices in the field. This association could manage a network of regional “Citizen Science Centers” which would aid local projects in data collection, protocol development, data management, analysis and sharing, the authors say.
Check out the full article here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6178/1436.full