You don't have to work in a laboratory or wear a white coat to help with science. In fact, you don't even have to have any formal training. Average citizens are getting involved in science every day by becoming citizen scientists — volunteers who help professional scientists collect and analyze data. This mobilization of volunteers allows a wide range of data to be collected quickly.
Think about it like this: If you have 100 different people collect and test one water sample, it would undoubtedly be faster than having one scientist collect and test 100 different water samples.
Citizen Science in Action
A perfect example of the citizen science in action is GLOBE, or Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment. GLOBE an international science and education program founded on Earth Day 1994. It's primarily administered by NASA, though other U.S. governmental agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of State (DoS) and National Science Foundation (NSF), also participate.
Since its founding, GLOBE has given students and the public the chance to contribute to various science programs. "It takes a whole community to understand science," Dr. Nancy Glenn, a professor in the Department of Geoscience at Boise State University in Idaho said in a press statement. “We can learn from each other. Observations citizen scientists make might be different than the observations someone like me, who has a directed approach in the field, might make. Marrying those types of observations is really important.”
Currently Globe has participants in 125 countries and its members — mainly students and teachers — who work together as "GLOBE Observers." They're gathering info on everything from the conditions of clouds and mosquito habitats to analyzing satellite data for NASA. There's always a science project looking for citizen scientists. You can even use GLOBE data in your own research.
Be a Citizen Scientist Now!
GLOBE launched its newest project April 15 — the 2021 Trees Community Challenge and is asking for GLOBE Observers help to collect data about trees. There are tons of different activities for both adults and kids — even entire neighborhoods — to join in on.
Ways you can participate:
GLOBE provides tons of inspiration and ideas for how you can become a citizen scientist for the 2021 Trees Community Challenge. The challenge runs from April 15 until May 15, 2021, and includes live webinars with arborists and tree experts, and online books, articles and videos. Plus the Community Trees Challenge activity tracker was made available by Los Angeles Public Library in English, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian and Spanish.
Originally Published: Jun 4, 2009