You don't have to work in a laboratory or wear a white coat to be a scientist. In fact, you don't even have to have any formal training. Average citizens are getting involved in the scientific process every day by participating in citizen science, a movement in which volunteers are helping 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 were to have 100 different people each test one water sample, it would undoubtedly be faster than having one scientist test 100 different water samples.
A perfect example of the citizen science phenomenon is GLOBE, or Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment. GLOBE has participants in 110 different countries and its members, mainly students and teachers, work together on a global scale to gather information and data on the Earth's environment [source: Birds]. They have projects for people of every skill level. Some involve simply identifying birds in your backyard and counting them, while others will teach you how to collect breeding data in a group effort to track bird reproduction throughout North America.
With recent advances in technology, it's getting easier and easier to become involved in citizen science. Cell phones rarely are classified simply as portable telephones these days. Most of them allow us to make measurements, collect data and send it over the Internet. The Common Sense Research Project is attempting to utilize cell phones for just that purpose. By having people collect information about the world around them, they hope to achieve a better understanding of our environment and its climate [source: Urban Atmospheres].
It's easy to see how citizen science can be used in almost every aspect of science. You could even start a local citizen science program to collect and analyze data of particular interest to your community. If it's important to you, it's probably important to somebody else. We can all make a difference and we can all be citizen scientists.
To learn more, visit the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Who We Are and What We Do." 2008. (Accessed 6/1/2009)http://www.birds.cornell.edu/netcommunity/citsci/who-we-are
- GLOBE. "The GLOBE Program." (Accessed 6/1/2009)http://www.globe.gov/fsl/html/aboutglobe.cgi?intro&>
- Miller, Terrie. "Citizen Science Projects: About." CitizenSci. (Accessed 6/1/2009)http://citizensci.com/about/
- Urban Atmospheres. "Citizen Science." (Accessed 6/1/2009)http://www.urban-atmospheres.net/CitizenScience/