The world of citizen science is growing rapidly, says the Associated Press' Mary Esch. Once restricted to tasks like counting birds for the Audubon Society, non-scientist volunteers are now being put to use by researchers for a variety of projects — some involve counting various types of organisms, while others involve recording data on the weather, water quality, and other phenomena, Esch says. Darlene Cavalier started a Web site called ScienceForCitizens when she was a grad student writing a thesis on citizen science. The site brings together researchers who need volunteers to help with their projects and people who are interested in helping with a little research. "For researchers, volunteers provide free labor and are able to complete a great deal of work in a short time if there are a lot of them," Esch says. While the research community has been a little wary of involving civilians in its work, better designed projects and new methods of "weeding out bad data" have made more scientists comfortable with the idea, Esch adds.
Citizens for Science
May 10, 2011