Knowledge is power. The proliferation of the internet has shown that people naturally want to educate themselves in subjects they care about. Never before has so much knowledge been this readily available before. As the phenomenon known as crowdsourced knowledge continue to grow, aided by Wikipedia and its complex network of contributors, another form of science was born. Dubbed “citizen science,” this new type of learning emerged from the data maelstrom of the internet with one goal: to teach as many as possible through shared experiences.
Like tapping into a mental collective, citizen science asks only that its practitioners observe and document the world around them. By taking in nature, culture, experience and information, you add a perspective to a vast ocean of input. Millions of ideas coalesce to form a comprehensive view of our world, filtered through the perception of hundreds.
Organizations across the globe have begun utilizing citizen science as a means to gather data. The U.S. Geological Survey reached out to hundreds of bird watchers, nature aficionados, and observant citizens to document their local findings. Whether measuring the blooming cycles of flowers or migratory patterns of our nation’s birds, the undeniable advantage of utilizing one of the most abundant resources on the planet, humans, is as brilliant as it is time-saving.
Other industries of repute have joined the citizen science mission alongside the U.S.G.S. NASA, the FCC (Federal Communication Commission), and the National Archives have begun using the public to better catalog data. In a country where there are 6 million registered scientists compared to a staggering 300 million “citizen scientists,” it’s shocking to think of not using such an abundant resource.
However, citizen science is not without its difficulties. The process of scientific discovery is free from bias, belief or manipulation. If you expand the realm of contributors to one piece of data, you naturally increase the opportunity for “incorrect” observations to be made. The managing of citizen science has become a science unto itself. A necessary process when thousands of perspectives are colliding. Can so many varying opinions, viewpoints, and perspectives remove the bias in research by making one scientist into many, or can too much data dilute the information?