Though public participation in scientific research has deep roots in the history of science, in the last few years it has taken off spectacularly from launch pads across the disciplines of science and education, fueled by advances in communications technology and a sea change in a scientific culture now eager to welcome outsiders as collaborators.
Citizen science, crowd-sourced science, DIY research, volunteer monitoring, community participatory action research the variety of banners flying over participatory science projects reflects the diversity of their origins, from astronomy to zoology. This August, the first cross-disciplinary conference on Public Participation in Scientific Research will bring the clans together as part of the Ecological Society of America's 2012 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.
Citizen science projects give non-specialists the power to apply their curiosity about the natural world, and their love of puzzles and games, to real scientific questions. Projects have recruited naturalists and novices to classify galaxies, refine protein models, align DNA sequences, identify and count birds, record weather, and track plant and animal life through the changing of the seasons.
"The participatory science field has been growing, but in isolated silos. Even within the environmental sciences, the water quality people self-organize separately from the biology people," said Abe Miller- Rushing, one of the meeting organizers, and a science coordinator for the National Park Service. "We really wanted to have an open-invite meeting that emphasized innovation, and could kick-start conversations."
Miller-Rushing will open the conference with a presentation on the history of public participation in scientific research. He has a paper on the same topic, with Richard Primack of Boston University and Rick Bonney of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in the upcoming August 2012 special issue of ESA's journal Frontiers
|Contact: Liza Lester|
Ecological Society of America