New Citizen Science course at Aarhus University

With the lead of Kristian Hvidfelt Nielsen, associate professor at the Department of Mathematics at Aarhus University, a new elective course will start. Students from all over the university can apply and learn about citizen science as valid research and educational method.

The story of citizen science

If you haven’t heard about citizen science before you found ScienceAtHome, you might think of it as a relatively new method. Interestingly, Nielsen filled us in on the history of citizen science which goes back to the beginning of science. The first scientists were all amateur citizens with a particular interest until the different science fields became more systematically founded. Citizens with a hobby like bird watching and amateur astronomers have also provided information to established scientists for a long time.

In recent years, citizen science has evolved to citizen participation mostly as data collectors. Due to the internet and the wide-spread of mobile devices, it’s possible to collaborate from anywhere, at any given time. According to Nielsen, this has huge potential since science then can rely on larger amounts of data. Though this is a great opportunity for science, citizens can also benefit and influence the direction of research by turning to science with their experienced problems.

New trends from the past

The dream now is to have extreme citizen science where the citizens not only work as data collectors but also do analyzing and are part of the decision-making on where to focus the research. The trend now is to strive for this, but it’s actually not a new invention. We see variations of projects that, in one way or another, have citizens as the main driving force. An example Nielsen brings up is the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

In the years leading up to 2000, a city in Louisiana was concerned with the quality of their air due to the many industrial plants in the area. They began using a standardized bucket to collect air samples and then collaborated with scientists who could measure the amount of different toxic gases.

This is a great example of how citizens taking matters into their own hands and using science for their specific needs. Science can empower citizens and it can be beneficial for them to engage in science. Citizen science is, therefore, not only used for data collection but also as a learning process for citizens to get involved with a particular subject.

At ScienceAtHome we became aware that some of our players in Quantum Moves sought more challenges and also a chance to dig deeper into the science behind. Therefore in Quantum Moves 2, we included changes where the optimization process now is moved from the scientists’ tables to the hands of the citizens. If you are interested in exactly how, we have a whole blog post about the new functionalities of the new version: Quantum Moves 2 beta launch.

Course structure

The structure of the Citizen Science course will be divided into two main parts. The first seven weeks are more theoretical with Nielsen's lead and showing examples of different citizen science projects. Then, for the last seven weeks, the students will choose a project to follow and do an analysis on. As a part of the program, students will also learn how to communicate science in a simple way. The course is an open elective at Aarhus University. Nielsen hopes to have a diverse group of students attending, exploring how citizen science can be used in various fields and getting more science students introduced to the importance of science communication.

Our ScienceAtHome headquarters also located at Aarhus University, we are looking forward to following the course and meet passionate students interested in how we do citizen science.

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New Citizen Science course at Aarhus University
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