Have you ever dreamt about being a part of a big scientific breakthrough that changes the world for the better?
At the beginning of the study of science, the majority of research was undertaken by self-funded amateurs. Over time, scientific research has moved toward being practiced by an exclusive club of people with multiple degrees, spending most of their time in labs, discussing subjects ordinary people would find difficult to understand. Meanwhile, their discoveries contribute to our understanding of the world and can affect our everyday life.
Citizen science is a movement to democratize science by giving power back to the citizens. Scientific advances shape our lives, and everyone should be able to contribute towards how those advances shape the future as conscious, informed citizens. Citizen science is about opening up science for everyone, focusing again on enthusiastic amateurs but this time with a much larger scope. Today’s technology allows everyone to contribute to research voluntarily, even from our own homes.
So, how about working together with professionals who share your passion for science and co-create new discoveries that can change the world? Scientists can develop the tools, establish a research environment and offer assistance while volunteers can engage with the problem as deeply as they wish and offer fresh research perspectives. At the core of Citizen science lies the emergence of an amazing global collaboration between citizens and researchers; that can inspire and discover new things together.
What are the benefits of Citizen science for scientists and citizens?
Let’s say a group of scientists want to do an experiment that requires several participants. Historically the participants would often be drawn from a limited number of students or graduates, often of mostly one gender who are from a western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic background. By using Citizen science methods the researchers can now draw from a much larger pool of people with increasingly diverse backgrounds resulting in creating more reliable findings.
As a research method, online Citizen science can accelerate research at a rate that would be impossible to reach otherwise. In participating, volunteers can also gain a unique learning opportunity with two components. Firstly, by doing real science you can learn scientific methods of systematically investigating problems. These methods can then be used in other areas of life while experiencing the dynamic nature of science. Second, engaging with a project could trigger an urge to discover more about a field, maybe finding a new hobby or even discovering a new passion.
You might love science, but never pursued a career in it, or you might be wondering what discipline to choose for your science career. In either case, you can try out multiple Citizen science projects in different fields to see which spikes your interest the most.
At ScienceAtHome we are enthusiastic advocates of Citizen science. We started our journey with Quantum Moves. Five scientists went out for a beer and started to discuss the scientific challenges standing in the way of building a quantum computer. One of the problems is how to transport an atom from ‘A’ to ‘B’ without changing its state. That night they realized that this can be translated to running with a glass of water (or beer) without spilling it. The idea of Quantum Moves was born, a complex scientific problem was turned into a tangible task making the problem more accessible to everyone. Then by developing the game, it allowed thousands of players to donate their solutions and contribute towards building a quantum computer.
Gamification is a great tool for Citizen science. It shifts doing science from toiling in a lab to casually gaming. Today, ScienceAtHome has several Citizen science games. Among them is Skill Lab: Science Detective, a Citizen science project that is investigating the human mind. By playing the game, you will help us better understand cognitive skills.
At ScienceAtHome we have a global and inclusive pool of volunteers working with us. We would like to involve them more in our research activities, from formulating new research questions to publishing and communicating results together. We are determined to provide interactive tools to volunteers to enable them to complete their own investigations in a fun way. For example, Quantum Composer allows users to take a look under the hood of Quantum Moves. By playing around in Composer one can better understand the science behind Quantum Moves. However, we haven’t yet reached our full potential in co-creating research with citizen scientists. We are currently working on a novel digital tool to let us all play and work together by facilitating all aspects of the Citizen science process.
If your answer to the question in the introduction was yes then don’t hesitate: become a citizen scientist. There are multiple projects out there for all kinds of interests with a common mission to democratize science. You don’t need extensive knowledge of a field of research to volunteer and you will gain an opportunity to learn and to co-create knowledge with scientists who will be happy to help you at any point.
You can visit our games page to see an overview of our projects. Hopefully, something will spark your interest!