What has been a challenge for the scientific community for year is the gap in understanding between the scientific community and the public. Scientific research papers are not really something the average person reads by the kitchen table every morning. Due to the challenges our natural world, the need for a bridge between the public and the scientific community is bigger than ever before. Research behind climate change and habitat destruction is constantly discredited due to a lack of understanding from the public which has resulted in many inaccurate “facts” being distributed by parties that do not really have the correct understanding of the subject.
A building block has been provided by the scientific community in order to make reduce this gap and that is the concept of citizen science. As the name suggests it is science done by citizens. In addition to building bridges, citizen science is also a way for scientists to detect global trends with relative low costs. You have programs such as eBird, a bird monitoring program or even World Water Monitoring Day were you can submit water samples to test the water’s quality around the globe (there is an extensive list of projects here).
There are some negative sides with involving the public in collection of data, as their background knowledge might not be good enough concerning identification of species and avoiding bias. Therefore when scientists analyse these kinds of data they need to be aware of this. However, the opportunity to create datasets that stretch across the globe, the increase in awareness and interest around scientific methodology and cost-efficient surveys makes citizen science a very important tool for modern science.
Citizen science is therefore a great way to get involved in science without necessarily having an academic background. There are many local non-profit organizations and NGOs around the globe that rely heavily on volunteers to help out in one way or another. Detection of global trends are more vital now than ever due to the insecurities created by climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, the increase of plastics in the oceans and other damaging factors affecting our future.