Science is a means of our Understanding the truth of Nature and its marvelous creation and systems.
For hundreds of years people of Science have ventured into the abyss of the unknown reality of the universe, whether it’s in Physics, Astronomy or Biology. The curiosity of human mind has drove the chain of knowledge over the extended horizon of evolution of human minds. From the inquisitive minds of early philosophers, great thinkers to primeval scientist and to modern day Scientist, Science has come so far from its early days. The metamorphosis of primitive science to present day and age with advanced Science was brought about by the curiosity of the people.
Over the generation, the scientific exploration was limited to the experts of the related field. But with the dawn of the last two decades or so the concept of Citizen Science has come to light. Citizen Science can be simply defined as the “Involvement of volunteers in Science” unlike the past methods of involving professionals related to scientific field for scientific research in a non-collaborative way. Citizen science deals in a broad arena of society. Citizen science refers to the involvement of non-Scientific community in scientific research. It is often referred to as “Amateur Science” or “Crowdsourced Science”.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary: Citizen Science can be defined as – “Scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions”
Curiosity is not limited by the availability or core interest in the scientific field. A person can choose not to be a Scientist yet have curiosity about things in Science. Citizen science brings those people into the domain of scientific research. One doesn’t need an advanced degree in Ecology to study the diversity and distribution of a particular birds of an area. They can work as a citizen Scientist. Citizen science is all about collaboration of Scientist with the general public who are interested to work/volunteer on scientific works. Their involvement can be limited to collecting data to analysis or even at times getting published.
Within the framework of relation to the Biological science and Environment, knowledge of local people is powerful, not just in mapping the biodiversity of the area but even to understand the habitat use and behavior of those animals. This collaboration of scientists and general public not only brings the local knowledge into the play but also helps to raise awareness among the general public. At times the local knowledge is even better than the knowledge of the Scientist because they have been using or observing any biological resources within area for many generations. The local knowledge of Ethno-biology can surpass the knowledge of an Ethno-biologist. It is for this reason, any research in Science, can be very useful with the involvement of the local community or any general form of public. As per the report of “UK Environmental Observational Framework” citizen science has been a very useful tool in the scientific study. The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is one of the famous citizen science project which has been very successful in the field of wildlife conservation. In the year of 2011 more than 600,000 people were involved in the survey, which could be the world’s biggest wildlife survey.
Bird Track is an online Citizen Science website operated by British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) which gives a platform for anyone anywhere in the world to records birds.
The Great Nature Project is another project by National Geography to document the biodiversity of the Earth.
The concept of Citizen Science is not restricted just to natural science. There are numerous projects on Astronomy, Chemistry. The Zooniverse provides platform for Physics, Chemistry, Space science, History, Medicine etc.
Why Citizen Science?
Citizen science is the best way to contribute back to the community. Not only it will help to enhance the conservational efforts of the local level, but it will broaden the understanding of scientific knowledge to the general public. It will help people understand the various changes and threats that one particular species or an ecosystem as a whole is facing. Conservation starts from the local level, the process of bringing science to the general public will improve the methods of conservation. Citizen science brings people from different background into the domain of scientific research, hence giving rise to broad arrays of solutions for the environmental problems that a particular area is facing or is vulnerable to. The local people might be living in an ecosystem with vast importance and not realize it, or in a way over exploiting it. Their involvement in citizen science project will definitely help change their views about it.
All in all Citizen Science project generates new and in depth knowledge which could be limited otherwise. And moreover it will help to spread knowledge and awareness for the conservation of an ecosystem as a whole.