Science Without the Degree and Debt

Citizen science means there’s something for everyone to do

We are surrounded, shaped and in constant interaction with science. And yet, we hardly ever recognize it. We like to imagine science as a distant world of high-tech laboratories, smoking test tubes or bearded men trudging through forests counting the rings on tree stumps. Whilst those images surely do exist, they represent but an infinitesimal part of science.

What is science, if not an understanding of the world we live in and attempts to use this for innovation? More importantly, is that not something which everybody should be intrigued by and want to be involved in? It seems, citizens always have had a profound interaction with the mysterious world of science and are increasingly able to do so thanks to technology.

The internet allows more widespread access to scientific information and cutting edge research than ever before. Widely available, it means everybody is able to use scientific revelations for their own innovative ideas and research. The advantage of citizen science is that it is based wholly on what the citizens who drive it desire to have as an outcome. Driven not by a company’s economic interests, strict deadlines or eye-catching outcomes, citizen science provides a space for research and invention driven by the people for the people.

Hence citizen science can take a radical form. In London, Ali-Webber launched the ‘I Like Clean Air’ project, which began with locally documenting the nitrogen dioxide levels on her street. It has grown to a London-wide campaign now lobbying the government to take action on clean air. Yet a myriad of approaches are possible. The beauty of citizen science is, you are restricted by nothing other than your own imagination. For example, Tim Omer has created an android app for diabetes. If you’re not technologically minded, you could get involved in region-wide collaborations to monitor bird nests, or search NASA images for interstellar dust.

Citizen science means people can investigate the issues that impact them daily: this could range from finding evidence to prove there is a significant problem or finding creative solutions to them. Moreover, it can mean that people interested in the workings of the world look for opportunities to investigate their passions. Whatever form citizen science takes, it celebrates a growing interaction with the wonderful world we live in. Above all, citizen science recognizes how we as humans are both shaped by and shaping the future of this planet.

[Kirsty Campbell]


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