The Importance of Citizen Science

The Importance of Citizen Science

Today’s post is by Jannatul Ferdous.

As the name suggests, citizen science is scientific research projects that are supported by public participation. Engaging in a citizen science project is pretty simple. And, there are numerous research projects you can engage in, from ecology, geography, environmental science, and astronomy, that help progress research by engaging citizens.

Over the years, citizen science has evolved drastically since the common use of smartphones and app development. With smartphones and these citizen science apps, people can collect information about what they observe in their environment. The observations that the public collects not only help research accumulate more data, it also helps scientists share the information and data with policymakers and others in the scientific community. Policymakers can use these data to propose and pass policies based in real-world, large datasets.

Among the public, there may be many misconceptions about what scientists do, how scientists conduct research, and how scientific research impacts the public. When the public engages in citizen science, they are able to more fully understand how the scientific process works. Citizens also get the experience of contributing important data to large research projects.

There are many citizen science research projects ongoing in the United States and among other countries. For example, iNaturalist is a citizen science app that lets you take pictures of plants and animals you see when out in nature. Naturalists from throughout the world help identify those plants and animals. Species identification, in combination with the date and location where you found the organism, help scientists have a better idea of when and where certain organisms occur. With people throughout the world contributing to iNaturalist, scientists are able to collect massive amounts of information and make more informed interpretations about plants and animals.

Students participating in our Y-CITYSCI program are learning how to use many different citizen science apps to help collect scientific data and support science in their community. The Y-CITYSCI team is working with students in southwest Illinois to teach them skills to collect data and understand how science works.  We hope to encourage these students to feel comfortable conducting scientific research, communicate with the science world, and participate in research within their own community.

Check out previous blog posts and our Instagram page, @YCITYSCI, to learn about free citizen science apps that we like to use.