Exploring Citizen Science

By Arvind Suresh (Editor) | August 2, 2014 2:59 am
Editors Note: This post, written by Christine Nieves, originally appeared on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Pioneering Ideas blog.  Check out the citizen science projects mentioned in the post, such as FoldItSound Around You, and FightMalaria@Home on SciStarter.

Christine Nieves/RWJF

Christine Nieves/RWJF

I remember the distinct feeling of learning about Foldit. It was a mixture of awe and hope for the potential breakthrough contributions a citizen can make towards science (without needing a PhD!). Foldit is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. In 2011, Foldit users decoded an AIDS protein that had been a mystery to researchers for 15 years. The gamers accomplished it in 3 weeks. When I learned this, it suddenly hit me; if we, society, systematically harness the curiosity of citizens, we could do so much!

This is the spirit behind our recent exploration to learn more about how citizen scientists are addressing some of the most pressing problems in health and health care.

Health-related citizen science projects encompass a wide gamut of areas ranging from oncology and epidemiology to more social aspects such as community health and health care delivery. Citizen participation ranges from game play, with projects like Foldit, to data collection using mobile phones and other devices, such as in the noise pollution research project Sound Around You, and data generation using sampling kits or completing surveys, as with Flu Near You. Other projects, such as FightMalaria@Home simply ask individuals to donate their computer’s processing power.

Through “Exploring a Culture of Health: A Citizen Science Series,” a blog series produced by SciStarter—a place to find and participate in citizen science projects—and Discover Magazine, we have spotlighted some of the ways our grantees are working to improve health, from making doctor visits more effective to boosting the health of whole communities. I hope readers of this series will share their own thoughts and ideas about how citizen scientists can get involved and help advance these efforts.

Check out the latest blog posts and join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #citsci:

Image: Christine Nieves/RWJF
MORE ABOUT: Culture of Health
  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    It was a mixture of awe and hope for the potential breakthrough contributions a citizen can make ” The very best military drone pilots are gamers not pilots. Folidit stars are gamers not chemists Management is rewarded for quantitatively enforcing rules and minimizing risk. Quality is not a spreadsheet entry. When all you have is a BNC feedthrough, all of your electrical problems look coaxial.

    1) You do not need a license to think.
    2) Formal approaches to progress are managerially exhausted. The future lies in creativity and external inputs, all of which are insubordination. Never fund untenured faculty! They have risky ideas.
    3) A good idea need only be testable. It is believable afterward.
    4) You cannot win against a savant. HR will never hire one. Crowd source, collect the honey, discard the bees.

    What happens to kids who face difficulties like poverty or neglect early in life? ” They become addicts or slit throats. The former is an entirely fine removal from society. The latter’s value depends on the tool and the throat. The future is meant to be dangerous. All progress is born in blood.


Citizen Science Salon

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Citizen Science Salon, brought to you by SciStarter, is where science enthusiasts can join forces with top researchers. We'll feature weekly collaborative, crowdsourced, and DIY research projects that relate to what you're reading about in Discover, so you can take science into your own hands. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Arvind Suresh (Editor)

Arvind Suresh has a Master's degree in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelors degree in Biotechnology from PSG College of Technology, India. He is also an information addict, gobbling up everything he can find on and off the internet. He enjoys reading, teaching, talking and writing science, and following that interest led him to SciStarter. Outside the lab and the classroom, he can be found behind the viewfinder of his camera.


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