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Citizen Science and the Age of Knowledge Generosity

On the eve of Thanksgiving, we tend to start our annual pondering about how we might give more to our friends and family, and maybe even to the world. Citizen scientists–whether they consciously realize it or not–are behaving in a uniquely giving mood with every bird they count, PC time they donate, comet they spot, or galaxy structure they visually identify. The efforts of citizen scientists are a pure form of generosity through the free distribution of knowledge.

Scientific advancement through the professional academic universe certainly has developed an entrenched hierarchy of those who know the “truth,” those who are learning the “truth,” and … everyone else. Having personally experienced the educational opportunities inside advanced scientific learning, it would seem nearly impossible or impractical for an at-home, informal learner of any age to tap into meaningful research or scientific discovery. The notion of the average citizen directly contributing to actual scientific advancement would seem counter intuitive–to the professional academic community.

But, with the advancement of communication technologies in the 21st Century, from Internet technologies to hand-held computing devices, the power of real scientific participation is being delegated to the masses. And, the masses are taking part. Profoundly, they are volunteering their time, skills, and general enthusiasm to explore nature and the universe to not only help with the advancement of scientific understanding, but to increase their personal appreciation for that elusive “truth.”

Roger Highfield, former Telegraph science editor and current editor of New Scientist, recently realized this profound volunteer effort of the crowd and how their contributions have been dramatically influencing scientific advancements, and will certainly continue to do so.

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“Crowdsourcing and open source: knowledge is a gift” :: The Telegraph by Roger Highfield :: November 23, 2010 :: [ READ ]