What does it mean "Citizen Science"?
Citizen Science is scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists.
Today Citizen Science is used in many different fields (eg. biology, chemistry, physic, astronomy) and citizens can contribute in different ways: collect data, carry dataloggers to obtain environmental/climate parameters, report presence of animal or plant species ecc.
When did Citizen Science begin?
Even though Citizen Science seems a new concept, it has a long history, dating back to the XVIII century. In Europe the first observations of birds with the help of volunteers started and in North America lighthouse keepers were involved in collecting data about collisions of birds with lighthouses. During the last decades a big increase in the number of Citizen Science projects has occurred, thanks to new technologies (e.g. app for smartphones) that make it easy and cheap to communicate and to interchange data.
Why involve citizens?
To study certain ecological or natural phenomena, like geographic distribution of species or the abundance of populations, a large amount of data is necessary. This means a lot of work to collect the required data. Often the support by volunteers is essential for the success or for the feasibility of these kind of studies. The amount of data that can be obtained with the help of the public exceed by far the effort achievable by a few researchers and this allows these scientists to obtain results on a larger spatial and temporal scale.
Why get involved?
The reasons to get involved are varied: possibility to improve your capabilities by applying a scientific method, to gain more knowledge, to focus the attention on social and environmental issues and to develop a critical sense. While citizens invest their free time to learn different techniques and to collect data, professional scientists have to face a new challenge: guide and educate a large number of non-expert citizens and cooperate with them during the research work. The result is a collaboration which links the scientific/academic world and the generic public, a connectedness that is vital for the progress of the scientific research.