Earlier this week I went along to an event at the National Museum of Scotland run by the University of Edinburgh’s Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing group. There were some fascinating projects and initiatives on display but the highlight of the event was undoubtedly Erinma Ochu‘s engaging and thought provoking public lecture on Crowd Sourcing for Community Development.
Erinma outlined the benefits that amateurs can bring to scientific research; they can help to validate data, fill in gaps in data collected by scientists, bring interesting new perspectives and, if they are not overly trained, they may be better able to spot patterns in data that scientists might miss. However Erinma also reminded us of the reciprocal aspects of citizen science. Citizen science should involve scientists serving the community, not just volunteers collecting data for research. It’s important to balance social and scientific value; the community building process is as important as the data product. We have a responsibility to make spaces in which social inclusion and engagement can happen. I particularly liked Erinma’s focus on citizen science as a learning opportunity; projects should give something back to the people who contribute the data and help them to learn. Along the way Erinma introduced some fascinating and inspiring projects including Turing’s Sunflowers, Farm Hack and Manchester City of Science Robot Orchestra.