Citizen Science and Citizen Neuroscience
What is Citizen Science
Citizen science is science that is conducted by the public and often uses amateur scientists to collect and analyze data. Citizen science often relies on crowd sourcing, as is the case with Eyewire. By collecting small amounts of data from a large group of participants, citizen science provides and effective way to expand and improve on current research projects. A good way to continue the momentum of a citizen science project is to present the research as a game that provides fun for the players and useful scientific data for the researchers.
There are 10 steps towards creating a great citizen science project. Anyone can create one.
What is Citizen Neuroscience
Citizen neuroscience fills in the processing needs of the enormous amount of data that is being generated by the neuroscience field. Eyewire, for instance, contributes by reconstructing neuronal volume data from electron micrographs. This project will help map the brain, to answer "how the brain works and what happens in a diseased brain." (1)
Popular Citizen Science Endeavors
EyeWire is one of many citizen science projects. Others include (ones that include neuroscience are starred):
- Foldit - * helps with Alzheimer's
- Zooniverse - * includes projects like Brain Match and Etch a Cell
- BOINC - * examples are MindModeling@Home and Rosetta@Home
- SciStarter - * like "My Steps 2 Health" Field Test
- Eve Online - see also
- Citizen Science Association
- Citizen Science Alliance
- CitizenScienceGov - due to the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2016
Success of Citizen Science
Many publications emerge from citizen science projects (like BOINC), with findings. With Eyewire, two publications emerged. One is about how retinas (of mammals) detect motion. This came out in 2014. A later one, in 2017, detailed the discovery of 6 new types of neurons (all retinal ganglion cells). These were mapped, by Eyewirers, during the Neuropia Countdown on Eyewire.
Using a citizen-science approach rather than a professional one, saves about 2/3 of the project's costs. Discoveries have an economic impact (like helping businesses avoid regulatory troubles), and the there's also money saved by not paying salaries (millions 1, 2, or billions). These are important in an age of declining funding in science and education. Citizen science keeps science going when the funding is not there for it.
Citizen Science projects complement learning, as they: 1) have another mode of learning (in addition to writing, hearing, etc.), 2) find the real-world applications and impact of what they learn, and 3) can find discoveries that they can gain new insights on.
Why Citizen Science has Gained Popularity
Current researchers have better opportunities to reach the public through mobile phones, the internet, etc.
Citizens participate in these projects, because they believe it will make the world a better place 1, 2, 3, and 4. Others want to contribute to science, and citizen science provides them with opportunities not normally given to them (most science requires being a professional or expert, with degrees, to participate in any research). There's also motivation of being part of something bigger than the individual, where a person can know that they can contribute and leave a positive impact in the world. It also may also improve their daily life (through the discoveries, and money (like taxpayer) saved through them) too.