How I crowdsourced a story on citizen science

Igor was a citizen scientist too!

During the last weeks I’ve had only a taste of the unbelievable amount of work that I am expected to survive to the end of June. So far, the outcome of lack of sleep plus permanent stress has been me just falling asleep in class.

But don’t worry, it will be worse.

There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on though. For instance, one of my favourite stories so far was crowdsourced via Twitter. I think it is a little, nice textbook example of how social networks can help finding stories and interviewees very quickly.

I was planning to do my next radio piece on an architecture project that I am supposed to cover for The Green Rooftop. Happened that I had the PR disappearing for a couple of days. Still hurt by my previous on-field report, spoiled by the worst media manager ever, I decided to spike the story and find something else.

Going through my twitterfeed, I found an interesting hashtag: #citizenscience. I applied it to the stream and followed the links, soon discovering that citizen science, or open science as somebody prefers to call it, is a very interesting idea. It is based on the principle of collaboration between people and scientists. People collect data on field and participate to the designing process of the experiment.

Scientists say that usually datasets collected by citizens are very accurate and reliable, because they are produced by people who know well the local environment.

Professor Muki Haklay, director of the research group in Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS), says that Charles Darwin was a citizen scientist as well, since he wasn’t employed by any university or institution. He was an amateur naturalist.

I interviewed professor Haklay after discovering his project via Twitter, and I did the same with my second interviewee, an expert from the Natural History Museum. They are carrying out a big project, OPAL, aiming to involve youngsters in nature’s observation and data collecting. OPAL, now at its fifth year, has been a great success.

It’s kind of funny how I crowdsourced a story about crowdsourcing. I was fortunate to find a very interesting topic and nice people to speak with. However, much more is going on and I think I won’t let citizen science out of my agenda for a while.

Next to come, my little piece of radio on the topic. Meanwhile, if you are curious, here’s an in depth story of the Science-for-Everyone:

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