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Dragonfly August 5th, 2020
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DataFlash: “The Field Guide to Citizen Science: How You Can Contribute to Scientific Research and Make a Difference” – A Book Review

Posted by on February 14th, 2020 Posted in: Data Science, Health Literacy/Consumer Health, Training & Education
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“The Field Guide to Citizen Science: How You Can Contribute to Scientific Research and Make a Difference”,  written by SciStarter experts Darlene Cavalier, Catherine Hoffman, and Caren Cooper is a fantastic read.  They do an excellent job of explaining what defines citizen science, its history, and how you can easily become a citizen scientist with an array of citizen science projects that they highlight and recommend in their book.

They affirm that “citizen science is science”.  You don’t need science credentials to participate in these exciting and innovative science projects. The recipe to citizen science is just you and a group of scientists who really need your participation to further the aims of their research.  Often times, the research team you are working with will provide you with the protocols and procedures, explicit project instructions, as well as the required equipment if need be and structure to guide you with your observations and data collection.  On the the other hand, you give the scientists your knowledge through your observational work and analysis.  It’s a beautiful and mutually beneficial relationship!

Though, one thing that I was always skeptical about with citizen science was how scientists and researchers could trust citizen science data.  I learned though that with data collection and analysis from citizen scientists, that there exists a rigorous process for cleaning and collecting accurate data.  For example, generally if a data point stands out from the norm, it will undergo expert review. Also, to substantiate and validate data, citizen scientists as part of their data collection, some projects recommend that you submit photos of your specimen.  Among other things, extensive training and testing is done related to quality assurance and quality control for citizen science projects.  Lastly, I learned that almost one-quarter of citizen science projects compare data from many volunteers and validate data by independent consensus and sometimes projects request the same data in several different ways in order to double-check for errors.  It is these quality protocols that are ingrained into the citizen science project regiment that ensures citizen science data is trustworthy and valid.

For most of the book, the authors recommend about 50+ citizen science projects that are free or very affordable to do on your own or with your respective community.  These projects explore areas that range from environmental health to nature projects.  Most of the health related citizen science projects can be found on the NLM-SciStarter microsite of the SciStarter website.  As a result of Citizen Science month coming up this April 2020, the NNLM PNR group is planning a PNR-Rendezvous webinar on April 29th, 2020 at 1 PM PT, with guest speaker and SciStarter founder Darlene Cavalier.  For those libraries interested in doing a citizen science project for Citizen Science Month, please check out the Citizen Science Month page on the SciStarter website for community project ideas.

Image of the author ABOUT Nancy Shin
I received my Bachelor of Science in the Integrated Sciences majoring in medical genetics and animal biology from the University of British Columbia (UBC). I also graduated from UBC's esteemed MLIS program with a focus on health librarianship. In 2018, I was the Research Data Management Sewell Fund Fellow for the Technology Incubator at Washington State University. Currently, I'm the NNLM PNR Research and Data Coordinator for the University of Washington's Health Sciences Library. In my spare time, I enjoy photography, drawing, cooking and baking, and travelling the world!!!

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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