Coop's Scoop: Federal Citizen Science Tool Kit on next #CitSciChat

October 6, 2015 by Caren Cooper, Public Library of Science
Credit: Hadzabe after hunt by Andreas Lederer, farmer by David Baldi, children working in Georgia 1909 (Library of Congress), and Information Technology logo by Jhonathan Zamarchi

Senator Chris Coons (Delaware) has made it unambiguously clear that federal agencies should embrace crowdsourcing and citizen science. Senator Coons introduced the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act, the first proposed bill to clarify that all military branches, commissions, and executive branch agencies have the authority to harness the expertise of the public to more effectively carry out their missions.

Governance practices change with the economic basis of society, which are varied and change over time. After the transition from hunter-gatherers to agrarian society, there was a shift to industrial societies. Now these classifications are proliferating with the most recent shift to an information society, as well as a network society. The newest economies are mediated by communication technologies, in which sharing information and the production of knowledge are key commodities.

A prominent feature that shapes civilization is overlooked when we define a type of society by its dominant economic sector. That feature is leisure time. The quality of humanity's future may depend less on what people do on the job and more on what people do off the job. An individual's most valuable expertise may be put to use after punching out of the employment clock. Millions spend their non-work time assisting in scientific research, a process known as .

Citizen science is a story repeated over and over again. When ornithologists need data spanning states and countries, they ask bird watchers. When entomologists want information about bee pollinators in cities, they ask gardeners. When meteorologists want to forecast fine-scale patterns in weather, they draw on observations by people with rain gauges. When people want to know whether a neighboring industry is polluting their air or water, they collect and analyze samples with home tests kits, send samples to professional labs, or make hardware alternatives. Citizen Science has been an independent innovation in a wide range of disciplines, which goes to show how science needs the public just as the public needs science.

Screenshot of tool kit created by Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

Over 40 Federal agencies recognize the power of the non-work time of the public in producing new knowledge. These agencies belong to the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (FCPCCS). Representatives from these agencies developed an open, online tool kit to guide agencies (and others) in best practices for the design and implementation of citizen science projects to meet agency missions.

Last week, colleagues and I celebrated the tool kit at a citizen science forum, hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Domestic Policy Council, called "Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, For the People, By the People."

Industrial societies function with a high division of labor, but today we are networked to manage information exchange to collectively make discoveries, irrespective of one's type of employment. Senator Coon's bill will help ensure that our government agencies open doors to public participation in order to reach our collective potential. With citizen science, we can transition to a collaborative society.

Explore further: Citizen science in a nutshell: A guide to expanding the reach of environmental research

Related Stories

The influence of citizen science grows despite some resistance

September 16, 2015

Citizen science is taking off and could make a difference at regional and national regulatory levels. But not everyone thinks that's a good idea. The cover story of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine ...

Citizen science increases environmental awareness, advocacy

December 3, 2014

Citizens who get involved in science become more environmentally aware and willing to participate in advocacy than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. ...

You can be a star—on science's stage

November 14, 2012

The rapid growth in "citizen science" projects during the past decade is enabling more and more science enthusiasts, hobbyists, students and other ordinary people to participate in the excitement of real-world scientific ...

Recommended for you

Paleontologists report world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex

March 22, 2019

University of Alberta paleontologists have just reported the world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada. The 13-metre-long T. rex, nicknamed "Scotty," lived in prehistoric Saskatchewan ...

NASA instruments image fireball over Bering Sea

March 22, 2019

On Dec. 18, 2018, a large "fireball—the term used for exceptionally bright meteors that are visible over a wide area—exploded about 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the Bering Sea. The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.