As I’ve mentioned a bit, I’ve written a book, and it’s going to be published in spring 2013.
It’s exciting news, although I’ve been remiss in shouting it from the rooftops. It’s been a year-long process so far, and a year is a long time to remain overwhelmed, and now that the book’s done I’ve got other projects that are absorbing time. But it’s time (or past time) to start talking about the book, and I hope you’ll be interested.
Let’s start, at least, with the basics.
1) The book is called Citizen Science: How You and Your Family Can Contribute To Real Research. At least I think it is; that’s the title that I pitched it with, and the publisher hasn’t indicated that it’s changing, although as I understand it they don’t exactly have to.
2) Citizen science is a general term for research projects that invite interested members of the public to take part in collecting and/or analyzing data.
2a) For example, let’s say that you’re a scientist studying animal migrations. It would be impossible for you to be everywhere that a given species is migrating at any given time, so obviously you need some help to collect all the information. But it’s not particularly difficult information to collect—and lots of people enjoy collecting this kind of information already. So giving researchers access to an army of assistants makes great sense, and the internet’s ability to make communications easier has helped the number of citizen science projects to explode.
2b) No, citizen science isn’t limited to that example. A lot of projects study animals of all kinds, but some look at plants, astronomy, weather, archeology, genetics, and more.
2c) Yes, it is real research. Or at least, it can be. There are projects at all levels of the spectrum of scientific rigor. In reality, citizen science projects tend to have three broad goals: research, education, and advocacy. Most hit all three of these to some extent, but the mix varies a lot.
3) The publisher is Huron Street Press.
4) The book will be available online and in some retail stores.
5) More will be forthcoming here, but a couple of good resources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (which operates a number of projects and maintains Citizen Science Central, a good directory with some additional general information); Zooniverse, which offers a lot of projects in a variety of subjects that are aimed more at data analysis than collecting; and the Citizen Science Center blog.