[Good article on the impact of citizen science on academic research.
Cyber-infrastructure will not only impact the way we do science at
universities but with the advent of clouds, grids, SOA, remote
instrumentation and Web 2.0 I believe we are entering a new renaissance era
where amateur scientists can have access to the same tools and techniques
used by professional researchers. Of course these same tools also allow us
to move power hungry laboratory and computer equipment off of our campuses
to more environmentally friendly zero carbon renewable energy sites -
accessible to all. From a posting on Dewayne Hendricks list. BSA]
Wired writer Jeff Howe's "Crowdsourcing" thesis is this: the "experts" -
whether they're top-tier physicists or movie-studio heads - don't have a
monopoly on the creation or distribution of information anymore. The crowd,
through technology that's been available for little more than a decade, has
broken that monopoly, transforming everything from entertainment to cancer
Howe introduces this change with an amusing story about birdwatchers. Until
the Internet age, it was the experts who decided whether a bird is extinct
or not - and those experts still think they do. A few years ago, the
official scientific birdwatchers decided, after much study, that an extinct
bird in Mexico was actually not extinct.
But the amateur birdwatchers had long beaten them to this discovery with
their own online literature. "The birdwatchers were like, 'That's
interesting, but we did that a few years ago,' " one professional
ornithologist told Howe.
Before the 19th century, it was amateurs - often, but not always, from the
aristocracy - who made scientific discoveries, writing to each other to
share knowledge through informal societies like "the Invisible College,"
which later became the Royal Society.
But by the 1800s, universities and their increasingly specialized graduates
were jealous of the competition posed by amateurs, and started to shut them
out - successfully, until recently, when amateurs in fields ranging from
organic chemistry to investigative journalism could once again fairly
compete with the pros.
In science, an Italian homemaker with a heretofore unused organic chemistry
degree can put her talents to use after she puts her kids to bed, helping
companies like Procter and Gamble solve problems their own scientists
couldn't solve through a venture called InnoCentive. Participating companies
pay successful problem-solvers tens of thousands of dollars for their
breakthroughs. Video-renter Netflix has a $1 million reward on offer for
anyone who can increase a component of its customer-service software by 10