At the Citizen Science workshop, hosted last week by the Galaxy Zoo project, two of the people taking part were actual, real, citizen scientists. Both had careers outside science but had been drawn back into study through their involvement with the project. They were lovely, enthusiastic people and completely involved in Galaxy Zoo, spending long hours not just classifying the galaxies but helping to run the forum, gather material for papers, initiate new developments in the project and more.
They both said was that they liked being ‘zooites’ because they felt valued as collaborators, not used as ‘computers’ – that they were really ‘sharing in the science’. And also, most interestingly for me, that they felt those things because the stuff they were doing is good science.
If citizens are going to devote time and energy to a project, they have to feel it’s worthwhile. No one likes to feel used or relegated to being a mere resource. Citizen scientists, like any other scientists, want to know that the research is hypothesis-driven and that the results matter. Science is driven by questions and citizen science is no different to any other kind.