We’re all experts! Wait…is that a good thing?

On Thursday, October 14, ScienceForCitizens.net will host a panel discussion in partnership with George Mason University, Discover Magazine, and the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

The discussion, which is a preamble to the USA Science and Engineering Festival, will focus on the potential and the perils of turning everyone into an expert. The timing is perfect: These days, it seems as if researchers are drawing on the collective insights of ordinary citizens like never before for issues ranging from advancing science to improving public policy. Called crowd-sourcing, it’s a technique that finds the best solution by asking many minds and hands to work on the same problem at the same time.

Sci4Cits has several terrific examples of crowd-sourcing initiatives in our project finder now, including: Galaxy Zoo, Citizen Sky, Open Dinosaur Project, Foldit, and, most recently, Innocentive’s Challenge, a partnership with Boston’s Museum of Science in which citizens are called upon to submit creative concepts for the next great large-scale science or technology museum exhibit. The winner takes home $8,000!

So, let’s do a little crowd-sourcing of our own right now. Tell me your thoughts about these two questions:

Can tapping the wisdom of crowds provide better solutions to today’s greatest questions and challenges?

What are the potentials and the perils of turning everyone into an expert?

I’ll be moderating Thursday’s discussion and I’d like to hear your responses to these questions soon. Post a comment or question below, and I’ll do my best to work it into the public discussion.

And if you live in the D.C. area, try to attend. If you do, come say “hi”  and I’ll introduce you to the panelists:

  • Kirk Borne, Associate Professor, Astrophysics and Computational Science, George Mason University. Borne is the principal investigator of the Galaxy Zoo project.
  • David Rejeski, Director, Science and Technology Innovation, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. Rejeski creates techniques to include citizens in public policy formation, from online video games to prediction markets.
  • Dwayne Spradlin, President and CEO, Innocentive. Spradlin has helped ignite public-private partnerships enabling hundreds of thousands of “regular” people to participate in the development of solutions to challenges facing industry and nonprofits.
  • Robynn Sturm, Advisor to Deputy Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Sturm has worked on opening government data to the public and currently guides federal agencies towards participatory and incentive-based approaches to solving grand challenges.

The panel discussion takes place from 7 pm to 8:30 pm at George Mason University, Research 1 Building, Room 163, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, Virginia. Please RSVP to PSNELLIN@GMU.EDU

Can’t attend? Catch video highlights afterward via our YouTube Channel and our Video Gallery.

Categories: Citizen Science, Science Policy, USA Science and Engineering Festival

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About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.