After a decade of steady growth in the concept of citizen science, several US universities are placing big bets that the approach is hitting critical breakthroughs in cost savings and capacity for discovery.
The front-runners include North Carolina State University, Arizona State University and Cornell University, all of which have hired faculty to systematically push ways of infusing research with public input.
The institutions have positioned themselves out front at a moment of fast-accumulating evidence that average citizens can make meaningful contributions to science – yet amid lingering concerns about data accuracy and reliability, and more substantial fears about undermining social equity.
Academic sceptics remained, but the evidence of net value has now become overwhelming, said one leading practitioner, Darlene Cavalier, professor of practice at Arizona State. “That ship has turned for sure,” Professor Cavalier said.