Count butterflies, report the Hogweed and otsmotret galaxy – scientists need your help

Civil science is the cooperation of scientists and ordinary people, which help them to collect, and sometimes to process information, giving a result that could not to no one, even the biggest and richest College. This science is available to everyone – you can now watch spiral galaxy, count butterflies or birds or become part of the most advanced in the world a random number generator to test Einstein’s theory.

Photo: depositphotos

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Why count butterflies through the app

A few days ago ended with the next phase of data collection one of the largest civil projects of science – like observations of the British organization “Save the butterflies”.

From 20 July to 12 August, the organization took the data from all comers, agreed to spend 15 minutes on the street and count all the butterflies seen, as well as using a prepared statement to determine the species of each insect seen. This world’s largest project to count the butterflies are created not for their own sake, but for the sake of observation and forecasts of large-scale environmental changes. And the butterfly proved to be a great indicator – they are fragile and most susceptible to them.

Photo: Unsplash

The data collected is very easy for our time – via website or mobile app. And promotion strategy initiatives this year, the scientists chose a very original: using observations of butterflies are encouraged to consistently distract from sad thoughts about Brucite (Brexit an acronym of two English words Britain (UK) and Exit (output) the process of a British exit from the European Union. Approx.ed.). Anyway, remind doctors, exposure to nature is beneficial for mental health.

Scientists undertake the task, the solution of which is impossible without attracting lovers

So what is civil science (citizen science) and why scientists are turning to the help of citizens? The notion arose spontaneously in the USA and the UK in the mid-90s, and the phrase got into the Oxford dictionary in 2014. He explained that civil science is the “scientific work undertaken by members of the General public in collaboration or under the guidance of professional scientists“. Add to this definition two factors:

– attract lovers allows scientists to undertake tasks which are impossible (or requires unrealistic large resources) without this participation.

– such joint work enables the scientists to hope that scientists-lovers will eventually become a better understanding of how professional science works, and will treat it with less skepticism.

Civil science, of course, is unthinkable without modern possibilities of information dissemination and social networking in the broadest sense of the word. Data about butterflies loaded in the app, you can collect much more than in the days of paper letters, with which people, in principle, could also inform scientists about the results of observations.

But there were many mandatory and patient willing. So a lot of projects on citizen science, regardless of discipline tied to IT.

Photo: Unsplash

As players help scientists

So, one of the oldest and largest projects – the game FoldIt – directs to a peaceful course tireless energy gamers. The aim of the game is to fold a three-dimensional puzzle in the optimal configuration. In fact it is disguised to optimize three-dimensional structure of the protein for which you want to find the configuration with the lowest free energy. Just described this task without the involvement of specialized terms.

Since the public launch of the game in 2008 it was attended by over 240 million players, most of which are not biochemists. So, in 2011, players helped scientists to solve the crystal structure of the virus that causes HIV in monkeys. Before publishing the tasks on the website, the researchers struggled with this problem for 15 years, and motivated by competition with each other, the players have solved it in 10 days.

It is quite sophisticated and elegant way to attract fans to the solution of scientific problems – most often their task easier and is reduced to the observations. So, in different countries people are asked to consider the above-described butterflies, birds, report any bugs in the ocean debris.


But there are also more exotic cases. In June of this year in the scientific journal Nature published the work for which about 100 thousand volunteers were used as the perfect random number generator. The media filled the headlines “Einstein was wrong”, and scientists were able to understand one of the fundamental disputes about the Universe.

The new trend is to use manual labor of volunteers where you do not need special qualifications. So, Tate offers to decrypt and translate to the printed form of the diaries of the artists that are stored in the archive gallery. As the oldest and a romantic direction, stargazing, US organization of Amateur astronomers working with the 1911. And now help scientists to study the starry sky can be, sitting at his computer. For example, NASA gives everyone the opportunity to watch the images taken by the Hubble space telescope, and describe the direction of rotation of spiral galaxies (any human eye knows where the clockwise rotation, and counterclockwise).

Photo: Unsplash

The website brings together information on a large number of projects on citizen science, that everyone can find something for everyone.

Report the Hogweed and eutrophication

By nature, civil science has no borders and national identity – to join the projects can online anyone. However, if you don’t speak English or want to help Russian scientists, the opportunity was there. The bird conservation Union of Russia coordinating Russian participation in international projects birdwatching. No less a benefit you bring, saying you saw threat “visiting” plant – cow parsnip Sosnowski. The seasonal phenomena of nature can be observed, helping phenological network PRO. Scientists from Buryatia asked to report eutrophication.

If you are brave and motivated aspiring scientist-citizen, it is possible to take more substantive action beyond the digital universe. So, scientists from the Institute of Bioorganic chemistry in Moscow and Krasnoyarsk scientific center of Siberian branch of RAS are asked to look at his cottage or in the forest of glowing worms.

Scientists from the Institute of ecology and evolution for research purposes take the skeletons of dogs. Project Russian Travel Geek offers to join as a helper-volunteer scientific expeditions in exotic and remote regions. Finally, the Institute of archaeology RAS periodically invites volunteers to participate in most of these excavations.

One of the founders of the Galaxy Zoo project, coordinating Amateur astronomers, astrophysicist Kevin Sowinski said of civil science, by comparing it with crowdsourcing:

Kevin Sowinski

“Civil science is a much more correct definition of what you have to do. You are an ordinary person, but you do science. Crowdsourcing (eng. Crowd – crowd) sounds a bit like what you just part of the crowd. No, you are not part of the crowd, you are our colleague. You proactively involved in the research process, you an actor”.

In addition to receiving valuable data and free labor, civil science for and by scientists, highly isolated from humans over the last hundred years, a sense of connection with society, the opportunity to establish relationships and to rethink their work. Five hundred or even three hundred years ago, scientists and professionals simply did not exist – were all fans to some extent.

Perhaps in the XXI century it is time to revisit this motif to a new level. Everyone – scientist, and the citizen – will be able to remember that the basis of science is the curiosity and thirst for knowledge, interest in the observation of the surrounding world and the desire, having seen, to explain what is happening.

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