Citizen science isn’t taken seriously, but it should be

But the vast majority of citizen scientists today just do the grunt work. They don’t contribute ideas. Academic institutions and publications still control much of what research is pursued, funded and recognized. Only a select few can currently participate in scientific discovery and be recognized for it.

I am, in principle, all for this. After all, there are many many people outside academia who have had scientific training and still want to participate in doing science.

My hesitation is the rigor that is brought towards the science. I'm not saying that citizen science cannot do rigorous science. I'm saying that it is very variable.

That is not to knock the citizen scientists. Doing good, rigorous, science can be tough even for scientists in an academic environment. And, let's be frank, it's damn tedious.

So how to deal with that concern? The simple way is not to partition off citizen science to its own ghetto, but to create mechanisms that do not allow the non-academic researcher to be discriminated against - even unconsciously - in the mainstream. Journal submissions could be refereed without names or affiliations. Same with funding. Same with making proposals to large science facilities. Let the citizen scientist stand toe-to-toe with the academic researchers.

As a community, academic scientists could also be more willing to work with citizen scientists who have good ideas, but could use mentors. I'm sure that a win-win could be worked out.

Citizen science should not be discriminated against. But if it wants to be taken seriously then it has to be as rigorous as academic science. Citizen science is only useful if it adds to science.