Hackerspaces Offer Unique Opportunity For The Citizen Scientist
    By Matthew T. Dearing | August 10th 2010 07:45 AM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Webcam view of London HackerspaceA typical dream of an active citizen scientist might be to have one's own fully-equipment research laboratory and tinkering space conveniently established in one's own garage or basement.

    Proper lab setup, either being a diy bio lab or an electronics lab or even a nuclear fusion lab, takes a great deal of planning, time, and at least some form of significant financial resource.

    So, not everyone can implement personal lab spaces at home. And that is where the Hackerspace can be of assistance.

    A hackerspace is a specialized open community lab where people with similar interests can meet, collaborate, experiment, and create. These are typically run as a membership organization with a board of directors and paying members, and many maintain non-profit 501(c)3 tax status. Although, this author has not yet been directly involved with any particular hackerpace, the concept of this community format is exciting, and it is growing quickly in world-wide reach and popularity. Hackerspaces offer the essence of citizen science, and by distributing the burden of funding and management to the membership, they offer an accessible and efficient way for anyone to make their amateur research dreams come alive. (visit) provides an international online space for connection and collaboration between brick-and-mortar hackerspace organizations, and provides how-to documentation and support for those interested in joining existing groups or creating your own. Many of the existing hackerspaces focus on the "physical sciences"--namely, electronics, software development, and making machines that go "ping"! In a little more than one month, a San Francisco Bay-area hackerspace is attempting to gain enough funding to open a "biological" hackerspace called BioCurious. They have set up a Kickstarter project (visit) to help quickly grow interest in support, and if you live in the area you should check out the new group as they will likely provide a great, new opportunity for citizen scientists, as well as pave the way for the development of more "biohack"-spaces around the world.

    ... ...

    Hackerspaces All Over The World [ VIEW and Find one near you ]

    A sampling of US big city hackerspaces...
    [ CHICAGO ] :: [ NEW YORK ] :: [ SAN FRANCISCO ] :: [ WASHINGTON, D.C. ]

    For our friends in the UK, check out The Hackerspace Foundation [ VISIT ]


    Hi Matthew,
    This is definitely an interesting topic. It now seems inevitable that biomedical innovation will follow a similar pattern to what happened to electronics/computing innovation a few decades ago. However, given the differences in outputs from these two types of study, I think biohacking communities are doomed to face enormous public backlash. The lack of affiliation of the 'hackers' to a recognized research institute will have regulators getting their backs up bigtime.

    I think there is an alternative: getting citizen scientists involved in the research activities already going on within recognized research labs (both public and private). As a student, I've found that there is a huge amount of what Clay Shirky calls "cognitive surplus" in the grad student and post-doc crowd. I'm attempting to set up a web platform that will allow students and post-docs (or anyone who is interested) to get involved with existing research efforts. The site is still in its infancy but please check it out.


    I put this on my twitter page because I think you may be onto something, at least as far as getting a better response if people have more than altruism in the game.   Wikipedia either has no new content to post, the moderators are so heavy handed people are quitting, or people are tired of doing a lot of work for nothing (opinions vary) -  perhaps 'job' has a bad connotation because a generation of Internet users with a sense of entitlement think free is the only way.

    Good luck with the new project.
    Thanks Hank, I appreciate the tweet! Look forward to more cool Science 2.0 posts in future.

    Thank you for the link to your new resource, Janet. It is true that the public perception of the bio-hacking world will be questionable, at best. I don't deny that this is a critical concern, and I believe that it is the responsibility of those directly involved in these activities to not ignore the issue and deal with it on the onset of their organizations.

    On a positive turn, it is exciting to see more and more serious and positive results come from the efforts of citizen science research. Certainly, many of these successes are connected directly with professional organzations, so the model of the citizen science partnering with the professional does make sense and seems to becoming more productive. But, I also think that the amateur will be taken more seriously my the public over the coming years, which will help create a culture of awareness for the true citizen science and their goals to create positive results (and not, say, create destructive instruments to use against said culture!).

    Another new online interface for citizen science efforts is currently in beta testing from the Society of Amateur Scientists. Lead by Dr. Shawn Carlson ( called, the systems is an online laboratory for data collection of various research projects established by registered users. It is a new and accessible resource where anyone can log in and submit observational data to support research projects. You should consider contacting Dr. Carlson soon to see how you might be able to collaborate with SAS on future developments.
    ______________________________________ Matthew T. Dearing Dynamic Patterns Research