Recently, we featured an article on how new federal money -- funneled through the NOAA -- is being directed to citizen science efforts (read more). Now, additional research dollars from the National Science Foundation have been awarded to an associate professor in the Department of Sociology from Washington State University.

Prof. Scott Frickel, Washington State UniversityProf. Scott Frickel received nearly $57,000 to direct his innovative research on the use of citizen science in the response to the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In particular, Prof. Frickel will study how the "experts" involved in the disaster worked directly with members of the affected communities to produce meaningful scientific results in the environmental outcomes of the event. Working mostly with fisherman along the coastline, the ultimate goal of this research will be to analyze a real-world example of a citizen science collaboration to better understand how it functioned and how successful citizen science can be performed.

Certainly, the dollar amount awarded for this project is only a trickle in the United States government's FY 2009 $3.52 trillion budget: Prof. Frickel is receiving only 0.00000162% of the total allocations. Nonetheless, this represents an important expansion of the recognition of the importance of how citizen science contributes to our society. In fact, the federal government is heading into another session of juggling severe budget cuts against calls for increased scientific funding (when is the US government not juggling... everything?) with new demands for focusing efforts on research, in particular in the area of sustainable energy (read more from American Public Media's Marketplace broadcast on November 29, 2010).

Although government funding of scientific research can begin with only a best guess of what will be the most important scientific advancement of tomorrow, the funding agencies must do just that. Think: the computer, lasers, the Internet, GPS navigational systems, and even Google... all came from an essentially random grant that slipped through a governmental funding agency. And, today, nearly every person in the entire world is affected on a daily basis by these important developments.

The United States' funding efforts toward scientific, technological, and medical research have proven critical and invaluable time and time again. So, it is exciting to see a growth now in citizen science funding because there is a strong chance that efforts from the amateur will once again some day be a cultural game-changer. And, maybe the United States government will actually be there to seed the next great revolution in science--from the citizen scientist.

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"NSF grant funds 'citizen science' collaboration" :: WSU Today :: November 29, 2010 :: [ READ MORE ]