"The Year Of (insert your favorite cause here)" is usually driven by marketing departments and often to correspond to some sort of milestone.   2009 was "The Year of..." both Galileo and Darwin, for example, though no one seemed to find a way to bring either to mainstream popularity and make a buck.  

What about 2010?    Sure, the UN declared 2010 the 'International Year of Biodiversity' but, like most things the UN is involved in, it cost a lot of money and doesn't actually do anything.    Outside science, 2010 is the Year of the Nurse.   Everyone likes nurses.

In hindsight, 2010 may be the year Craig Venter, the bad boy of science, created 'artificial' life in Big Science.   2010 could also be the year of the Higgs Boson (though bureaucrats also said it would be 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005, given CERN's desire to hype up the LHC) but let's remain a little cautious on that one until birds stop leaving baguettes in the machinery and causing it to break.

But 2010 may also be the year science went small again - citizen science.  

Citizen Science is nothing new, of course.  Before the last half of the 20th century there was no big science so most science societies were not composed of government-funded academics but instead knowledgeable laypeople.  They cataloged and argued and analyzed and shared what they found.    Obviously some of the universe's bigger mysteries can't be tackled on the individual level, but even big projects can be aided by citizen scientists, as shown by efforts like Galaxy Zoo and FoldIt in astronomy and biology, respectively.   

And it's catching on.  The USA National Phenology Network, a program by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Arizona, is for citizen phenologists who want to study recurring plant and animal life cycle stages while Cornell has a Citizen Science bird watching program.   If you want to do lots of different projects, Science for Citizens has numerous different ways you can help.

Big science today is even assisted by citizen science from the past.   Dr. Elizabeth Boakes
from the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London, was able to analyze 170,000 records for 127 gamebird species across Europe and Asia dating back over the past two centuries, thanks to private journals and letters by citizen scientists - an achievement that may not be possible in the future, she says, because the last few decades have seen organizational focus endangered species instead.   

But what about the science of the future?  Will small science be big again thanks to boosts in individual human thought?  One group thinks technological changes will modify the meaning of what it is to be human and citizen science could be a part of it.    Given enough access to data, they believe, citizen scientists could discover how to slow aging, unlock human (and artificial) intelligence,  and even leave the planet.

Transhumanism has been controversial since its popularity in the early 1980s and will likely remain so.   The idea of participant evolution has skeptics and some detractors dismiss its post-humanist aspects but, at its core, people in the transhumanism movement want to think about the future of mankind and science and that is what Science 2.0 is all about.

Since we're the only large readership site that allows people from a broad spectrum of occupations to share knowledge on complex science topics - science journalists, book authors, researchers and laypeople - we are the biggest citizen science site in the world, so it makes sense we would be the official blog of the "Rise of the Citizen-Scientist" summit at Harvard University on June 12th and 13th.  Therefore I am pleased to announce we are.

Andrea Kuszewski will be a featured speaker there, discussing What Makes A Genius and how we might be able to engage our brain in order to maximize our cognitive growth, along with  Ray Kurzweil, noted futurist, Stephen Wolfram, creator of Wolfram|Alpha, and Andrew Hessel, an outspoken advocate and champion of DNA technology.

The full list of speakers is at http://www.hplussummit.com/speakers.html but even more importantly, if you want to attend and did not buy your tickets yet, rather than accept money for promoting the event and hosting the blogging part of the conference, we wanted to give readers a discount on the tickets.

So if you log in through here or an ad on the site, you will receive 20% off.   $50 you can then spend on coffee or ancient Chinese vases and get those antique dealers back to work.   Here is the link.   

Of course, before the event we will have a lot more to talk about, including a dedicated page (link coming soon) where people at the event can blog about the discussions and then send their thoughts out through our vast array of social media links in true viral fashion.   It will be a good experiment on reaching the masses in citizen science using today's tools.

"2010: The Year of the Citizen Scientist" has a pretty good ring to it, don't you think?