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GLOBE and Citizen Science

Citizen science is scientific research conducted by amateur or nonprofessional scientists. Formally, citizen science has been defined as "the systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of hypotheses; and the dissemination of the resulting information by researchers on a primarily avocational basis. When students do science, it is citizen science. This is true when students take measurements and report their data or analyze data taken by themselves and others. It is particularly true when they complete research projects by reaching evidence-base conclusions and presenting their results.

GLOBE is environmental citizen science done by students. Measurements are taken following established protocols designed to produce research-quality data that support comparisons over time and space. The resulting data are reported to a central database, archived, and made publicly available to all researchers – students, avocational adults, and professional scientists. GLOBE supports student analyses of these data through visualization tools that map and graph data and through illustrations included in the GLOBE Teachers Guide.

Many citizen science programs require participant training as GLOBE has done from its inception. Other programs have had success in achieving quality data by providing explanatory and illustrative material on-line to guide volunteer participants. GLOBE has been exploring on-line training that includes hands-on learning through taking and reporting training data. Some GLOBE protocols may be sufficiently simple so that actual training may be replaced by review of on-line material by those wishing to contribute data to GLOBE. In fact, through its partnership with EarthNetworks, GLOBE has long accepted data from automated weather stations whose adherence to procedures and specifications is guaranteed given proper installation of the equipment.

GLOBE implementation has often been helped by adults from the neighborhoods of schools, who have collected data during weekends and school vacations. Student research projects can benefit from use of citizen science data collected through other programs and may benefit further from receiving citizen science data collected by the wider community following GLOBE protocols and using equipment that meet GLOBE specifications.

As a pioneer of citizen science done by students, GLOBE can look forward to playing a key role in the burgeoning world of environmental citizen science.

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