Smart Activation of Citizens: Opportunities and Challenges for Scientific Research

Smart Activation of Citizens: Opportunities and Challenges for Scientific Research

Maria Gilda Pimentel Esteves (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Jano Moreira de Souza (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Alexandre Prestes Uchoa (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Carla Viana Pereira (Empresa de Tecnologia e Informações da Previdência Social – DATAPREV, Brazil) and Marcio Antelio (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0962-2.ch013
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Abstract

This chapter focuses on how, by “activating” the citizen's engagement in the research process, the scientific community has a smart way to benefit from the wisdom of the “crowd”. There are countless success stories in which citizens participate, contributing with their knowledge, cognitive capacity, creativity, opinion, and skills. However, for many scientists, the lack of familiarity with the particular nature of citizen participation, which is usually anonymous and volatile, turns into a barrier for its adoption. This chapter presents a problem-based typology for citizen-science projects that aims to help scientists to choose the best strategy for engaging and counting on citizen participation based on the scientific problem at hand; and some examples are included. Moreover, the chapter discusses the main challenges for researchers who intend to start involving the citizens in order to solve their specific scientific needs.
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Background

In the new age of modern science, which is increasingly global, interconnected, and involves more international collaboration (“The Royal Society”, 2011), citizen science has emerged as a form of crowdsourcing in which geographically distributed members of the crowd are invited to collaborate with scientists by applying some human cognitive ability on a large scale. This new paradigm has been studied by many authors, including Haklay (2013, 2014), Wiggins and Crowston (2010, 2012), Dickinson et al. (2010), Nov et al. (2010), Alabri and Hunter (2010), and Bonney et al. (2009) to name just a few. In accordance to this paradigm, members of the general public are promoted to the role of citizen scientists, in the stages of real scientific research and, therefore, collaborating to the creation of scientific knowledge.

New scientific methods are being created with the support of the Internet and mobile technology, thus allowing scientists to expand their network of collaborators beyond the limits of institutions. Ubiquitous and pervasive technology has broken the barriers of time and space, allowing a greater and more diverse number of collaborators to be engaged in scientific activities. The use of crowdsourcing platforms is making possible the participation of large groups to perform tasks that were once confined to small groups of experts. Recent innovations in information, communication, and technology — from smartphone apps to real-time crowdsourcing — are undoubtedly making citizen engagement far easier than ever before in history.

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