On the back of a short discussion on Twitter following Alice Bell’s great article on Science TV, I’ve been prompted to flesh out my thoughts on the Zooniverse.
Zooniverse is a (growing) repository of projects that aim to involve the general populace in data processing for a diverse range of fields (from galaxies to cyclones to bats).
Let me say, right now, that I don’t want to denigrate Zooniverse. It’s a wonderful idea and has helped to link people to the science that their taxes pay for.
But (and you might have guessed there was a ‘but’ coming), let’s not pretend that it is something that it is not. It’s not, as far as I’m concerned, “citizen science”. It is data crunching, plain and simple, and I think it could be so much more. I’ve had a go at a number of the different projects and they were entertaining for about five minutes, after which I was often left thinking “yes, but what does it mean if that galaxy is elliptical and that one is spiral?” or similar.
Zooniverse often seems to be touted (along with projects like Foldit) as a new paradigm of citizen engagement with science, where non-scientists can really “make a difference”.
For the rest of the story: http://echusoverlook.net/citizen-science/