A delightfully cynical view about citizen science in Shadow Work, by Craig Lambert, loc 1521-1536. I don’t think I agree with him but I struggle to articulate why exactly. This is a challenge that proponents of citizen science need to be able to answer:
NONETHELESS, IF THE work is interesting, some organizations can attract support from unpaid shadow-working assistants. The burgeoning field of citizen science is a prime example. The Galaxy Zoo project is a joint venture of astronomers at Johns Hopkins University in the United States and Portsmouth and Oxford universities in England. It enlists lay astronomers in classifying galaxies from telescope images based on shape. In its first year, more than 150,000 participants contributed more than fifty million classifications, at times sending in 60,000 per hour. David Baker, a biochemistry professor at the University of Washington, developed an online game called FoldIt that welcomes citizen participants to contribute hypothetical ways of folding protein molecules; these shadow workers have resolved some problems that have baffled supercomputers. Launched in 2008, the Great Sunflower Project lets citizen field-workers log and share data points about pollinators such as bees and wasps, according to a report by Katherine Xue in Harvard Magazine. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains a platform called eBird, where amateur bird-watchers can help ornithologists track bird populations and migration patterns around the world. Thousands of shadow-working field assistants are grabbing their binoculars and heading out.