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Improving Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science as a Policy Mechanism for NA

December 06, 2016 by Brittany Balcom

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This article examines citizen science projects, defined as “a form of open collaboration where members of the public participate in the scientific process, including identifying research questions, collecting and analyzing the data, interpreting the results, and problem solving,” as an effective and innovative tool for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) science in line with the Obama Administration's Open Government Directive. Citizen science projects allow volunteers with no technical training to participate in analysis of large sets of data that would otherwise constitute prohibitively tedious and lengthy work for research scientists. Zooniverse.com hosts a multitude of popular space-focused citizen science projects, many of which have been extraordinarily successful and have enabled new research publications and major discoveries. This article takes a multifaceted look at such projects by examining the benefits of citizen science, effective game design, and current desktop computer and mobile device usage trends. It offers suggestions of potential research topics to be studied with emerging technologies, policy considerations, and opportunities for outreach. This analysis includes an overview of other crowdsourced research methods such as distributed computing and contests. New research and data analysis of mobile phone usage, scientific curiosity, and political engagement among Zooniverse.com project participants has been conducted for this study.