White House Honors Four Leaders of NSF-Funded Citizen Science Groups Studying Ecology
"Champions of Change" recognized for engaging non-scientists in research
Four scientists who lead citizen science groups that are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be honored at a White House ceremony that will be live streamed at Champions of Change from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. this morning and then archived on YouTube.
Along with eight other citizen scientist Champions of Change, these four NSF-funded Champions of Change will be recognized for their exemplary leadership in involving the broader, non-expert community in research on science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).
Today's Champion of Change event is one of a series of weekly Champions of Change events held at the White House to spotlight ordinary Americans who are doing extraordinary work in their communities to help the United States in the future.
NSF-funded Champions of Change
The NSF-funded Champions of Change are:
Popularity and importance of citizen science
The citizen science Champions of Change are leaders in a field that is currently exploding in popularity--partly because the Internet and new applications afford quick and effective communication between citizen scientists and scientists. More than 600 citizen science groups are currently engaging more than 100,000 worldwide volunteers.
In addition, data from citizen scientists has been incorporated into more than 1,000 scientific papers in peer reviewed journals. In fact, much of current understanding about the distribution of plants and animals, the quality of water in streams and rivers, observed astronomy and the evidence of global climate change was derived from data produced by citizen science projects.
Agenda for the White House event
The White House event will be moderated by Joe Palca, National Public Radio's science desk correspondent. Each Champion of Change will deliver remarks about the scientific contributions of their respective citizen science programs and the personal impact of their programs on participants.
Also, Philip Rubin, principal assistant director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will speak at the event and Ellen McCallie, a program director in NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources, will deliver remarks about the general importance of citizen science to research and science education.
A brief description of the work of each Champion of Change and a blog post by each Champion are posted on the White House's Champions of Change website.
NSF support for citizen science
NSF currently funds hundreds of citizen science programs that are advancing science through varied approaches. Several examples include: players in an online game, known as Foldit, solved vexing problems in AIDS research; volunteers with the Einstein@Home project donated their computers' idle time to astronomy research and thereby helped discover a rotating pulsar; the Quake-Catcher Network is currently linking existing networked laptops and desktops in the hopes of forming the world's largest strong-motion seismic network; and about 15,000 volunteers with the Community Collaborative Rain & Hail Network submit daily precipitation readings from backyard rain gauges that are helping to improve precipitation predictions from the National Weather Service.
Reasons for supporting citizen science
NSF supports citizen science because of its value to research and education. "What better way to learn science than to do science?" says McCallie. "It takes a hands-on, minds-on approach to engaging people. No matter what the age or background of a person, participating in citizen science projects generally increases their interest and understanding of science."
Elizabeth Blood, a program director in NSF's Directorate of Biological Sciences, adds: "Despite the use of increasingly high-tech observation systems in scientific research, a critical human observing system--citizen scientists--remains important. Citizen scientists are continuing to advance research by helping to collect and/or process large quantities of important data, often obtained over large geographic areas, that would otherwise be inaccessible."
Other recent milestones for citizen science
In addition to participating in the June 25, 2013, Champions of Change event at the White House, NSF contributed to two other major milestones that raised the prominence of citizen science within the scientific community in 2012:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Useful NSF Web Sites: