Citizen scientists can contribute greatly to research in India

April 28th, 2008 - 4:54 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 28 (IANS) Time and again, ‘citizen scientists’ - members of the public who voluntarily help scientific studies - have made a real difference to research, for example by meticulously collecting data. In biodiversity-rich countries such as India - custodian of some of the world’s key ecosystems, habitats and species - citizen science promises to bring new hope in the struggle to protect biodiversity.

The future of the environmental conservation movement in the country rests in the hands of young people, which India has one of the world’s largest populations. a Scidev report by Nigel Winser and Raghu Saxena has said.

Citizen science has the potential to bring youth and science together at the field level and empower them with knowledge, understanding and conviction to build conservation movements at the local level.

India, of course, is known for its rich traditions and local knowledge practices. Ancient knowledge has contributed to many different fields, including healthcare, agriculture and the environment.

Creating and developing an effective citizen science model that fosters partnership between people, science and scientists will be a significant step towards this end.

This is because scientists do not always have the resources to tackle the environmental challenges facing our planet, particularly when research projects rely on long-term monitoring.

Earthwatch has shown that this approach works. Since 1971, some 85,000 people have joined Earthwatch research projects as volunteer field assistants.

Some volunteers contribute financially for the opportunity. Others are funded by grants and bursaries. All work in small groups, overseen by scientific experts, and make a valuable contribution to the collection of data. Without such dedication, much long-term research and the results it generates would be impossible.

The value of these volunteers extends beyond data collection. Earthwatch scientists find that they generate enthusiasm and offer a fresh perspective on research projects. Technological skills - in information technology, for example - can be particularly useful.

For many volunteers, joining a research project can be a life-changing experience, a wake-up call to the environmental challenges facing the planet. The knowledge, inspiration and insight they take back to their own communities could ripple through the lives and attitudes of those around them for years to come.

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