The Rise of Citizen Science

portrait of Kathleen Toerpe
Kathleen Toerpe

Kathleen Toerpe (@ktoerpe) teaches social sciences at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and is a citizen scientist, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin, USA

Thousands worldwide participate in citizen science projects, from counting backyard birds to searching for extraterrestrial communication. In-person and online, this popular pastime is evolving from hobby to serious science.
Uncertain future grant funding, the growing backlog of raw unexamined data, and an emerging scientific philosophy of inclusion trend to a new reliance on these amateur scientists to increasingly assume professional roles. From initiating crowdsourcing ventures through articulating hypotheses, conducting research, interpreting results and anticipating real-world applications, these citizen scientists will provide quality, cost-effective scientific inquiry while democratizing and reinvigorating disciplines once seen as elitist.

Collaborating through social media, citizen scientists will evolve from a scattered collection of amateurs to established members of academic and corporate research teams.

Challenges to the primacy of credentialed scientists and the integrity of the scientific process can be mitigated through formalized training provided by local community or technical colleges.


Participants will leave this session with an understanding of:

  • Trends that have created current citizen science projects.
  • The use of citizen science in academic and corporate research.
  • Anticipates challenges arising from the expansion of “crowdsourced” science.
  • The framework for training, credentialing, and management of citizen scientists.