Within the last three-to-four decades, American universities and their professoriate have documented, critiqued, and engaged in highly participatory action, monitoring, and participation in research. Based more on bottom-up organization and demography of researchers—not derivative of academic institutions—, a form of ‘citizen science’ has pervaded scholarship and disrupted orthodoxical means in and from which research is modeled and published. Emphasizing the direct participation of the general public over time, university professionals similarly engaged and facilitated citizen science as collaborators providing supportive supervision without taking full ownership or propriety of the work completed.
While many scholars and universities have recognized and seen the mutual benefit in sharing traditionally-privileged knowledge, methods, and resources to and with public researchers, many others resist, question, or are wary of the citizen science project. Concerns over the years have ranged from project suitability to a public not as familiar with complex research methods, volunteers’ presumed lack in proper training in research and monitoring protocols, and the veracity of volunteer-recorded data, even more so when monetary incentives are available to volunteers. Similarly, concerns amongst American professoriate center onwariness in sharing non-published work to others not privy to such resources, concerning intellectual property and project design ethics
Today a much more mutidisciplinary involved field, citizen science has time and again proven to be more practical in costs, more reliable in data collection based on univerally established standards (Citizen Science Association), and ultimately tears down perceived barriers the general public have and claim against university entrenched scholars. A more recently reported case on agriculture studies is demonstrative of these realities. Led by citizen science programs at North Carolina State University, three dozen researchers have published a paper highlighting the potential of citizen science to address pressing research challenges in agriculture and food systems. Researchers analyzed hundreds of academic articles, singling out dozens of examples that address issues from crop pests and pathogens to biodiversity and ecosystem services. Author the paper, Sean Ryan, claimed that their work that involved, “enlisting farmers or gardeners,” proved invariably significant, providing “samples across a broad geographic range, often on lands that researchers would not otherwise have access to.” Lastly, researchers notedthat citizen science efforts have the potential to—at least partially—fill the role of extension in parts of the world where there is no extension service, especially in the third world.