The Daily Crowdsource recently published a great list of scientific research projects that enlist the public in their efforts. There are projects for any science enthusiast, whether intrigued by flora and fauna or fascinated by the stars in the sky. For example, The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is an ambitious project endeavoring to document every organism on earth, ultimately creating a webpage for each of the 1.9 million known species and perhaps a few yet to be discovered. All contributions from the crowd are reviewed by experts; partnering scientific institutions can be found around the globe, from China to South Africa. Project founders hope it will energize the science of biology – providing resources both to the scientific community, in tracking climate change for example, and the non-scientific community, such as material for classroom lesson plans.
Those whose minds wander to galaxies far away will enjoy participating in Galaxy Zoo, a project through which amateur astronomers have helped classify thousands of galaxies. Participants can play a role in discoveries such as the fact that spiral galaxies do not have a preference for rotating clockwise or anti-clockwise.
Aspiring biologists can contribute to unlocking the mysteries of cell structure. A project called Foldit hopes to eventually use the crowd to predict the structure of a cell’s protein based on its amino acid sequence. This is key to understanding how a protein works and to targeting it with drugs. The applications of this research range from fighting virii to cleaning carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The goal of Foldit is to demonstrate that crowdsourcing is more effective for this work than using computers. Currently, participants play puzzle games to predict the structure of proteins that already have a known structure; the ultimate goal being to use the manpowered system to predict unknown structures.