Crowdsourcing in Science: Engaging the Public and Getting Things Done

Forget collaboration scientists… collaboration between scientists and the public might be even more powerful.  I feel like I’ve missed an entire sector of the new information economy!

Google is outsourcing image labeling to the public.
Recapcha is outsourcing book digitizing to the public.
David Baker is outsourcing enzyme design to the public.

Three reasons I love this:
(1) Its engaging the public in science and may increase both the number of students that choose to pursue science and the general support and awareness of science among those who don’t.
(2) Graduate biology students get PhDs for bunkering down and doing the hard work required to design new molecules.  When this stuff gets outsourced to some minimally trained gamers, they too can produce such work.  Let’s say that 25 gamers produce 1 PhD worth of work in 6 years.  Let’s also say that 100,000 people play this game.  That is the equivalent of 4,000 PhD students enrolling in Dr. Baker’s lab!  That’s a heck of a lot of science being performed at almost no cost to the University of Washington.
(3) The outsourcing of ‘tedious’ work to gamers frees up PhD students to tackle new problems as well.

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~ by djstrouse on May 8, 2008.

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