Real World: Citizen Science

Real World: Citizen Science


– Ever think you might want to
be a scientist or that you could work with
NASA? Well, thanks to you citizen
science programs, you can. Find out how next on “Real
World.” [music playing] When you picture a scientist,
what comes to mind, a person in a white coat,
someone stuck in a lab? Actually, scientists are pretty
interesting people doing some really amazing work, and while some scientists do
work in a lab, others work in the field, under
the water, or on the computer, the one thing scientists all
have in common is that they’re looking for answers to some serious real-world
problems. But sometimes they need help, so
they turn to citizen scientists to assist with their research. So what is a citizen scientist? – I think people are aware that
NASA has many different missions. We have missions to Mars.
We have missions to Saturn. We have many different missions
that are observing Earth. There’s all this data coming in,
and quite honestly, scientists don’t have time to go
through it all themselves. And we need people to look at
this data and tell us what discoveries might be
waiting there for us. So this is a way for the general
public to do serious, publishable science with us,
results that we need. – One of the longest-running
citizen science programs is GLOBE, or the Global Learning
and Observations to Benefit the Environment Program. GLOBE students from around the
world conduct research to measure and monitor changes
in their environment. These citizen scientists learn
to use specific tools before they go out in the field or begin their work on a
computer. And they follow a protocol,
which is a special set of steps to do their research. Think of a protocol just like
following a recipe for a cake. But why are protocols so
important? – The most powerful thing about
science is that it is a tool to actually discover things
about reality. But we all need to make the same
measurements in the same way. You have to design an experiment
so that anybody anyone in the world could do it
the same way and get similar results. There’s a thing called a
scientific protocol, and this means that wherever you
are, we’re using the same tools with the same precision, and
that means we can all compare our results. For example, let’s say that
somebody asked you to measure the temperature of where you
are. Are you measuring in Celsius or
Fahrenheit? What time of day did you take
the measurements? Did you do it at nighttime or
during the daytime. If we simply ask people, “What
temperature is it?” We get all kinds of numbers that
don’t make sense. But if we specify, “It needs to
be this accurate; you need to use these units; you need to measure at this time
of day,” then all of a sudden, we can
bring all of this information together and compare it and find
trends and make real discoveries about
what the world’s doing. That’s the power of the
precision of the tools of science, and
that’s what a scientific protocol really means. – Citizen science projects may
also require you to practice some of your math skills. NASA S’COOL, for example, may
ask you to estimate the percentage of cloud cover in the
sky. Another project might ask for
the percent of a leaf that has been damaged by ozone. When the same scientific
protocols or steps are used to collect data, that data can
be analyzed by scientists to help them better understand
the problem they’re trying to solve. So what are some other
opportunities for citizen scientists to collaborate with
NASA? – So which citizen science
project should you choose? Well, this is your chance to do
a little shopping and let your own curiosity be the guide. The wonderful thing about
citizen science is, you don’t need any special
skills to get involved. You as you stand right now are
prepared to do these projects with us. To me, you really need some
curiosity. Are you curious about the
planets or about the Earth or the
universe? And if you can get us some
precious, do the measurements as carefully as you possibly
can, that will give us the best
results. But you need no special
training. Start it tomorrow. – It’s pretty easy to get
started. Just go to the NASA Citizen
Scientists website, pick a program that catches your
interest, then be sure to make careful
observations, and follow the protocol exactly. Get out there and help. You really can make a
difference. See you next time on “Real
World.” [music playing]

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