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Futurist: The Importance of Citizen Scientists

I am a long-time Futurist, and technologist. In my career, I have spanned the birth of personal computers, to the rise of Cloud Computing.

The importance of weather is growing. The importance of Citizen Scientists should be as well!

The importance of weather is growing. The importance of Citizen Scientists should be as well!

The difference between coming home soaking wet and coming home dry is knowing the weather, where you are!

I usually start my articles with " as a futuris[ but I want to point out today that I am not just someone who plays a futurist on TV. I honestly have wanted to use that line my whole life. I am more than simply a technologist that looks to the future. I am also a strong proponent of and a long-time practitioner of what is often called citizen science. I have collected and shared weather data with my neighbors and anyone that wants to view the weather data from where I am. I have collected and shared what is called local weather for many years. I have often talked about the fact that while the structured system built by the National Weather Service is extremely effective, it doesn't always directly apply to the weather you're experiencing at that moment. You could be as much as 5 to 7° different than the National Weather Service publishes for any specific area is large. 200 or so square miles of geography is what they cover. A lot more than the roughly 200 feet or so my weather station monitors. So the concept, in my eyes, of being a citizen scientist is important. My thesis or theme or topic of conversation today is how YouTube can quickly become a citizen scientist.

Some organizations celebrate and engage citizen scientists all the time. The planetary society is a great organization that often engages people with astrophotography setups or a telescope with a camera as they scan the heavens for objects. You're not going to get something on your home telescope that the James Webb telescope won't get a better picture. The James Webb telescope is much larger and not burdened by Earth's atmosphere. However, the reality is we must encourage citizen scientists, and the planetary society is a great example of an organization that promotes Citizen Scientists.

Some organizations support the concept of local weather. These organizations often sell commercial weather units and personal weather stations. These personal weather stations connect to your home's network and then publish information to the website run by a commercial company. Knowing what the weather is near you and what the weather is in the direction a storm is coming is critical information. For example, it might be 38° at your home, but when you look and see that the National Weather Service has projected a storm coming from the north toward you, you can examine 30, 40, or even 50 miles north of you to see how rapidly the temperatures are dropping. That will help you determine if there will be snow or freezing rain in your area.

My new citizen scientist hobby is astrophotography. I have a lot to learn!

The reality is that citizen scientists and citizen science are going to evolve. But it begins with curiosity. Scientists ask questions. First is the question then scientists develop tests to test the question. Is the question possible? Does the activity question behave in the way the scientist thinks? Again, the concept of science and utilizing the scientific method or the inquiry model, you ask a question and then come up with a test to test that question. It's simply validating that the question asked was possible. From the data, the test found that the question asked was possible. As a long-time citizen scientist, I have to say I am proud of the information I gather. I still verify my information. I have two weather stations at home, and I determined, based on the two and the average, to come up with a better view of temperature and amount of rainfall. I ask questions about the data I collect, and when I can, I test the questions I have. But I start with the known good source of the National Weather Service. More in the case of astrophotography, as I start my journey or hobby, I start with good references. The James Webb Telescope and NASA are good starting points. I accept the information gathered about specific celestial bodies by the James Webb telescope, NASA, the European space agency, the Russian space, a Chinese space agency, and others.

It's all based on that inquiry model for me. I was asking questions. There are so many questions that we can ask. As I've said, citizen scientists find great value in being able to ask those questions. But I also find even greater value in verifying the information I gathered and validating that the information is correct. So I'll end with this simple declaration, the other side of being a citizen scientist is sharing the data I collect. That allows me to enjoy my hobbies and collect the information I collect. When the data produces a question, it enables me to figure out ways to test whether my question is valid. It also gives me a great appreciation of the effort put forward by professional scientists to solve some of the great questions that live around our world today.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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