Lourdes Cahuich

translator, Khan Academy Espa


This conversation is closed.

What do you think should be the strategy to make every human a citizen scientist?

With the grow of computer and Internet, more people have access to new tools that can be used to help science research and science outreach, both key aspects to improve every society on Earth.

What can we do to help empower people all over the world to become a citizen scientist?

Closing Statement from Lourdes Cahuich

Thank you very much to all of you for sharing your thoughts, proposals and opinions. I have been reading your comments and here are my thoughts:

Every child is born a scientist, we all began our lives with curiosity and an urge to experiment and learn about the world around us. Sciences is the best tool we have to learn about the Universe and, if we use it properly, it will be the way to guarantee our survival as a species thru space and time.

A citizen scientist is any person who, no matter his/her background, dedicates some of his/her resources (time, computers, eyes, hands, brains, etc) to help the developing and/or popularizing of science.

For the first time in the history of humankind we have the technological capabilities to have everyone around the world, engaged in the science making process. We should use this tool to teach the new generations what science is, and how to use it in the everyday life and not be afraid of making mistakes.

In short, I think we should:

* Change the way to educate our children, so they can keep with their natural curiosity when they grow up.

* Teach science in a friendly "part of our lives" way, for instance: To learn how to do our own research (to try at least) to verify the information we get from the media or the Internet, so we can develop our own conclusion about any topic, and therefore, we can teach by example the importance of "critical thinking"

Every one of us should use some part of our resources (in an innovative and creative way) to help popularizing science and critical thinking; even a few minutes of your day helping explain (or research) something to your family-friend-neighbors can make a huge difference in the long run.

Thank you again and greetings from Mexico.


  • thumb
    Mar 8 2011: It only takes one thing, Belief

    Believe in each other, help assist and support each other and their ideas. Allow people to actually do! and give them all they need to do! then allow them (the easy part) to give back to others.

    This requires a few things.
    1: The ability for us to realise everything we know is probably wrong
    2: There are better ways
    3: Unknown or new != mental (always)
    4: Learn from errors and mistakes, it makes us all strong
    5: Never judge anyone, some new things are too hard to explain, perhaps the language does not exist to do so (think quantum physics at the start).

    The last part is where society fails a lot, the educated masses abhor change and are very quick to discourage difference, particularly where the difference may affect them directly. It takes strength to challenge this and in investor due diligence it's usually the encumbered (spell checked did that, I left it :-) ) experts who will do down others so very quickly with glib remarks and discerning comments, many times from a position of not understanding the proposition. This is very hard to accept in yourself and not do it to others, so again start with belief and work from there.
  • thumb
    Mar 14 2011: Tell them the worst consequence of their action and wait for the reply
    "Yeah, Its the most probable outcome"
    "Unfortunately YES"
    "What are the alternative?"
    "I dont know! Do you have any idea?"
    Congrats you just changed a negligent mind into a curious scientific one!
  • Mar 11 2011: I beleive the only way to make everyone a "citizen scientist" we need to improve our world's education. We need to stop putting money into building bigger guns and stronger bombs and instead aim it towards giving the children the tools to be able to greatly improve this world.
    • thumb
      Mar 12 2011: I completely agree with investing more into the education system. However, I would say that it is by far not only money that can improve it. It is rather the way we teach that makes the difference.
  • P C

    • +1
    Mar 11 2011: Having lay science. is possible. But it will require a few things first.

    1) A proper introduction to the philosophical foundation of the scientific method that hones in on the distinction between inductive reasoning constrained by empirical-skepticism and deductive reasoning constrained by appeals to authority.
    2) Formal data analysis training where they learn how to set up empirical experiments
    3) Reliable laboratory instruments
    4) Peer-reviewed journals that don't mind publishing replicative experiments (we can leave the breakthroughs to the professionals)
    5) A community-focus that appeals to different population segments

    Even though this would produce lay scientists, these minimal requirements would still filter out those that don't have the intellectual capacity or who tend to be lazy thinkers, that don't have intellectually-oriented personalities (only about 1/4 do), those that have poor writing or analysis skills, that don't have the patience to see things through, those that can't afford their own instruments (laboratories can be expensive), and those that are afraid to embrace empiricism.
  • thumb
    Mar 11 2011: - Start early. Teach rational thinking in school, where you can reach almost everyone. Schools need to be reconsidered as places where you aren't simply taught how to reproduce what you learn, but HOW to think and how NOT to. Logic and rational thinking must become a full-blown part of the curriculum and it probably will be fun for students, because people love to share their opinions and debate - but we also need to get people to accept that their ideas need to be scrutinized.

    - Discourage the notion that every opinion is equally valid and should be considered in a democratic manner. Opinions (on non-subjective things) should be treated as worthless, unless they are actually backed up by sound argument and/or evidence.

    I believe these are the two main paths to achieve the "citizen scientist" vision:
    First, teach rational thinking and the scientific method in schools (not just as a brief topic within a class, but consistently).
    Second, we need a cultural shift where personal opinion is de-emphasized and cut down to proper size: Opinions need to be perceived as worthless without proper arguments . But you can hardly get that perceptual change across a whole culture, unless you can bring it into the classroom.

    So, make rational thinking an obligatory part of the curriculum and you'll get your citizen scientists, and with them a culture of rationality. "Easy" as that.
  • thumb
    Mar 11 2011: Try finding an applicable way of getting rid of money over the years to come, none of us are going to be able to advance our studies in the future as poverty is being ever forced upon us. The gap is getting worse between the social classes and future generations dont need the headache.
    • thumb
      Mar 11 2011: Hopefully what is happening over the internet will one day abolish the need for paid inscription into any program.

      "Each One Teach One."
  • thumb
    Mar 6 2011: This is a wonderful, forward looking question. First, I think there should be websites set up ffor a wide variety of potential scientific questions for which average people might have first hand knowledge. For persons with a disease, they couldl catalogue their symtoms, meds and outcomes. Statistical analysis could be set up to analyze the data later but gathering it could be a boon to all of medicine especially with more obscure diseases. There should be websites where locals can catalogue plants, weather, growing patterns in a million locations around the globe. If clear questions were asked and an easy format created people motivated by their own interests would delight in contributing for the joy of sharing what interests them. This could be done with any number of phenomena from bird watching to bug tracking to amateur astromoners and plant diseases.We need to remind ourselves that science is concrete and approachable not abstract and reserved for ivory towers. Until now most people had to have a PhD to be admitted to the club.
  • thumb
    Mar 12 2011: Wow citizen scientist. Brings to mind a future society of hyperrational Leonard Nimoys.....that also shoot lasers out of their eyes.

    But to answer your question, I think the best way to get people to think like scientists is to offer adtivites in their daily lives where they can practice to think analytically, we need to teach them to be sceptical, and to accept factual evidence over prejudices and ideologies.

    I think the last one is hard to root out. People generally are equipped with an ability to think and draw rational conclusions, but what occurs most of the time is that people are raised with certain values that may conflict with science and they either ignore rational conclusions or they bend them to serve an ideology. In my opinion we need to get over those social hurdles.
  • thumb
    Mar 12 2011: By inspiring creativity in young age. As we all know, childred are unbeliavably creative and curious. However, as they grow older, they tend to become less inspired to create. Obviously, something goes wrong during their early school years.
    But I believe that if we allow them to be playful and explore the world with the teacher's help instead of being forced to listen to the "only right solution", if students are encouraged to discuss issues and experiment with their learning, way more people would become creative thinkers and inventors.
  • thumb
    Mar 12 2011: you cannot make an indidvidiual become something.
  • Mar 12 2011: Before I can answer this question, I must ask a couple. What is a citizen scientist? I mean, I understand the concept as having citizens participate in science, but how in the world do we apply this concept in a way that actually gets any results? I can give away some of my computer's processing power, but does this really make a scientist? I can throw out ideas based on my very narrow understanding of the scientific concepts, but will they actually make a difference?

    Next, would I even want to be a citizen scientist? As a citizen who watches the scientific world (popular science world), all I see is a lot of egotistical characters who consistently tell me what is not possible. Those that do not understand the fundamentals of how our universe works (any scientist talking honestly would admit that) tell me that I am irrational to think there is a creator. Those that cannot explain to me how gravity operates at it's most basic level tell me that the must be this thing called dark matter and dark energy to make up for the lack of gravity generating objects. That say that if you don't fall into the scientific norm, then you are absolutely wrong and there is no other way that it can be. Why would I want to be part of that?

    Now, I think as a scientific community, there needs to be a return to the time when every idea is challenged, including the ones that we hold most dear. There should be more questioning of things we already "know" when we encounter new evidence. Show the world that face. Show the world that you don't have the answers and invite normal citizens to participate in the discussion. Show that you aren't afraid of the "outsiders" coming in with ideas. Don't call us stupid or discount us just because you are college educated. I am going to run out of characters here, but at the same time, we can't just run with every idea. Take the ones that could make sense, and remember that Einstein was an outsider, too (albeit an educated one).
  • thumb
    Mar 11 2011: Give them more opportunities to engage with and reflect upon nature.
  • Mar 10 2011: My question is, why do you think we should make every human a citizen scientist. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, I just don't really understand.
  • thumb
    Mar 10 2011: I think we are naturally curious and creative - you can see it in kids, they spend all their time investigating the world around them.

    Just let them do what they want. And instead of coercive rules ("you have to", "you should not"), encourage them to find their own preferences and values. This control-freakiness is found in parents, employers, teachers...

    Imagine the society where "mom believes in you doing the right thing, whatever you do". Boss is more like a curator, leads without power. And teacher is your mentor that's always there for you.
    • thumb
      Mar 10 2011: Roman: I think you hit it right on. Lourdes - we tend to over-categorize thinking as scientific or not. All humans have natural curiosity. Science just adds a little refinement to the techniques. Anyone who follows their interest will stumble on science.
    • Mar 11 2011: Mr. Seberka are you serious? Have you ever given any real -world attention to your statements and their underlying assumptions? "Just let kids do what they want"free of any restrictions or "coercive" rules. The more I examine your statements the more suspicious I am becoming. I'll just leave it at that.
      • thumb
        Mar 11 2011: "It is in our very nature to manipulate that which we would understand, therefore it is our collective responsibility to collaborate towards creating a culture and legacy which supports our ability to do so."
  • thumb
    Mar 9 2011: There is a scientist present in every person...but it was too quiet that the person himself can't hear him and when he hears it , they don't wanna believe and say no it is not possible and shut there inner voice in themselves..

    so i think first we should grow up and make our self speak/ask every single idea and query to everyone.
    don't judge the idea according to you that it is stupid or not.

    if you can do so than there is no need of any trainers to teach you how things works.
    you can learn it by yourself.
  • thumb
    Mar 8 2011: This is a "generational" mind-shift. I believe we need to make people like Jill Tarter the Brittany Spears of our next generation of kids in order to create the citizen scientists you're talking about. Start by making students citizen scientists and as they grow up they will expect the same for their kids. I wouldn't say our generation is lost but it's certainly an uphill battle to get most people engaged. The kids are the future of citizen scientists!

    I also agree with Adam that facilities like the GMRI in Maine or the LML in Santa Cruz do a great job of engagement towards this end. We need this level of engagement across all areas of the natural sciences in order to achieve your vision. Thanks for the great conversation!
  • thumb
    Mar 8 2011: Good question. However, it does not need a strategy.

    As most work gets automatisid, oerformed by computers, what will remain for people are creative activitird.

    Art, science, -- perhaps some religion and counseling..
  • thumb
    Mar 8 2011: The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has been asking this question for many years and developed game-changing technology and approaches to support this outcome. Ambitiously, they aim to have every child come through their learning lab, to immerse them in scientific investigation and discovery. This is followed by programming developed to be enacted in the field anywhere in the state. This is groundbreaking work! Learn more in at their website: http://www.gmri.org/education/index.asp