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5.4 Crowdsourcing

3 min readβ€’march 13, 2023

Minna Chow

Minna Chow


AP Computer Science Principles ⌨️

80Β resources
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The rise of the internet has led to a rise in the amount of data and human capital available to researchers.
This free flow of data and information makes identifying and solving problems easier, and more people have access to the solution once it's found.
  • Think about all the problems you've been able to solve with a quick Google Search, where before you'd have to consult a manual or a professional.
  • Today, the findings of scientific research are available in online journals or news articles that can be accessed all around the world, whereas before you'd have to get a physical copy or hear through word of mouth.
The internet can foster a spirit of collaboration, on a good day. Science has benefitted from this collaborative spirit. Two examples are citizen science and crowdsourcing.

Citizen Science

Citizen science is scientific research that the general population helps to conduct. Ordinary citizens, often non-scientists, help contribute data to research projects using computing devices.
  • They might, for example, count birds they see at local feeders or observe the sky to help find new galaxies. In both of these cases, a computing device (like a smartphone) is the tool used to send data from the citizen to the scientists.
Citizen science gives a wide range of people the ability to contribute to scientific studies and, in turn, provides more diverse data for scientists to work with. Scientists are able to do more across a wider range than if they were just working alone or with a small group of researchers in a lab.

Examples of Citizen Science

Here are some examples of citizen science in action!
NameDescriptionURL
Christmas BirdsEvery winter, the Audubon Bird Society hosts the Christmas Bird Count, where volunteers go out and count birds. The data is then used to help measure the health of bird populations.https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count
eBirdeBird is an online database of bird information that birdwatchers help to collect. It is among one of the world's largest "biodiversity-related science projects," with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed per year.https://ebird.org/home
ZooniverseThe largest platform for citizen science, Zooniverse hosts over 50 projects in a wide range of fields, from the arts to astronomy.https://www.zooniverse.org/
NasaNasa hosts several citizen science projects, from tracking penguin colonies to studying giant kelp forests.https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience
National GeographicNational Geographic also lists a wide range of citizen science projects, mainly in the fields of biology and earth science.https://www.nationalgeographic.org/topics/citizen-science/?q=&page=1&per_page=25

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the practice of getting a large amount of input or information from people on the Internet. Citizen science is an example of crowdsourcing, but crowdsourcing can also take other forms.
Just like citizen science, crowdsourcing gives a wide range of people the ability to contribute to organizations in general, not just scientific endeavors. The organizations also get more diverse data to work with and can do more than gather information by hand. (Spot a pattern?) Another advantage of crowdsourcing (for organizations, anyways) is that when organizations crowdsource they often don't need to pay for the information or the labor it takes to input it.

Examples of Crowdsourcing

  • Companies can turn to the "crowd," or the general public, for feedback.
    • Examples: Online reviews of restaurants or products, surveys (like the ones you get from College Board)
  • They can crowdsource for employment or volunteers.
    • Uber and Airbnb, for example, crowdsource their labor force of drivers and renters.
    • Wikipedia relies on crowdsourcing for its workforce, as it relies on volunteers from the internet to write its articles.
  • They can also crowdsource to solve problems or to get content.
    • Innovation contests incentivize people to submit their ideas and solutions in hopes of winning a contest. They can be used to tackle many challenges, from designing a new product to solving global issues.
Crowdsourcing can also take the form of financial support in a process known as crowdfunding. Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Patreon allow people to raise money for all manner of causes, from creating works of art to (unfortunately) funding medical bills.
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