Cit­i­zen sci­ence

Cit­i­zen science

Read here in ger­man

The Parosphromenus Project also has an edu­ca­tional and scientific/​political aspect: it demon­strates the power of “cit­i­zen sci­ence”. This term describes the par­tic­i­pa­tion of well-​informed and sci­en­tif­i­cally inter­ested ama­teurs involved in the col­lec­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of knowl­edge in the soci­ety. It is not nec­es­sar­ily the pro­fes­sion­ally trained sci­en­tist, work­ing in research or edu­ca­tional insti­tutes, who exclu­sivly brings together our knowl­edge in spe­cific areas. Often “ordi­nary cit­i­zens” from var­i­ous pro­fes­sions develop into being out­stand­ing experts in a cer­tain field. Per­sonal inter­ests or hob­bies form the frame­work for this. The aquar­is­tic hobby includes many very good exam­ples for this.

The capa­bil­i­tiy of „cit­i­zen sci­ence“ is for exam­ple shown through the work of the founder of the licorice gourami aquar­is­tic, the Ger­man medic Dr. Wal­ter Foer­sch (19321993). Through his work the four main fuc­tions of “cit­i­zen sci­ence” can well be demonstrated:

Step 1 „Prob­lem per­cep­tion“:

Foer­sch realises that his licorice gouramis (parosphromenus spec.) obvi­ously spawn in caves, but pro­duce eggs that fall down. The males try to attach the eggs to the cave ceil­ing, but fail to do so. The eggs fall down again and again.

Step 2 „Inter­pre­ta­tion“:

He con­cludes that there must be an impor­tant envi­ron­men­tal fac­tor, which is yet unknown and which is not given in his tanks. But he can not say yet if this is the cave mate­r­ial or the water quality.

Step 3 „Sys­tem­a­ti­sa­tion“:

He remem­bers a remark made by Wal­ter Arm­bruster (Ham­burg) who has reported that the eggs of pen­cil­fish (Nan­nos­to­mus mar­gina­tus) stick to the plants in soft water, but fall down in hard water. This would speak for the fac­tor “water”. He car­ries out sys­tem­atic exper­i­ments with dif­fer­ent caves and dif­fer­ent water qualities.

Step 4: „Objectivisation“:

He dis­cov­ers the fun­da­men­tal con­nec­tion between the adhe­sion of eggs at the ceil­ing of the caves and an extremely low salt con­tent of the water. With this find­ing he solves the cru­cial ques­tion of keep­ing and breed­ing licorice gouramis (pub­lished in DATZ 121974 and 11975)

Fur­ther­more cit­i­zen sci­ence can take on impor­tant tasks of the impact of knowl­edge and sci­ence in the society.

To express the results of pro­fes­sional sci­ence in a more com­mon and under­stand­able way

Trans­la­tion function

To gain knowl­edge in areas, which are not cov­ered by the pro­fes­sional science

Com­ple­ment­ing function

To take care about the overview of con­nec­tions in areas, in which spe­cial­ists only pick out cer­tain details

Overview func­tion

To gather argu­ments that might help to cor­rect the single-​sided view of some experts

Con­trol function

Addi­tion­ally cit­i­zen sci­ence can act as an inter­face to the pro­fes­sional sci­ence. Also in this area there are many exam­ples from the Parosphromenus Project, such as the dis­cov­ery and descrip­tion of new species or the coop­er­a­tion with geneti­cists or spe­cialised muse­ums. The bor­ders between pro­fes­sional and cit­i­zen sci­ence are not sharp Some­times a dif­fer­ence is hardly rec­og­niz­able to the pro­fes­sional sci­ence, but often the gain of knowl­edge of an ama­teur is lim­ited to the above men­tioned basic functions.

Since sci­ence always has a polit­i­cal aspect, due to its influ­ence and impact on soci­ety, we will inform about this facet of the project under the but­ton “pol­i­tics”.


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