The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Citizen Science working group is interested investigating the utility of and furthering the incorporation of citizen science methodologies into biomedical research in a way that maintains NIH’s high level of scientific and ethical standards. The working group describes citizen science as a collaborative approach to research involving the public, not just as subjects of the research or advisors to the research but as direct collaborators and partners in the research process itself. Citizen science takes on many forms and involves a variety of approaches benefiting from the creativity and problem solving skills of the public and from citizen collected data and insights not obtainable through conventional approaches. This group investigates, shares best practices, and engages in discussion with other agencies and groups promoting citizen science in other fields. The working group is comprised of program officers, scientific review officers, and others from across NIH interested in furthering the adoption and incorporation of citizen science methodology into biomedical research.
In May 2013, the NIH gathered thought leaders and practitioners in the fields related to citizen science, with a particular focus on those whom had successfully run biomedical citizen science projects, for a think tank entitled, “Citizen Engagement in Biomedical Research.” The key recommendation was that the opportunities were vast and the methods were solid, but the participants noted that NIH involvement in this sphere would bring a level of needed scientific rigor to the field. To dig deeper into some of the barriers of biomedical citizen science as well as one of the areas of opportunity, two workshops were recently organized; one to address the ethical, legal, and social issues of biomedical citizen science, and the other to explore the potential for biomedical research games. The outcomes and lessons learned from these workshops will be the focus of this presentation.
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