Citizen Science for companies?

One of the cutting-edge trends in scientific research is the Citizen Science. In general, it consists of   participating in data generation, analysis, or even experiment design by citizens (non-scientists).

(infographics from http://www.citizensciencecenter.com)

Information technology (IT) has facilitated data transmission, real-time communications and data analysis using personal computers. But one of the most known projects in Citizen Science dates back to 80s and 90s, in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Cornell University, NY). Citizens/Collaborators gather data from bird observations, and the results of the population distributions are analyzed by the scientists. In other projects, like SETI@home, the collaborators will offer some of their computational resources to analyze Big Data. In wikipedia you can read  a list of current projects of Citizen Science.

This way, Citizen Science directly benefits to the citizens, because it allows their participation in scientific experiments, and it democratizes Science to an extent. On the other side, professional scientists qualitatively increase their resources to either embark on either more ambitious projects or speeding up them. A book describing the philosophy behind Citizen Science in a detailed manner  is  'Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science', by Michael Nielsen.

Although is normally associated to public or non-profit organisms, the Citizen Science concept should be applied without any problem to profit-driven organizations, that is, to companies with R&D departments. A potential example might be the use of computational resources from the citizens to study therapies against a rare disease. The society would become benefitted from the generation of novel drugs against diseases that Big Pharma is not normally focused on, whereas the company obtain a new niche market  in which it would compete with reduced costs.  The citizens might even decide which disease they want to be studied. And it is not limited to computational collaboration, as an open lab could be used for the citizens to perform experiments. This and other actions would place a company near to an inclusive definition of Citizen Science. As a result, they will help the company to create a social value added to the one that is generated by its activity.

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