Best of 2012 // #82: A Banner Year for Citizen Science

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Today, most of us have more computing energy on our laptops than ordinary researchers did 15 years ago. With strong instruments accessible for tracking and analyzing scientific data, amateurs are helping researchers to address large research projects more and more, and make remarkable findings. In 2012, the list was more striking than ever.

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There were three big stories this year of citizen scientists making a huge difference:

  • Volunteers screened open source genetic information on their PCs which revealed over 200 fresh gene variants of the most prevalent European Y-chromosome type. The information will assist scientists study European cultural groups like the Celts in their prehistory migration.
  • Amateur researchers have helped identify the extremely abnormal 2011 HM102 asteroid near Neptune after combining pictures taken on multiple telescopes. It might now get a closeup in 2013 from the New Horizons spacecraft.
  • Amateur conservationists may find animals in need, better than pros – there’s simply more of them. A report in Science discovered that species that non-specialists suggested to be added to the list of endangered species, were in fact at greater danger than species listed by U.S. specialists, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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