Law in the Internet Society

*A Brief History of Public Participation in Scientific Research*

Historically, science was often the pursuit of amateur or self-funded researchers. One just has to think about Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin to realize the importance of scientific contributions by ordinary citizens to the everyday lives of human beings around the world. Science was open to anybody and so was knowledge.

The 20th century transformed science into a worldview, dominated by university-employed researchers and government-employed researchers. As scientific research became more expensive, monetary investments became a means to success in science. Furthermore, the patenting of things that are arguably only ideas have hindered citizens from delving into the sciences on their own in recent years. The 20th century forced the majority of citizens that wanted to make a career out of the sciences to join government research labs, universities, or private corporations in order to achieve their goals.

*The Internet and the Return of Citizen Science*

In recent years, the advances in technology and web access to resources and knowledge have allowed for the rise in the popularity of citizen science. By connecting interested people and creating a platform for people to build on each other's ideas, the Internet has assisted greatly in the push for citizen science. The Internet has created a push for citizen scientists in a number of ways. Gamification of science projects, ranging from tracking birds to archaeological projects, has generated scientific interest from ordinary citizens. Furthermore, ordinary citizens can now participate in the sciences by using mobile phones and other portable devices in advancing the sciences. For example, the iPhone offers apps for citizens to take part in the sciences, including a NASA sponsored app that helps track meteorites in the night's sky.

In certain areas of science, such as synthetic biology, it is clear that citizens are using the Internet to participate in scientific research in hopes of benefiting all. But there are clearly potential dangers associated with unregulated biological tinkering. This has led to a discussion about whether or not some citizen sciences should be regulated, or even prohibited. Nonetheless, the Biopunk movement, as it has come to be known, is in full force, as biopunks are utilizing the Internet to try to resolve basic biological problems.

In Meredith Patterson's Biopunk Manifesto, she draws a comparison between biology today and mathematics in the 1990's. She claims that the biohackers play the same role in biology as hackers played in the 1990's, researching and developing possible advances in the human system. Furthermore, she advances the idea that scientific literacy, the ability to do science, is a human right. Meredith Patterson wonders why the citizen scientists of today are not yet incorporated into the scientific community.......


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r7 - 19 Apr 2012 - 20:04:26 - AlanDavidson
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