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LanguageARC and Citizen Science

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Citizen science is a research process where non-scientists collaborate with scientists to collect data and achieve a certain research goal. Anyone who participates in citizen research can be citizen scientist- all they have to do is employ their own knowledge. Many areas of study from astrology to zoology recruit citizen scientists to collect data for a variety of research projects. For example, Zooniverse is a hub for many citizen science projects that include tasks like collecting data on fish migration, analyzing meteor showers, identifying people from medieval records, and many more. Having a voice and an impact in research is appealing for many people, and if the topic of the project is something they are interested in, they will be drawn to participate.

Why Do Researchers Use Citizen Science?

Citizen science allows researchers to collect a large amount of data quickly by soliciting contributions from large numbers of people. The more public and accessible the platform in which the project takes place, the more likely people will participate in it. The internet and social media are popular places to place citizen science projects-many people can access them quickly, and after they participate, they can share with followers or friends. For researchers, this lessens the difficult task of trying to find people to participate in their project or study. Researchers should keep in mind, though, that participants in citizen science most likely will not have formal scientific training or a specific academic degree that has to do with the project’s subject area. Therefore, researchers should choose suitable tasks and break those tasks into discrete and manageable elements appropriate for a non-expert audience.

In the field of linguistics, many citizen science projects involve elicitation, or the collection of language data from participants- for example, speech recordings, pronunciation tasks, and dialect surveys. Almost everyone knows at least one language, so they can participate in a large variety of citizen science language projects. Again, a citizen scientist participating in linguistics research does not have to hold a specialized degree or have relevant research experience under their belt to make valuable contributions to the project. "Fearless Steps" and "Perfecting the Audio BNC" are examples of projects where most anyone with knowledge of the English language can evaluate and analyze audio clips (for example, counting the number of speakers in each clip, or listening to a clip and seeing if it matches a given transcription). Activities such as "Discovering Grammar through Language" and "Les Stéréotypes en Français" ask participants to evaluate or translate text by simply typing their responses into a text box. Other projects on LanguageARC ask citizen scientists to record themselves speaking (for example, pronouncing a series of words or describing an image). The language data and judgements collected from the citizen scientists make real contributions to research and analysis and can serve as the basis for creating linguistic corpora used in research such as language technology development.

Find LanguageARC on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, or head directly to the LanguageARC website to begin participating. Look forward to more blog updates in the future.

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