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Citizen Scientists

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The United States Constitutions provides for Citizen Soldiers in its second amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The concept of Citizen Soldiery is not merely a right for individual citizens to bear arms, but rather a duty that citizens have to arm themselves in defending the country from foreign invasion or domestic misrule. It is a direct result of the revolutionary war experiences of the founders, when foreign soldiers were forcibly quartered with local civilians and incidents like the Boston Massacre created a need to balance the rights of the people against the military. This concept has become somewhat antiquated in the modern era, not least of all because of the practical challenge posed by the modern equipment and armaments that any potential foreign or domestic threat would likely possess. However, today’s National Guard does traces its roots to this idea.

The idea of citizens having not only a right but a responsibility to protect the interests of their communities and make them better places to live is a noble concept. NASA already routinely uses the principles of crowdsourcing to help them analyze the mountains of data collected by satellites and observatories that cannot be reliably processed by computers. Their “Be a Martian” project is definitely one of the more innovative and interactive approaches to this sort of work.

NASA is on the right track, but why not take things one step further in terms of comprehensiveness and accessibility. How about, for instance, an application that allows different agencies or community organizations to release geotagged science projects for individuals to take on that would improve their communities.

Imagine opening the app on your phone and seeing a project from the US Wildlife Fund to photograph endangered birds in the woods near your house, or a project from the EPA to measure groundwater purity in the park down the street.

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Written by Andrew

July 2nd, 2010 at 3:42 pm

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