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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Amateurs are Key to Gathering and Interpreting Scientific Data

The greatest contributions to science are made by every day people who gather data. Without the data and observations made by amateurs, professional scientists are often left with insufficient data. Amateur contributions to scientific data are found in fields as varied as astronomy and the taxonomy of plants.

Keeping an eye on the sky requires millions of eyes. Amateur astronomers are thus vital, and their observations of phenomena such as exploding supernovas and meteorites are prime examples of their contributions. Volunteer astronomers even discovered a group of galaxies.

Taxonomy has a long tradition of laymen making crucial discoveries. In fact, a recent study shows that over 60 percent of new European species were found by amateurs. This number makes it difficult to underestimate the importance of public enthusiasts to the plant and animal sciences.

The list of important scientific knowledge gleaned from the work of non-scientists is long. After all, it does not take a PhD to observe, record, and relay data to fellow enthusiasts and professionals. Amateur storm spotters often save lives by giving timely information to emergency management officials. Moving forward, we must maintain cooperation between laymen and professionals for the betterment of science and the human race.

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