Posted on 26 Oct 2014 03:51 by Mickey von Dassow
The goal of IGoR is to help everyone do scientific research. Whether novice or experienced, amateur or professional, everyone should be able to pursue their curiosity. By being open to people of all experience levels, and all scientific interests, IGoR will provide access to the greatest possible spectrum of skills and knowledge areas. Professional and experienced amateur scientists might be able to tap into the skills and resources of non-scientists, while at the same time helping novices learn to do their own science. Non-scientists might have skills and resources they don't even realize would be useful in research. Sometimes these might just be their time and their eyes and ears, but other times it might be craftsmanship or local knowledge.
The beauty of the wiki approach is its flexibility, so there are lots of ways people can use IGoR. Here I'll talk about just three.
Collaboration building and project development:
I've used IGoR to provide an invitation to potential collaborators interested in working with me on sea squirt regeneration. This is a phenomenon I've been interested in for a long time, but it's my first time working with sea squirts, and I don't have all the equipment and techniques I'd like where I am. There are certainly people who would find this phenomenon interesting, and could contribute to developing a project, but who have not published on this system. By putting it on IGoR, I hope I can find good collaborators who I would not encounter by relying on my own network or publication records.
It's important that both novice and experienced scientists can use IGoR this way. If someone who has never tried to do research has a question, experienced scientists should be able to help them figure out how to address that question scientifically. That way, more people can learn how science works by doing it themselves. This will benefit everyone because a greater diversity of users will mean more skills and knowledge areas will be represented. As an example, there's a tale that seeds won't sprout in microwaved water. Why should someone trust me when I say that this is bogus, when they can test it for themselves, and get suggestions for how to design a more rigorous experiment (if they want lots of sprouts!) in the process? As users (novice or experienced) become better scientists, they'll be able to contribute more to other site members.
Develop methods for "citizen science" projects:
Another way to use IGoR is to develop methods for citizen science projects. Citizen science projects ask volunteers who are not experts in the field, and don't have access to lots of lab equipment, to do research tasks such as collecting data. Therefore, it would be helpful for researchers who want to do that kind of project to get feedback from non-scientists while designing protocols. Two examples are Dr. Adam Summers' project page on surveying the roughness of intertidal surfaces, and Dr. Dan Speiser's project page on scallop migration.
Inspiring others to tackle your questions:
I've also used IGoR as a place to pose questions and ideas that I've been curious about, but are not part of my main research program (e.g. self-organizing cells, cloning in sea urchin larvae, and scallop vision). The sparks pages are also a great place to share these sorts of things. Any curious or observant person comes up with many more interesting questions or observations than they'll ever be able to study in their own lifetime. I like the idea that other curious and motivated people might be inspired by them. Hopefully, someday I'll hear about what they've found!