As evident by a few of the previous posts on crowdsourcing science, wikipedia, and the GENE/Gene Wiki partnership, I think crowdsourcing science and citizen scientists are awesome! The speed with which a lot of interested non-scientists can sift through data is simply astounding!
In spite of all the positive features of crowdsourcing science and information (like wikipedia), there are also some interesting drawbacks. For example, wiki entries have been vandalized as part of a joke/challenge started by a comedian in order to make a joke/commentary on the wisdom of crowds, and more recently, users from government-related ip addresses have been systematically editing pages to reflect a particular political agenda. This kind of vandalism has prompted the banning of government ip addresses in the past.
But issues with crowdsourcing are not limited to just information platforms like wikipedia. Crowdsourcing competitions in order to foster participation and innovation have also been hijacked as covered in a recent (and very interesting) post on Science2.0.
According to the original post found at The Conversation about a new study:
“The research, published today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, found the openness of crowdsourced competitions, particularly those with a “winner takes all” prize, made them vulnerable to attack.
The researchers used game theory to analyse the trade-off between the potential for increased productivity from crowdsourcing a project, and the possibility of it being set back by malicious behaviour. They cited the DARPA Network Challenge as an example of a hijacked crowdsourcing competition, in which the organisers were left to sort through many fake submissions, including fabricated pictures of people impersonating DARPA officials….continue to the original post
Or visit the actual study publication (and hope your institution has access to it) if you want to read the original study.