Yesterday, an article by @CoopSciScoop made rounds in twitter that highlighted a key problem researchers face in their line of work–the difficulty of finding relevant research in a growing body of literature. Specifically, the authors of this fine paper (it’s open access so give it a read) discovered that the valuable work of citizen scientists may be underrepresented due to inconsistent use of the term ‘cititzen science’ in the literature. For example, 37 papers that utilized citizen scientists used the term ‘volunteers’ instead of ‘citizen scientists’, which would effectively render the contributions of citizen scientists ‘invisible’ upon a cursory search for the term ‘citizen science’.
As stated in yesterday’s blog post this problem is not limited to citizen science research in ornithological studies. It is a problem that plagues all of biomedical research, and as we’ve seen in last week’s post, will likely get worse over time.
Next consider the fact that the Cooper et al. paper studied the articles referenced by a review paper by Knudsen et al. which saved Cooper et al. the effort of curating relevant articles. Given the effort Cooper et al. had to extend in finding citizen science efforts in the collection of papers cited by Knudsen et al’s review, one can appreciate the effort that may have gone into finding the right papers for Knudsen et al’s review–the effort that goes into finding the right papers for any researcher’s studies.