If you’ve been following discussions on citizen science, you’ve probably realized that researchers are generating so much data, that they need extensive help for parsing the data and making it more useful. For many projects, citizen scientists have answered the call for help–making enormous contributions. Sure, there was a recent study which found that “Most participants in citizen science projects give up almost immediately”, but as Caren Cooper pointed out:
Just by trying, citizen scientists made important contributions regardless of whether or not they chose to continue.
What does citizen science have to do with wikidata? On that matter, what the heck is wikidata?
Much of citizen science contributions come in some form of data collection (observations; sample collection; taking measurements, pictures, coordinates, etc) or classification (identification, data entry, etc) but few citizen scientists participate in analyzing the data.
Wikidata (a linked, structured database for open data) may serve to change that. Naturally, wikidata relies on the contributions of volunteers; however, the data incorporated into wikidata is open for anyone to use. In fact, wikidata is begging to be used and citizen scientists and citizen data scientists are welcome to use it. An international group of has already put together a grant proposal (open/crowdsourced in the true spirit of wikipedia) to make wikidata an open virtual research environment. Dubbed, Wikidata for Research the proposal aims to establish “Wikidata as a central hub for linked open research data more generally, so that it can facilitate fruitful interactions at scale between professional research institutions and citizen science and knowledge initiatives.”
As exciting as this all is, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done for making wikidata more successful. Although it’s open access, it’s still a bit inaccessible due to the lack of clear documentation for new users. It’s not that the information doesn’t exist–there is a ton of information on wikidata available and a lot of neat tools already available and in development. You just have to look really hard for it. Fortunately, the wikidata community is already aware of the key issues that need to be addressed in order to become more successful.
Researchers have already taken considerable effort to make science more accessible by contributing to science-related articles. There are over 10,000 genes already in wikipedia thanks (in part) to the Gene Wiki initiative! It makes sense that wikidata is next. A lot of progress has been made in this arena, but I’ll save that for later.