In this day of shrinking science dollars and broad spatial questions, researchers rely more and more on the public to help with data collection. Scientists need a mobile application that will engage citizens in science, increase quality data collection, improve data accessibility, lead to a higher degree of science education, and create new collaborative models for scientific inquiry. Initially, this project will be funded by the Center for Data Integration.
The Fort Collins Science Center Information Science team proposes development of a scientific geocaching mobile application called ScienceCache to fill this need. ScienceCache will target two user groups for citizen science data collection: youth and geocachers. Using ScienceCache will be a bit like geocaching; the user will follow a preset list of waypoints to discover and report on scientific points of interest. The web application will incorporate data collection sites, and photo uploads as data and a method of authentication. This application will be useful to both Principal Investigators and USGS volunteers in the field as well as citizen scientists. Scientists will be able to build a project on the web application, specifying locations or goals for new data collection, add clues for established sites, questions to answer, measurements needed, or other activities based on their individual data needs. Volunteers can then collaborate in robust data collection and participate in actual scientific studies.