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Surprising Science

The Rise of Citizen Scientists

Ordinary people are taking control of their health data, making their DNA public and running their own experiments. Their big question: Why should science be limited to professionals?

What’s the Latest Development?

A growing group of individuals, who call themselves ‘health hackers’ or ‘citizen scientists’, are taking control of their personal health data, and sometimes they interact privately with research institutions to enable meaningful scientific research. “Increasingly, the outside-the-system approach seems to have reached a turning point. In talks at national conferences, in webinars, blogs and articles, more people are starting to ask: Is science really something anyone can do?”

What’s the Big Idea?

While critics argue that non-specialists lack the rigorous methods used by scientists, the pursuit of scientific knowledge has not always been restricted to the formally educated. “In the 1700s and 1800s, most people practicing science made a living in other fields. The classic example is Benjamin Franklin, who was a printer, publisher and public official but still made key discoveries in electricity.” As medical technology becomes more available to the masses, are we returning to age of basement tinkering?

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