[Taxacom] Citizen Science

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Sun Oct 26 03:32:21 CDT 2014

[Message split to avoid over-long ranting. Who, me?]

You also may not appreciate that some traditional means of intellectual sharing are dying out for good reason. Natural history clubs aren't generally as big as they once were, and their memberships are aging.

This does *not* mean that younger people aren't interested in natural history. It means that if you're under 30, the last thing you want to do to further your interests is join a formal society of old folks, pay membership fees, go to monthly meetings and vote on procedures and constitutions and insurance etc. This applies to many other special-interest societies, not just natural history clubs.

If you're under 30, you prefer to share and further your interests any time at all online, with a huge community of like-minded people, for free. There's also a subset of the population who are asocial, for any number of personality or other reasons. They might have real talent and interest in some aspect of natural history study, but formal clubs aren't for them. For social (and geographical!) isolates, the Net offers a fantastic opportunity to share and contribute.

Once upon a time, too, the standard means for sharing knowledge about some subject was a book, which meant finding or becoming a publisher, and putting up with the constraints of book format. In 2014, the most effective means of sharing knowledge is a website or a Facebook page. Cheaper, faster to generate, enormously larger capacity to store information, unbeatable capacity to update and correct, enormously larger audience.

There are still very good field guides being published on paper, although many of them are also available as e-books. Many young scientists I know, and probably most young naturalist, want those guides as apps for a smartphone, or at least in digital form to be carried into the field on a tablet.

To encourage and promote intellectual sharing among young naturalists, build a website or Facebook page for your special interest. The decline of nature club membership and nature-book sales reflects a change in the preferred media for information exchange, not a decline in interest in nature.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania
Home contact:
PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195

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