Science & Research for everyone

By Loïc Krähenbühl, Junior Manager – Academic Relations & Projects, April 2018

If you have no plans for next weekend, why not bring your parents or your friends to measure water levels, identify galaxies, locate different dialects or place plants within a city?

Many dream of becoming the next Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, or Marie Curie. But only a few of us embrace a career in research. However, the idea of taking part in scientific research appeals to a lot of us. To 36% of the population in Switzerland actually, according to a representative survey conducted recently.

The Citizen Science Research Exhibition is showcasing 19 different participatory projects run by the University of Zürich, ETH Zürich and universities of Applied Sciences, where people just like you and I become citizen scientists and contribute to Science – with an uppercased S.

Citizen Science: a Win-Win concept

As a concrete example, let’s take a closer look at the CrowdWater Project of Barbara Strobl and Simon Etter from the University of Zürich.

We are facing increasing global water-related challenges. A more accurate prediction of floods, and therefore, a better anticipation of natural disasters is just one of many. The CrowdWater Project is an example of how valuable the inclusion of citizens can be in hydrological data collection. Instead of spending a rainy Sunday on the couch, go out with your smartphone, take pictures of a particular river, upload them on a specially developed app and discuss with other users. That’s it! You just helped in collecting data on water levels, streamflow and soil moisture. It is probably a bit early to call you Einstein, but still, congratulations! You are a scientist.

While citizens feel empowered by their valuable contribution to research projects, scientists too benefit greatly from the inclusion of citizens. Both the collection and processing of data have been through tremendous changes over the last years: thanks to digitization, it is now possible to gather and deliver relevant data from anywhere with the help of internet, geo-localization and a powerful smartphone.

From Switzerland to India

Launched in Zürich by the University of Zürich Graduate Campus, the Citizen Science Exhibition has now made its way to India. It started at the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER) in Pune, the “Oxford of the East” that is close to Mumbai. It then traveled to the luxuriant jungles and hills of Kerala, at IISER Trivandrum, where it successfully braved the heat and humidity of April.

It goes without saying that the two countries are different in several ways: chai is very likely to taste better in Darjeeling than in Zürich, while chocolate has more chances to please our taste buds in the Cailler Chocolate Factory in Gruyère than in Kochi.

However, if we leave out clichés for a moment, research and science are definitely interests that Switzerland and India share together with great enthusiasm. Specifically, Citizen Science is an area where both countries are seeking to be proactive actors in its evolution.

Bachelor, Master and PhD students, as well as faculty members, professors or simply curious individuals: they all showed up during the different meetings and presentations held during the Exhibition’s Indian tour, confirming the mutual interest and promising perspectives of collaborations.

Next stop: Bangalore in September during the ScienceComm’18 India Conference! Stay tuned for more Science.

Read more about the Citizen Science Exhibition