ɸ and citizens
As ESA’s ɸ-week draws to a close, it’s worth remembering that the science and technology involved in observing our planet from space isn’t entirely for the preserve of experts. With a growing interest in the environment and the climate, there are plenty of opportunities for the general public to take part.
Margaret Gold from the European Citizen Science Association describes citizen science as, “A number of forms of scientific research that involves people without scientific training. They can help with data gathering and analysis – in fact, they can help at any stage.”
A recent example of a discovery that has been made thanks to citizen science and social media was that of ‘Steve’ – a strange shimmering ribbon of purple light in the night sky.
Data and information from citizen can be used to complement authoritative, traditional in situ and remote-sensing data sources in a number of areas such as climate change, sustainable development, air monitoring, flood and drought monitoring and land-use change.
With the environmental change a concern for us all, citizens can offer an additional source of data for policy-making and as a result play a real role in addressing big issues such as climate change.
As the general public’s concern about the world grows, so is the quest for knowledge. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) offer an opportunity for anybody to learn how we observe Earth from space.
These courses explain how satellites work, what kind of data they deliver and how this is used to understand how our planet functions as a system and how natural processes are being altered by human activity.
Ravi Kapur, from Imperative Space, said, “Our MOOCs are very much in the spirit of ESA’s ɸ approach. They are designed to bring insight and knowledge on Earth observation to new audiences, and to give learners, at all levels of expertise, the opportunity to engage with real data and real-world uses.
“We have deliberately produced these courses to provide inspiration to newcomers to the Earth observation arena as well as authoritative training for those in adjacent sectors.
“The courses are now reaching several tens of thousands of people, compared to a few hundred who might be reached through traditional forms of training.”
ɸ-week at ESA’s centre for Earth observation in Italy has brought together emerging space investors, tech leaders, start-ups and entrepreneurs with the space scientists and Earth observation researchers who are developing the potential space business ideas of tomorrow.
While we may not all have the skills to participate directly in building the space systems of the future, we can all embrace the concept of ɸ and contribute though citizen science and garner knowledge though online courses.