By Sheldon Greaves
2011 is nearing its end, which like the end of any year is a good excuse to look back and the year gone by and the year to come. I'm pleased with the progress CSL has made, particularly in the last six months when it became possible for me to spend more time on it. In recent months we've seen several newÂ bloggers come on board with posts and projects that have been a delight to bring to you, our readers.
In the year to come, I hope to see CSL become less and less the product of one or two people assisted by a few others. In order to realize its full potential, CSL will need to grow into a larger organization that supports both individuals and small (or not so small) groups and projects. I would like to explore the possibility of local chapters, and many other things that will need the energy and intelligence and passion of more and more people. My recent experience assures me that this is a plausible future for CSL. I look forward to working with you all to make that happen.
On another front, this week could be called "The Week of the Monarchs" thanks to Bob Pish's updates and photos of what might be called an almost accidental science experiment. It started with noticing some caterpillars and led to an extended learning experience for him, his family, and our readers. But here's something that got me thinking. Forrest mentioned in a comment to one of the posts that there is something here that monarch experts need to be aware of, and this might be a point at which CSL as an organization might play an important role.
Beginning scientists are urged to work on problems that matter, but which problems are those? If you're just getting into a field of science, or happen to stumble onto something like Monarch larvae in your yard in December but you're not already an expert, how do you know it's significant? And once you find out that it really is something to write home about, what then?Â How do you find and engage the expertise needed to assess what you've found. What are your next steps? This is an aspect of amateur science that I feel has been badly neglected in the newly fashionable movement of Citizen Science.
The idea of CSL as a sort of scientific answer to "Antiques Roadshow" where people bring projects or observations for and evaluation of their "worth" seems attractive on the surface, but at the same time I would not want to give anyone the idea that their work is "unimportant" just because it isn't ground-breaking. Even re-doing experiments and projects that have been done in countless high school science classes have important educational value.
it's an interesting problem. I welcome an extended dialogue on this and many other ways in which our organization can grow and serve scientists of all kinds and abilities as we find our way forward.