Citizen Scientists Musings: Monthly Report and New Projects

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By Sheldon Greaves

CSL Web Traffic from June 2011 thru May 2012 (Source: Google Analytics).

Yes, it's time for another look at how CSL is doing and it's doing better all the time, thanks to the support of our readers and contributors. It really is gratifying to see the traffic increasing on our blog; this month, as with the last five, we've exceeded the previous month in at least one of the two areas we track, making this yet another "best ever month" with over 5.600 visits and more than 9,500 page views. I was hoping we'd break through the 10K mark for pageviews in May, but June looks like a good possibility for that milestone.

More important than mere numbers, however, were some significant developments on other fronts. First, CSL is now officially registered with Google's nonprofit program, which will give us access to some great tools to (hopefully) improve our web presence and be more effective at raising our profile.

Second, several of our members are working on an initiative we've discussed previously; developing a prototype of a Science Fair Project Archive. This is something that our community has needed for a long, long time. As this project progresses we have other enhancements and augmentations to add, but all in good time. "Feature creep" will not help us at this stage.

A related program that I would also like to start working on is a list of problems, projects, mysteries, conundrums, and so on in search of an answer. We especially want to highlight unanswered questions that are "within reach" of amateur scientists. Of course, amateur scientists can be fiendishly clever, so I'm inclined to error on the side of, "Wow, that's really hard!" with this list. Persons or organizations interested in working on this initiative are welcome to contact CSL via citizenscientistsleague (at) gmail.com.

One of the big challenges of someone who is just starting out in science as a hobby is the question of what to work on. We've discussed elsewhere the idea of finding problems that "matter" (however one chooses to define that) and other criteria. It's one thing to repeat classic experiments and projects as a means of developing skills and learning the many tiny details that go into good scientific work. But at some point, doing "real" science means focusing on real problems, and beginners, and probably quite a few intermediate amateurs, have no idea what those problems are. We hope that this index will prove to be a clearing house of ideas both for science fair project ideas and inspiration for anyone looking for a nice intellectual nut to crack.

After all, just because the science fair is over and you're out of school, that's no reason to stop doing science projects.

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