Last month I had posted about options to include citizen scientists in our field work efforts. Even more exciting is the ability to give every citizen the means to participate in the research effort. One great example is Foldit, a computer game enabling everybody to contribute to important scientific research by simply playing it. Researchers are thereby collecting data to find out if humans' pattern-recognition and puzzle-solving abilities make them more efficient than existing computer programs at protein pattern-folding tasks. If this turns out to be true, human strategies can be taught to computers to make protein folding algorithms faster and more efficient.
In 2008 Mackenzie Cowell and Jason Bobe created DIYbio.org an organization dedicated to making biology an accessible pursuit for citizen scientists, amateur biologists and biology professionals. In so-called "biohacklabs", such as Genspace, amateur biologists can come together to create projects, whether just for fun, but also to improve their knowledge or engage in existing projects contributing to current research efforts.
The DIYbio network currently consists of 29 groups from 14 countries. One of those is LaPaillasse, led by Thomas Landrain, a PhD student in Synthetic Biology. The first french community lab for biotech is a real lab connected to /tmp/lab, a hacker space in Vitry sur Seine for people doing creative things with technology, culture and arts as an online community. The goal is to get together people from the most varied horizons, making projects together and sparking new ideas for the 21st century. Various people are developing new ideas, new projects, new arts, bridging the digital divide, helping people to grasp technology in a creative manner, communicating our open vision of the world, empowering people to develop their project with new technologies..
One of the projects is DNA Barcoding and the La Paillasse started with a couple of workshops to introduce the idea and the methods involved to interested participants.