I’ve always been a bit of a space geek and as a kid, a keen amateur astronomer. Reading this article – Wanted: Amateur stargazers to help solve mystery set me thinking about opportunities for amateurs in other areas of science.
Astronomy is notable as a science in which amateurs frequently make significant contributions. As the article points out, the word “amateur” is in no way disparaging and merely means “without professional qualifications”. These people are highly self-educated, well-informed, often well-connected and well-equipped. A key point seems to be that professional astronomers tend to work on specific targets – they can’t just spend their nights staring at the sky – and there are not enough of them to watch the entire sky at all times.
Somewhat like bioinformatics I thought – substitute “databases” for “the sky”. Lots of things lurking there waiting to be discovered and not enough time or manpower to look for it. Plus, no need for expensive imaging equipment – all you need is a reasonably quick computer, an internet connection and of course, some idea of the interesting questions and the techniques to address them.
I wonder if there are any amateur bioinformaticians out there and if we can think up some imaginative schemes to attract them?