Federico Lauro, Chris Mason and I (and a few others by now) are looking for editors for a Frontiers Special Topic on Citizen Science in Microbiology. It is
important to us that we assemble a diverse panel of editors before we start inviting submissions! We are especially interested in making sure that women and people of color are represented at this stage. We want the issue to reflect all the awesome people out there doing awesome things. Chris and Fede and I will do our best to make sure that happens, but we know can do better with help.
Citizen Science in the Era of the Microbiome: Ecogenomic Explorations of Air, Land, Sea, and Space.
Advances in nucleic acid sequencing technology developed during the last few years have decreased the cost of generating data from whole microbiomes and opened the door to microbial community analysis and cross-kingdom analysis in metagenomics. Yet, the absence of similar cost reductions in sample collection and data analysis coupled to the dwindling national budgets for basic science have stimulated the proliferation of projects that engage non-professional scientists in collecting, analyzing and interpreting microbiome data. Because of their small size, abundance and central role in every aspect of life, microbes are well suited for citizen science projects. Citizen microbiome research has the added advantage of providing outreach by engaging the general public in a deeper understanding of the scientific process and the interpretation of the data. Engaging the public also provides opportunities for personal reflections of microbiome results. Nevertheless, the broader community of microbiologists has raised concerns over the validity of crowd sourced studies, overall reproducibly, and the personal reasons driving individuals in becoming involved in citizen science projects. Moreover, the access to funding for citizen science research through traditional routes is still limited. Here, research, comments, and articles are invited which take a closer look at some of the approaches employed, showcase success stories, highlight pitfalls and provide a useful reference for creating cost-effective but scientifically-sound projects, redefining the citizen microbiology of the future.
Specifically, the research topic invites submissions of original research articles, reviews and mini-reviews describing the contributions made by citizens to the advancement of microbiome research spanning different environments, including human-related, marine, freshwater, soils, air and even outer space. We also encourage submission of methods articles, opinions and commentaries on technological advancements, societal issues, interactions between microbiome scientists and the general public including management of privacy, recognition of individual contributions and on best practices for providing feedback to the public about scientific results.