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One of the most significant adjustments brain injury survivors confront in post-injury life is learning to manage a considerable increase in the amount of free time greeting them each day after returning home from rehabilitation. While previously much of pre-injury days may have been spent involved in work or school, the common loss of those two activities as viable options in brain injury survivors’ lives can leave large holes to fill in their schedules. For instance, if a survivor spent 40 hours a week at a job and cannot return to work, he or she now has 40 hours of time to fill in an average post-injury week. One way to fill this time in a meaningful way can be found in citizen science projects.
Citizen science projects are based on the idea that scientists do not have enough time or ability to collect and analyze all the data that they would like to in order to conduct various research projects. One example can be observed in a scientist collecting information on trout migration. He or she would obviously be limited by the number of individual rivers and streams feasible to visit for data collection. However, this scientist could ask fishermen otherwise making use of these waterways to spend 30 minutes counting the trout at particular sites. In this way a scientist can gather data from many more locations. A second example can be seen in the process of identifying galaxies. There are billions of galaxies in our universe, and a plainly prohibitive commitment of time would be required of scientists in order to categorize all the galaxies found in photographs thus far collected. However, scientists can post these pictures on the web and ask curious citizens worldwide to help categorize the galaxies according to shape. As you can see in both examples, much of the information for research projects can be gathered and analyzed by individuals with little or no training and still have a significant impact on the quality and quantity of steps taken on the journey to scientific progress. The work produced through citizen science projects will often be used to help make policy decisions, stake out new discoveries and help understand our environment in a more complete and beneficial manner.
There are many different types of citizen science projects similar to these examples. Some involve venturing out into nature as in the trout migration project described above, while many others can be joined from the privacy of one’s own home. They can be operated by universities, museums, nonprofits and government agencies. A great number of citizen science projects can be located by simply entering the keywords “citizen science” into the search field of any web browser. Here are a few helpful links to locate projects:
Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/citizen-science/
Cornell University: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/projects/find
Hopefully, incorporating citizen science projects into a weekly activity schedule will help bring brain injury survivors enjoyment and meaning in their post-injury lives!
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Moody Neurorehabilitation Institute: http://tlcrehab.org/
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