Our civilization has benefited tremendously from the discoveries and breakthroughs in fundamental science. However, citizens remain largely ignorant regarding the nature of modern scientific discoveries, the culture of research infrastructures producing these fundamental discoveries, the impact to their everyday lives and the current challenges that science faces.
Despite the large dissemination and the effort done in education and outreach initiatives of Large Research infrastructures, the knowledge gap between research and society seems to increase. Citizens are exposed to ongoing scientific and technological breakthroughs through media such as TV, newspapers, blogs or social media and yet, the knowledge and skills needed to be able to comprehend the science behind these discoveries are far beyond an untrained individual’s grasp.
This knowledge gap between frontier science and society often spawns misconceptions about the content, context and mission of science. A society with low knowledge and awareness of science can easily fall prey to the lure of pseudoscience encouraging anti-intellectual beliefs and attitudes.
In a world that is constantly evolving with the help of science and technology, it is paramount that the research and educational communities support citizens towards an increased understanding of science, and an increased participation in it. With the data avalanche underway, and scientific progress on so many fronts being limited by the ability to parse and classify this data, there is a genuinely unprecedented opportunity for volunteers to make valued and valuable contributions to fundamental scientific discovery.
REINFORCE will take this chance allowing citizens who engage with the project to improve their overall scientific fluency, not only in the acquisition of new knowledge, but also in improving participants’ confidence and allowing them to accurately evaluate the reliability and provenance of scientific and pseudo-scientific results that they may encounter in the mainstream media.
The project will create a series of cutting-edge citizen science projects on frontier Physics research, with citizen scientists making a genuine and valued contribution to managing the data avalanche. They will use real and simulated data for analysis, or use instrumentation measuring a wide spectrum of signals from the cosmic ray rates to the variation of geophysical, environmental and biological environments; studying thus their contributions to the environmental noise of large infrastructures, while in parallel developing knowledge on environmental and geophysical parameter monitoring and alerts with global environmental and societal impact. Furthermore, through the use of open data as with dedicated training activities on their use and analysis, citizens will be able to perform their own inquiries, guided and supported by the REINFORCE experts.
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