As early as the 1800’s, top researchers realized the field of astronomy could advance faster by engaging amateur astronomers in collecting data for professional researchers. The first broad call to action, Edward Pickering’s 1882 “Plan for Securing Observations of Variable Stars,” specifically stated, “It is on the amateur and student of astronomy that we must depend largely for the success of the plan here proposed.” Today, volunteering amateur astronomers are being recognized as the answer to almost every human resource shortage in astronomy. From the OSIRIS-REx mission requesting amateur observers to track asteroids, to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter working with online volunteers to map the Moon with Moon Mappers, to supernovae researchers relying on discoveries made by teams such as the Puckett Observatory World Supernova Search, research project after research project is building in roles for members of the general public.
In building CosmoQuest, we set out to create software that would allow a diversity of projects to be launched quickly and affordably. Pamela’s working model was (and is) to create the WordPress of citizen science: a software package that would allow teams to login and spin up their projects through a central location, or download the software to create their own self-hosted project. The software is called Citizen Science Builder, and it’s now in its second major version.