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Citizen scientists star in TV documentary

"The Crowd and the Cloud"
Public Lab enlisted citizen scientists to map sites affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, using cameras carried aloft by balloons and kites. (American Public Television)

It’s fitting that a four-hour documentary series about citizen scientists, titled “The Crowd and the Cloud,” is available to the crowd via the cloud a week before its debut on public television.

The first episode makes its TV debut on April 6 on the World Channel, but all four episodes can be watched anytime on the PBS.org website, on YouTube or using the PBS mobile app.

“The Crowd and the Cloud” showcases some of the people on the front lines of the citizen science movement, which enlists regular folks to gather observations and crunch data, often using online tools.

Researchers say citizen science projects contribute billions of dollars a year in donated labor. Such efforts can be as old as the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which dates back to 1900, or as new as Astronomy Rewind, a cosmic picture-sorting project that went online just last week.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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