“I’m finding these snails absolutely fascinating,” he said and laughed. “You’ll probably think I’m very odd but I’ve bought a notebook and I sit and watch them for hours and write down what they do.”  John had bought a mini snail farm from me and was on the phone a few weeks later.

“You’re a Citizen Scientist.” I said. That’s an ordinary person who takes part in scientific research. If you’ve made a note of the birds visiting your garden each year and sent it off to Garden Birdwatch, which thousands of people do, then you’re a Citizen Scientist too. Do you keep an eye on the activities of the local hedgehogs or foxes? Do you notice when ash trees nearby start to succumb to dieback. This sort of informal recording is absolutely vital - we are all the eyes and ears of professional scientists who rely on us collecting this data because they can’t be everywhere.

Citizen science is an example of crowd-sourcing – engaging lots of ordinary people in an activity. Crowd-funding is another example. On Wednesday Crista Cloutier (www.theworkingartist.com) gave a talk at UCF about her use of crowd-funding to get financial support for her project. She used indiegogo (www.indiegogo.com) as her platform but kickstarter is another.

In the world, of book publishing Unbound (http://unbound.co.uk/authors) is a company that uses crowd-funding. You have to pitch your book idea and they post it onto their website to see if readers think this book is worth publishing. You get your book published if you get enough support. Give it a go! Get involved!