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Citizen Science: Who Makes the Rules?

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the government-of-mexico-evidently dept.

Government 189

New submitter UnderCoverPenguin writes "At MakeZine, David Lang talks about the some of the legal issues around a planned, amateur science 'expedition,' as well as some other amateur science projects. In the not too distant past, most science was amateur. Over the past 20 or so years, society has been making it harder for amateurs to do real science, despite the technical costs falling. With the recent upswing of the 'maker movement,' amateur science has seen an increase as well, but is running into an assortment of legal issues. (An exception is astronomy, where amateurs continue to play important roles. Of course, astronomy doesn't involve chemicals or other (currently) 'scary stuff.') Can amateur science make a come-back? Or are the legal obstacles too entrenched?"

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Question and answer (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45816197)

Can amateur science make a come-back?.....amateur science has seen an increase

Sounds like the answer is, "Yes."

Re:Question and answer (-1, Flamebait)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#45816273)

no it can't because amateurs can't do things rigorously enough to meet the 5 sigma thresholds.

Re:Question and answer (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45816299)

no it can't because amateurs can't do things rigorously enough to meet the 5 sigma thresholds.

That is certainly a hypothesis....not supported by evidence. If you're too lazy to search for amateurs who have made important advances recently, is it too much to read the summary, where it mentions the important role amateurs play?

Re:Question and answer (-1, Troll)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#45816617)

the summary just claims "amators are teh bests!" w/o any documentation. Here's some proof for you of why to be wary of armchair scientists:
https://www.google.com/#q=proof+that+amateur+science+sucks [google.com]

Re:Question and answer (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45816657)

ok, I'm going to tell you right up, that you are wrong, and there are plenty of amateur scientists doing professional quality work. That's a fact, but apparently it is a place where your knowledge-base has a hole.

That's fine, everyone has holes in their knowledge-base, but, if you want to fill in your knowledge-hole, you think it's a good idea to search for the thing that is opposite of what would give you knowledge? How did that even sound like a good idea to you?

Re:Question and answer (4, Informative)

similar_name (1164087) | about 8 months ago | (#45817425)

Did you look at any of the links returned by your search? The first one is about the return of amateur science. The second is your post. The 3rd is about a novel. The fourth is an explanation of how transistors work. The fifth is a blog about the importance of science. The sixth is actually a list of amateur scientist that changed the world (kind of the exact opposite you were going for). I did not see any links explaining why I should be wary of armchair scientists. Anyone can follow the scientific method.

Posting search results is a bad idea for a source. For starters, Google tailors search results to a great number of things including IP address. In other words, Google won't necessarily return the same results for me as it does for you. Another reason it's a bad idea, is you're not really providing a source. You're simply claiming something and then telling us to look it up if we don't believe you.

Mendel and Faraday were amateurs whose work we still use and teach today. From your results I learned a little factoid. One amateur scientist liked to collect sea shells and wound up discovering several dinosaurs. She became someone known for selling her sea shells which is the source of the tongue twister. She sells sea shells by the sea shore...

Science is science. It makes little difference whether it comes from authority or not. If the science is good then it's good. If not, it's not. To argue that amateur scientist 'suck' is kind of an argument from authority and generally considered a logical fallacy.

Re:Question and answer (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 8 months ago | (#45816531)

there's more to science than statistics.. you don't really need statistics to prove that putting a and b together makes them go boom.

Re:Question and answer (3)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#45816611)

there's more to science than a + b = boom.

Re:Question and answer (0)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 8 months ago | (#45816739)

You're talking about social sciences...

Re:Question and answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816841)

Of course, astronomy doesn't involve chemicals or other (currently) 'scary stuff.')

Just wait for my warp drive to get the Hawaiian girls. If something goes wrong it will be big-bada-boom.

Re:Question and answer (3, Interesting)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 8 months ago | (#45816553)

Based on the professional scientists I have worked with they can't do it either. Based on the level of fraud in scientific papers that have been found for new drugs it seems that very very few actually can do it to those thresholds. Sure they can lie at that level but they can't do science at that level.

Re:Question and answer (4, Insightful)

golden age villain (1607173) | about 8 months ago | (#45816579)

no it can't because amateurs can't do things rigorously enough to meet the 5 sigma thresholds.

Most professional scientists never meet the 5 sigma threshold either.

Re:Question and answer (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#45816627)

are you cray cray? 5 sigma means five standard deviations from the mean! that's like 95%+, bizznitch! show me an amateur scientist that can rock those numbers, and I'll eat my cat.

Re: Question and answer (1)

MrNaz (730548) | about 8 months ago | (#45816995)

Math fail.

Re: Question and answer (3, Funny)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 8 months ago | (#45817009)

in his defense, he's not a professional statistician or mathematician. :)

Re:Question and answer (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816859)

The real problem with "amateur" science isn't necessarily the 5 sigma threshold but the arrogance of the people involved.

Most of the "makers" I've met think that programming a raspberry pi is 2 steps removed from curing brain cancer and that acadeeeeeemia is just a rat's nest of warring fiefdoms who should be done away with because they don't actually contribute anything.

Re:Question and answer (2)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 8 months ago | (#45816981)

Amateur simply means "doesn't do it for a living", not "doesn't have as much skill". An amateur can be possessed of as much if not more skill than a professional. The reverse is also possible, of course.

Re:Question and answer (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 8 months ago | (#45817073)

Given that "legitimate" scientists have been caught repeatedly lying about research to get grants or fame... I don't really think the amateurs have that far to go.

All you have to do is make a discovery, document it well enough that someone else will attempt to replicate it, and then have that replication verified.

That's about it.

If I discover something but document it terribly... and someone else uses what little I provided to show I was right... then I discovered it.

Boom and done.

Re:Question and answer (1)

g01d4 (888748) | about 8 months ago | (#45816319)

...certainly we had obtained the relevant permissions to take biological samples in Mexico. Not exactly.

I would guess the most successful (i.e. published) amateur science is done in coordination with professionals.

Re:Question and answer (1)

dns_server (696283) | about 8 months ago | (#45816401)

Re:Question and answer (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45816435)

The question in the headline is, "Who makes the rules?" And you think the answer is, "no?" Please explain.

Re:Question and answer (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816837)

no.

Re:Question and answer (2)

flyneye (84093) | about 8 months ago | (#45817419)

In this age, people are finally catching up to the evolution of thought that; you are free to do what you want as long as you harm no one and DONT get caught.
I predict a rise in home made EMP and HERF projects to combat the rise in drone projects. I think privacy and self defence projects are going to lead the way for a while.
Actually, the only real difference between amateur and professional science is; amateurs have less funding and are immune to corruption of fact by payola from benefactors. It is far too important that amateurs have free axcess to raw materials, as these are where mans REAL discovery comes from in unadulterated form.
Considering legalities, is ridiculous in terms of mankinds progress and should be ignored.
This will separate the scientists from the chickenshits.

obsicles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816219)

What's that? A placenta popsicle?

Re:obsicles? (1)

msobkow (48369) | about 8 months ago | (#45816439)

It's the sad state of spelling in the texting age. Either that, or more of that "Ebonics" crap.

Don't do electrical engineering (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816223)

Follow sites like Hack-A-Day? Well don't do any electrical engineering outside of your basement. Anything with wires is a bomb. Ask a cop. If it has wires sticking out of it, its a bomb. If it has electricity going into it, and the case doesn't look like it was made in a factory, then its a bomb. They will arrest you and blow it up. "Whew, that was a close one", and all you built was an Arduino or a raspberry pi project.

Re:Don't do electrical engineering (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816517)

Own a cellphone? You own a 'remote detonator for an explosive device' - you terrorist!
Bleach and ammonia in your house? You have the makings of 'chemical weapons' - you terrorist!
Can of gasoline and some fertilizer for your garden? You have 'elements for an explosive device' - you terrorist!
(And heaven help you if you happen to own a pressure canner, and perhaps a box of nails or two!)

And, damn, if you have even more electrical know-how and can program an Arudino or BS2 or something, you are an 'advanced' terrorist!

And then of course, if you are here posting on slashdot about such things... well, you must be an anti-government subversive! And terrorist!

Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (5, Informative)

jonwil (467024) | about 8 months ago | (#45816251)

Thanks to the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on fireworks, the war on common sense and various other wars, its becoming harder and harder for amateurs who want to do chemistry (either generic experiments or genuine research) in their own home/shed/backyard.

Chemical suppliers wont sell to amateurs and hobbyists. Basic chemicals are restricted from sale because they happen to be used in drugs/fireworks/explosives as well as the 100 other uses those chemicals happen to be used for. Some US states require licenses or registration for even basic lab equipment. Hobby chemists who have done nothing illegal are being raided by the police and having their gear seized because it "could be used to make bombs/drugs/fireworks/etc"

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

c5402dc53929211e1efb (3084201) | about 8 months ago | (#45816295)

makes me want to take up chemistry out of spite

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816313)

enjoy prison!

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816305)

Is there such a thing as a lived in home that does not have "bomb making materials" in it?

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816321)

Yes. If you live in a one room apartment and eat all your meals at McD's.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816427)

...and you outsource all of your cleaning to an organization which brings all their own supplies and leaves nothing behind.

(or you could just live in the filth which would follow from eating all your meals at McD's)

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816449)

... take all your laundry to a laundromat, buy your detergent from a vending machine, shower at the YMCA ...

There are ways to live without owning cleaning supplies.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816451)

I highly suspect there are enough chemicals to make bombs out of McD's

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816493)

When I eat at McD's, there's definitely some explosive effects later that day in the bathroom.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45816545)

Wire, of any kind, watches, clocks, cell phones, and various things found under your kitchen sink all become bomb making supplies when the police want to hold you for any reason what so ever. Your kids backpack, your pressure cooker, your stash of nails and screws, gas for the lawn mower, the tank for the gas grill, all can get you held for 72 hours.

Mere possession of these materials can get you charged. You are already guilty.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816629)

Wire, of any kind, watches, clocks, cell phones, and various things found under your kitchen sink all become bomb making supplies when the police want to hold you for any reason what so ever. Your kids backpack, your pressure cooker, your stash of nails and screws, gas for the lawn mower, the tank for the gas grill, all can get you held for 72 hours.

Mere possession of these materials can get you charged. You are already guilty.

The NSA has logged your post and reported your suspicious activities to the President, at his discretion you have been added to the 'kill list', a Predator drone with a hellfire missile will be dispatched shortly to eliminate you for 'giving away state secrets/operational details' to the enemy. Silly you, thinking in terms of 72 hour holds and 'due process', that doesn't apply anymore.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 months ago | (#45816505)

Hobby chemists who have done nothing illegal are being raided by the police and having their gear seized because it "could be used to make bombs/drugs/fireworks/etc"

Because scientists were once expected to make their own glassware, someone figured "why not let kids learn too?"
So back in the heyday of science kits, you used to be able to buy a glassblowing kit for your kid.
http://www.thestrong.org/online-collections/images/Z002/Z00244/Z0024483.jpg [thestrong.org]

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816577)

Hobby chemists who have done nothing illegal are being raided by the police and having their gear seized because it "could be used to make bombs/drugs/fireworks/etc"

Because scientists were once expected to make their own glassware, someone figured "why not let kids learn too?"
So back in the heyday of science kits, you used to be able to buy a glassblowing kit for your kid.
http://www.thestrong.org/online-collections/images/Z002/Z00244/Z0024483.jpg [thestrong.org]

You reminded me of The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments: http://chemistry.about.com/library/goldenchem.pdf
They didn't go quite as in depth, but they did mention & show how to create some lab equipment similar to what you're talking about.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (4, Interesting)

Pinkfud (781828) | about 8 months ago | (#45816563)

Not just hobby chemists either. I'm a geologist with a minor in analytic chemistry. I used to have an assay lab where I could run samples for qualitative analysis. That's in the crapper now. You have to jump through hoops to get things like con nitric acid, and just forget anything like potassium cyanide. And if you do manage to get supplies, they make you a target for a raid any time the local cops get a bug up their ass. So no more lab. :(

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 8 months ago | (#45816777)

Hmmm, never considered a quick search of Ebay to be jumping through hoops.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nitric-Acid-70-Pint-Hydrochloric-Acid-Quart-Aqua-Regia-Gold-Recovery-/111117206284?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19df1a030c

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

Pinkfud (781828) | about 8 months ago | (#45816839)

$50 per pint, and it's technical grade. I used to get a case of 4 5-liter jugs of top reagent grade for ~$90. But even so, it's illegal to possess it here.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 8 months ago | (#45817059)

Hmmm, never considered a quick search of Ebay to be jumping through hoops.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nitric-Acid-70-Pint-Hydrochloric-Acid-Quart-Aqua-Regia-Gold-Recovery-/111117206284?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19df1a030c

Buying something and receiving something are two different things. Here in Australia I can buy a lot of things online which get confiscated on the way into the country.

It also doesn't change the fact that Potassium Cyanide used to be available over the counter at the chemist, so yes searching on ebay is comparatively "jumping through hoops".

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 8 months ago | (#45816979)

If you're a geologist then why can't you register your shed / garage as a lab?

I can understand why you may perhaps want to keep potassium cyanide out of the hands of normal people, but it is almost certainly still being used by proper labs.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 8 months ago | (#45816991)

Not just hobby chemists either. I'm a geologist with a minor in analytic chemistry. I used to have an assay lab where I could run samples for qualitative analysis. That's in the crapper now. You have to jump through hoops to get things like con nitric acid, and just forget anything like potassium cyanide. And if you do manage to get supplies, they make you a target for a raid any time the local cops get a bug up their ass. So no more lab. :(

I remember having Potassium Ferrocyanide in my chemistry set, as a ten year old. (Yes, that one's essentially non-toxic, but releases the highly toxic gas if you mix with an acid.)

And I'm hardly ancient. It wasn't really that long ago.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45817287)

There's acid in your stomach. Saying something is safe unless you eat it, at which point it becomes deadly, doesn't really fill the definition of the word 'non-toxic'

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 8 months ago | (#45816655)

.... its becoming harder and harder for amateurs who want to do chemistry (either generic experiments or genuine research) in their own home/shed/backyard.

I wonder if that might be something that feeds into the growing interest in home brewing, cheese making, and so forth. As you get more sophisticated you do start using various analytical techniques that would be familiar to chemists, but there is little chance that the police will bother you, and at the end you have a tasty reward.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816741)

Thanks to the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on fireworks, the war on common sense and various other wars, its becoming harder and harder for amateurs who want to do chemistry (either generic experiments or genuine research) in their own home/shed/backyard.

Chemical suppliers wont sell to amateurs and hobbyists. Basic chemicals are restricted from sale because they happen to be used in drugs/fireworks/explosives as well as the 100 other uses those chemicals happen to be used for. Some US states require licenses or registration for even basic lab equipment. Hobby chemists who have done nothing illegal are being raided by the police and having their gear seized because it "could be used to make bombs/drugs/fireworks/etc"

Fair enough, what about the previous idiots that were causing Congress and other agencies to start banning or monitoring what chemicals and substances sold? This has nothing to with terrorism or anything else, (but you probably already know) this has everything to do with controlling citizens! God forbid some amateur comes up with an "CURE" or the next big break through in science.. I like this part of the story... In the not too distant past, most science was amateur. Over the past 20 or so years, society has been making it harder for amateurs to do real science You mean just about every scientist, prior to being trained, or find themselves "socially"(scientifically) acceptable because they went to college or have a degree? And that is the problem with science anymore!!! Everyone with a degree wants to become a name, and the findings are often times lost, or they're just thrown out there. But science is an evolving thing, and god forbid you go against anyone who feels they're better because of a "degree".

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 8 months ago | (#45816931)

There had already been cases like a student being expelled from school and arrested [themarysue.com] because an experiment caused an small explosion (a bit of smoke and the top of the bottle to pop up). That is what is been teached in schools, where you are supposed to learn science, try it by yourself and you are risking to go to jail.

Re:Amateur chemistry is all but impossible now (1)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | about 8 months ago | (#45817259)

I still remember in the mid-80s, a friend had an experiment explode, it put holes in his shirt and holes in the ceiling tiles, the best part is was an Fireman who would worked on Chemical Fires, which is why he had to take the class in the first place. He didn't get arrested or anything, but he did learn a valuable lesson that day.

Not so impossible at all. (1)

westlake (615356) | about 8 months ago | (#45817263)

Thanks to the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on fireworks, the war on common sense and various other wars, its becoming harder and harder for amateurs who want to do chemistry in their own home/shed/backyard.
Chemical suppliers wont sell to amateurs and hobbyists.

The A C Gilbert Heirloom Chemistry Set [kickstarter.com] project was fully funded three days ago. ($149,000)

H.M.S. Beagle [hms-beagle.com] has about 600 chemicals for sale online. H.M.S. Beagle Publications: Materials Safety Data Sheets [hms-beagle.com]

United Nuclear [unitednuclear.com] is a rich resource for the amateur scientist. Radioactive Isotopes [unitednuclear.com] . Chemistry Experiments [unitednuclear.com]

-----

Chemistry Supply Websites [chemistrytwig.com]

Biased summary (1, Flamebait)

Jiro (131519) | about 8 months ago | (#45816261)

Which can be worse than a merely inaccurate one. First of all, TFA says nothing about changes in the past 20 years, and many of the things described in the article have manifestly not just been made up in the past 20 years. Do you really think Mexico would have let you take biological specimens prior to 1994? Second, the tone of the summary implies that these experiments are being restricted because they are "scary stuff". Only a minority of the experiments described in the article are associated with scaring the public, such as the GMO one, and even that explains that Kickstarter came to that decision after consulting with scientists, rather than just banning such things because they sounded scary. In fact, the spin of the article is completely opposite from the summary--the summary implies that these restrictions are caused by hysteria, which really isn't in the article at all.

Re:Biased summary (0)

pepty (1976012) | about 8 months ago | (#45816385)

You're leaving out the part about human trials and uBiome, which skirted FDA rules about IRB approval. If you heard about 23AndMe being shut down by the FDA last month: part of the reason was similar concerns about the use of their samples.

Re:Biased summary (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 8 months ago | (#45816463)

23AndMe wasn't shut down, they just are no longer allowed to point out genes that may be linked to medical issues. It wasn't the use of samples, but the description of the analysis, not the analysis itself, but telling the "owner" of the DNA what it "means". You must pay a member of the AMA for that. The feds will go in and do everything in their power to protect that conservative union.

Amateur Science Too Expensive (2, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 8 months ago | (#45816267)

Why bother with the time, expense, and hard work of amateur science when you can just outsource it to people who make stuff up?

That's the worlds culture now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816269)

We live in a society of sheep that are controlled with fear. What do you expect. The US lags behind the rest of the world at neutering its citizens but we slowly follow right along. Outlawing anything that doesn't contribute to you being a good little worker bee.

Amateur Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816301)

Don't even bother with amateur software development. If you know anything about computers, you are a cyberterrorist. The Men In Suits will seize your computers and throw you in jail.

Re: Amateur Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816369)

Really?
What are you researching? Targets security?
Look in the App Store , any of them.
Arudino?

Re: Amateur Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816381)

Dan would later learn that there was a time when anyone could have debugging tools. There were even free debugging tools available on CD or downloadable over the net. But ordinary users started using them to bypass copyright monitors, and eventually a judge ruled that this had become their principal use in actual practice. This meant they were illegal; the debuggers' developers were sent to prison.

This is one of the roles of universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816315)

that they'll have even if/when distance learning for college degrees ever becomes widely accepted for launching professional careers.

obsicles.. (0)

greywire (78262) | about 8 months ago | (#45816327)

Can somebody please explain to me what legal obsicles are?

Re:obsicles.. (2)

lxs (131946) | about 8 months ago | (#45816367)

It's an example of the real reason. Most people can't even write their own name properly. That makes them too dumb to do real science.

or don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816503)

I'm going to have to go with the DHS on this one. How many people know enough, or care enough, to try to perform real science on their own money? People like John Carmack, and Jeff Greason, are quite abnormal. If someone really has the intelligence, and the willingness to spend years, go for a pHD, and you can be around real scientists.

Re:obsicles.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816411)

The legal obsicles are to entranched because big guverment is literary marksist fashism.

Re:obsicles.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816419)

Can somebody please explain to me what legal obsicles are?

Some guy wants to take a bunch of tourists down to Mexico and collect some "samples", and is pissed off because they need a permit to go around cutting up plants and digging in the ground and carrying vials and packages of biological materials back through customs.
When he read the permit process he realized that he's not even a scientist by amateur standards because he doesn't understand anything they're asking him, and basically what they're asking him for is some details on what he's planning on gathering from what locations, and how he plans on actually doing it.

I've seen better proposals put together by grade school children. This isn't about preventing amateur science, it's about keeping idiots from damaging shit or people from running harvesting operations under the guise of "science".

Re:obsicles.. (2)

lxs (131946) | about 8 months ago | (#45816679)

I've heard of "scientists" taking samples of psychoactive cactus to be analysed via the bioassay method. It's a lot like Japanese whale studies.

It never stopped (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 months ago | (#45816333)

Where is this David Lang getting this stuff from?
Just the other day I was listening to an interview of an artist that had published a well received book on avian anatomy. Pick just about any field and there are people without degrees in that field doing real science and getting it taken seriously.

Re:It never stopped (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 months ago | (#45816533)

Where is this David Lang getting this stuff from?

Read about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioprospecting [wikipedia.org]
There have been numerous lawsuits on behalf of natives peoples to invalidate patents based on local plants and local knowledge.
The West has a long history of appropriating plants and knowledge from countries, which is why TFA talks about the permits required for foreigners to do science in Mexico.

Just the other day I was listening to an interview of an artist that had published a well received book on avian anatomy.

Not all science is created equal.
There aren't that many laws surrounding the study of avian anatomy, compared to chemistry or the atomic sciences.
Most stuff a hobbyist ca not buy and, of the things a hobbyist can buy, a lot of them will put you on the FBI's radar.
Hobbyist science ain't what it used to be and neither is the scope of the law. [wkyt.com]

Re:It never stopped (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | about 8 months ago | (#45816599)

Not in medicine or human/animal biology. It is impossible because of the limitations on animal research. In most countries, you have to have a licence to perform animal experiments and said licence is usually tied in some way to a project and/or to a specific location within which you can perform the experiments. As an amateur you could still probably work with cell cultures but that means having access to an incubator and a sterile lab. Plus I don't know where you would get your cells in the first place. Insects would be possible though but everything beyond that is a no go without a state-approved licence. And unlike what the summary seems to suggest, legislations regulating animal experiments have been in place for a really long time. For instance in the UK, the Cruelty to Animals Act that originally regulated animal experiments was passed in 1876 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_Animals_Act_1876 [wikipedia.org] .

"legal issues" as a response to prior abuses (5, Informative)

spasm (79260) | about 8 months ago | (#45816357)

TFA is not so much about "legal issues" as it is about the struggle to get permission to collect biological specimens in another country. Another country where there's unfortunately been a long history of scientists and pseudo-scientists from more wealthy countries showing up and taking whatever they wanted, sometimes to the severe detriment of the locals. Ok, we're talking about Mexico and the US if you're too lazy to read TFA. The "legal issues" are the system of review the Mexican government has put in place in response to prior abuses, designed to ensure new research projects don't exploit, destroy, or otherwise cause the kinds of problems both amateur and professional scientists have caused in the past. I'm glad the author of the TFA is attempting to work out how to make it work, rather than just declare that his 'right' to do research in another country trumps local law, and I'm also glad to hear the Mexican government people he emailed appear to be responding throughtfully.

TL,DR - this isn't about citizen science being stifled by The Man, it's about a particular project hitting a hiccup caused by a long history of 'amateur scientists' exploiting and destroying another country's cultural and biological heritage.

Re:"legal issues" as a response to prior abuses (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816615)

Fuck Mexico. Where is the outcry in the USA about all the illegal drugs that are being exported by mexicans and turning USians into zombies. There is a larger outcry by all the gang star drug lords buying USian guns and killing Mexicans. Somehow this is the U.S.A's fault. This seems to me to be a double standard. As for amauteur scientist abusing mexicans by taking what ever they wanted. This claim seems bizarre. What the fuck exactly are you talking about. Did scientists either amateur or professional in that past come in and abduct Mexicans, to obtain their DNA to perform bizarre experiments where the created a human / donkey hybrid? Inquiring minds want to know. Exactly how have the evil scientist raped the Mexican population. Also how does this abuse of Mexicans by the wealthy nations compare to the systematic descruction of the Mayan civilization by the ohh so glorious conquistadors.

P.S. I am sorry for this post. On reflection I realize there are no mexicans anymore. The entire S. American contintent's population has been replaced by the more politically correct term Latino. Replace all references to Mexican with Latino.
P.P.S why is it that no Latinos actually are able to speak Latin?

Re:"legal issues" as a response to prior abuses (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816703)

Welcome to drunk Redneck posting hour on Slashdot. A time when we blame everything but our own ignorance and the meth and moonshine are locally sourced. Yee-haw!

Amateur literacy (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 8 months ago | (#45816379)

(An exception is astronomy, where amateurs continue to play important roles. Of course, astronomy doesn't involve chemicals or other (currently) 'scary stuff.') Can amateur science make a come-back? Or are the legal obsicles too entrenched?"

- a real 'obsicle' maybe scarier than the 'scary stuff' mentioned in the fucking summary. How about we start with amateur literacy and go from there?

Re:Amateur literacy (2)

lxs (131946) | about 8 months ago | (#45816707)

Small correction. The editors on this site are paid employees. This was done by a professional illiterate.

Amateur science is blocked by journals (4, Insightful)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 8 months ago | (#45816391)

The fact that scientific knowledge, in the form of scientific articles, is locked behind exorbitant journal paywalls is what is preventing amateur science the most, not to mention would be professional science in places that can't afford the outlandish subscription fees.

It's a crime against humanity preventing what is often publicly funded scientific knowledge from being shared far and wide, as it could be with virtually no cost on the Internet.

This is a shameful state of affairs that needs to be fixed one way or the other. Long live Aaron!

Re:Amateur science is blocked by journals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816403)

Long live Aaron!

Aaron is dead. Long live MIT!

Re:Amateur science is blocked by journals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816459)

It's not really a solution, but most of us at the lab ask for copies of the papers we need directly from authors. Most of the time they're happy to help, after all, more people reading your work means you get more citations.

Most high-ranked university have access to paywall sites, but it's still a pain in the ass when you find that perfect paper and you're at home without access to your institution's proxies.

Re: Amateur science is blocked by journals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816515)

You may have more access than you think. Many universities offer access to their library systems to members of the local community for a nominal fee.

Re: Amateur science is blocked by journals (1)

m00sh (2538182) | about 8 months ago | (#45817213)

You may have more access than you think. Many universities offer access to their library systems to members of the local community for a nominal fee.

Or perhaps less than you think.

At my local university, they tied all the computer services to one login system. So, getting a library card only allows you to borrow books. All computer resources can only be accessed by logging in with the student account and if you are not a student, you can't access it.

Most universities don't bother with physical copies of journals anymore.

Re: Amateur science is blocked by journals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45817305)

Yeah, that's a way to generate more income to students. Just toss some random student $1 to download an article for you.

Re:Amateur science is blocked by journals (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45817135)

This depends on the field. In physics and astronomy, almost everything gets published on arxiv.org [arxiv.org] (in addition to the journals), where it's free to access.

Reality makes the rules (1)

mc6809e (214243) | about 8 months ago | (#45816421)

We just try to discover them.

Anyone can do it if they ask reality the right questions (experiments).

Just science, not "am" vs "pro" (3, Insightful)

chrismcb (983081) | about 8 months ago | (#45816429)

The article begins:

For a group of citizen explorers, without an affiliation to a scientific institution, this is a daunting endeavor.

I think this could just be amended to "For a group of scientists this is a daunting endeavor." Of course scientists attached to a legal institution can probably draw on the help of other resources and people who know how to jump through some of these hoops. But they still have to deal with the same legal issues.

"legal obsicles" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816447)

I prefer illegal popsicles.

Re: "legal obsicles" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816471)

Googles pot popsicles.

maybe the serious "amateur" scientists will move (1)

Biljrat (45007) | about 8 months ago | (#45816487)

...to the state/country where their work will be legal and hopefully profitable to the state/country that makes them welcome.

Sounds like a nice start to a science fiction novel.

Re:maybe the serious "amateur" scientists will mov (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816573)

.........and that state/country will suddenly find its sky full of drones.

Nowhere on Earth is safe from the Americans, and good luck trying to leave.

Oh and you'd better be planning to sell that novel at a profit so you can pay some taxes, otherwise it's a terrorist training manual.

Re:maybe the serious "amateur" scientists will mov (1)

JockTroll (996521) | about 8 months ago | (#45817427)

.........and that state/country will suddenly find its sky full of drones.

Unless that country is well away from an US staging area and/or has a massive trade imbalance with the US, or owns a lot of its debt. Not all countries in the world are backwater camel-humping grounds: some are highly civilized and advanced nations that can spell massive economic grief for the US. Some happen to have the technology to turn those precious drones into expensive broken toys. By the way, I've been dabbling with chemistry since I was 10 and I'm still doing it, no police visit ever. We don't live in redneckistan, you know.

Complexity (2)

jones_supa (887896) | about 8 months ago | (#45816501)

Wouldn't the complexity of doing stuff be the biggest bottleneck at some point?

Just like game programming: in the past you could code simple games in a week (or a weekend if you are a tough guy). Compare that to modern shader-based graphics programming -- you will spend the first month just finding out how to set up things to draw anything meaningful on the screen.

Re:Complexity (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45816547)

IMO the biggest problem with games (for a programmer) isn't the 3D calculations, it's the art.

The number of artists (and musicians) working on a modern game is surprisingly large.

Re:Complexity (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 8 months ago | (#45816693)

Tru dat bro. There we can see increased complexity too: in the past you were working with low-res bitmaps in Deluxe Paint, now you might be tweaking hi-poly models in Maya for days and weeks to have one animated character completed.

Re:Complexity (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 8 months ago | (#45816789)

It's both. Comparing OpenGL (ES) to sprite-based and tile-based 2D is kind of like comparing J2EE in all its distributed splendor to PHP.

OpenGL ES 2 was a pain, but dear Jesus God, I spent the better part of a day just TYPING IN the HelloWorld code for an OpenGL ES 3 Android app, and ended up with something like 8 or 10 classes that compiled into a .apk file several hundred kilobytes in size just to draw a yellow triangle on a black screen. Now, admittedly, the increased HelloWorld complexity eventually pays off by making it more straightforward to do COMPLICATED things, but GETTING to that point has absolutely become more painful over the years.

~25 years ago, I got a Vic-20 on Christmas Eve. By dinner on Christmas Eve, I was writing programs with custom characters, animation, and music. Today, you'd spend 2-3 days with a new computer just waiting for Windows Update to finish installing one or two service packs and several hundred individual updates. Some people might grouse about "cryptic code", but I dare anyone to compare the amount of code you need to open a native Window and make its background black under .net or Java to:

POKE 36879, 8 (*)

Butart is a big, huge problem too. Back when graphics were made from 8x8 characters that could either be 2 colors, or 4 colors at half-resolution, there were only *so* many ways to meaningfully make something, and most of them were dictated by a need to have at least 1 pixel separating major features (like eyes) so they'd be recognizable as such. The lack of resolution and subtle colors basically solved the problem for you.

If anything, having an artist involved 25 years ago usually made the gameplay worse, because they'd force the programmer to make horrible performance compromises to implement their artistic vision. Instead of being able to play tricks with barrel-shifting and video timing, the programmer would be stuck shoveling raw bits around the slowest way possible because the artist designed an image whose width wasn't a whole multiple of 8 pixels.

(*) of course, understanding WHY the value was 8, and not 0, as opposed to just blindly copying the value out of a book, required a few semesters in college ;-)

Re:Complexity (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 8 months ago | (#45816795)

^^^ Argh. Proofreading typo-blindness. "~25 years ago, I got a Vic-20 on Christmas Eve. By dinner on Christmas Day, ..."

one way around this... (4, Interesting)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 8 months ago | (#45816567)

If you want to do science on your own, you can and should incorporate. Be a non-profit if you'd like. The entrenched system which stifles non-university researchers gladly accepts small businesses and NGOs, as long as they have some funding.

The number one thing you should not expect about doing science, at any level, is that it will be cheap, quick or lean. When it comes to science those words mean the same thing as "violating environmental and safety law" or simply doing a piss-poor job.

If you want to do real chemistry or biology work, you will find that renting or begging lab space somewhere will be cheaper than actually making your garage legally suitable.

Ultimately, you (1)

Rix (54095) | about 8 months ago | (#45816701)

In that you choose which rules to follow, and which to ignore, subvert, avoid, or not even bother learning about.

Hard Issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45816993)

The US has a vastly under educated public that can get behind some really bad laws. On top of that we now know that chemicals can be quite an environmental problem and the idea that many amateurs might not handle dangerous waste safely is an issue. Combine that with people who cower in fear over the slightest thing and we can see a dismal future for home chemistry and experiments in general. Law enforcement has gone nuts over harmless kids noise makers such as dry ice and water in a soda bottle. And a person with enough ambition to develop a new personal firearm can have all kinds of legal problems as well. There is a very real loss of freedom taking place. And even worse there are some neighborhoods where even more freedoms need to be restricted.

Ammoniacal (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45817181)

I'm a second year biochemistry student who's had a lifelong passion for chemistry. I've slowly built myself a lab over the years, where I've mostly been making or purifying OTC chemicals to common lab reagents. One day I came across an old paper claiming high yields of acetonitrile when using calcium carbide as a dehydrating agents instead of phosphorus pentoxide. I've talked to quite a few people having problems finding phosphorus pentoxide, or it just being too expensive to use. So being the curious person I am, I thought I'd try both agents and report my yields on the forums. Because I wanted good numbers, I decided to buy some acetamide instead if making it. The only other reagent you use in the distillation. Simply ordered a 250 g jar off ebay, but the order never arrived. Four months later I receive a phone call by the police, interrogating me about the contents of the package, and my intentions with it. I invented a little half-lie on the spot, said I used it for a curing bath for photographic film. A month later I do receive it, labeled "Seized by customs". But now I'm afraid to do anything, expecting them to be at my door at any moment, to see what I'm "really" using it for. So I close down my "lab" temporarily, pack it all into some cases and put them for storage. The next week I get another call from the police, this time from an investigator on "my case". Asking about the amounts I had used, and for what. Etc.

And now I don't know what to do anymore. And all this for acetamide, a substance you get when mixing ammonia and "non-acetone nail polish remover", not even a precursor to any drugs (although it can be used to make a precursor), and has no use in either bombs or pyrotechnics.

Seems like a quick end to a rather short-lived hobby.

free the innocent stem cells (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45817279)

just a suggestion from a citizen

Expedition permits? Easier, actually... (3, Informative)

Wdi (142463) | about 8 months ago | (#45817337)

Very misleading original article full of misguided complaints. Controls on the export of native plants or other biological specimen have been in place for hundreds of years, and with much harsher penalties.

The members of the expedition have a, admittedly tedious, path to get permits. Just play by the rules.

When John Rolfe smuggled tobacco from Trinidad to Virginia in 1611, establishing its tobacco farming industry, there was a mandatory death sentence for seed smugglers imposed by the Spanish colonialists.

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