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Citizen Science: A New Study on Understanding the Language of Science through a Participatory Experiment by Sudha Arunachalam


Dr. Sudha Arunachalam’s recent study on ‘citizen science’, an approach to research that involves the public in scientific research and measurement, has been accepted for publication in March’s volume of Language: Teaching Linguistics. Dr. Arunachalam is an Associate Professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU. One of her co-authors is a recent graduate from the Master’s program in Communicative Sciences and Disorders, María Cobo Nieto.

The pandemic highlighted a significant divide between the public and their trust of science. The spread of misinformation about the virus and vaccines stems from a lack of trust in the science behind them. If the public understood a bit more about what goes on behind-the-scenes in scientific studies, then perhaps their confidence in science and scientists would increase.

The project outlined in the publication leverages the foundational principles of citizen science but takes it a step further. While citizen science typically involves the public only in the most basic and tedious of data collection tasks, Dr. Arunachalam and her team engaged people from around the world to lead their own research initiatives with guidance from their team. Participants worked together to identify a research question, design an experiment, and interpret the data on their own. The goal was to offer insight into the intentionality of research, the processes and design that go into the experiment, and the decisions and challenges that emerge when analyzing complex data. The research team found that participants were very engaged in the process and that they stated they learned about science, about language learning (the topic of their research study), and about what it’s like to be a scientist. 

The project was funded in part by the IHDSC Seed Award Program and a grant from the NYU Research Challenge Fund. The project was implemented using an interactive online platform designed by Dr. Jan L. Plass and his team at the CREATE Lab. For more information about the project, visit the Understanding the language of science through the science of language project page

The paper will be released in March’s volume of Language: Teaching Linguistics. See citation information below, excluding volume details for now:

Arunachalam, S., Bednar, N., Burns, L., Cobo Nieto, M., & Wagner, L. (2023). Show don't tell: Engaging the public in language science through a participatory experiment. Language: Teaching Linguistics.

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