A reader writes:
In your coverage of crowd-sourced scientific research, I think there is an important aspect that needs to be discussed: ethical oversight. Not mentioned in the many write-ups of Perlstein or other like him is the lack of ethics oversight for the use of animals or human samples. (This is discussed in length with lots of links to other articles here.)
In brief, independent scientists outside of academia do not have to abide by the same standards or review process of ethical and humane conduct towards their test subjects, be they human or animals, as those of us in academic or industry institutions have to. I have no issues with the use of animals in research, as long as they are treated humanely and ethically … BUT I have been in research long enough (15+ years) to fear that if you remove the oversight and add to that the ever decreasing pool of funding that people are competing for (be it government grants or kickstarter campaigns), scientists will start to cut corners. As far as I know, none of the crowd-sourced science proposed or done so far has made use any form of institutional review of their use of animals or human samples.
The main reason they cite for not doing so is cost. You do not inspire my confidence that you will treat your test subjects ethically when the first thing you cut from your budget is an outside review of your ethical treatment of test subjects. The response of most of the people involved in the crowd-sourced science movement has been some version of “trust me, I would never hurt animals/people”.