Foibles — we’ve all got them, be they of personality or biology. Some have been talked about and explored for ages. For instance, why do we sneeze when looking at the sun? Why? Because we have Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helioophthalmic Outburst Syndrome (ACHOO Syndrome)!
For every ACHOO Syndrome, there are dozens of unexplained idiosyncrasies we may have experienced, but really, we have no proof that anything real is happening. Is it possible that green tea makes me sleepy and black tea makes me anxious? Or that my friend John writes better term papers when he’s drunk? When weird stuff goes on inside us, we wonder whether it’s “just us” or if there is something inherently human about our conditions.
Turns out, we can do more than wonder. Those whose curiosities drive them to dig deeper for answers will be rightfully super excited (like me!) about the progression of Citizen Science and DIWO (Do-It-With-Others) Science. Two things are going on to enable these movements: (1) a growing group of people curious about life in general, insistent on understanding what makes us tick, and (2) the online platforms and communities that let users engage with one another.
Groups like Quantified Self and DIYbio help bring out (1) and platforms like Genomera and CureTogether take care of (2), enabling (1). Citizen Science has gotten to the point where people from around the world are joining together to be participants in scientific studies. Participants have some sort of lifestyle intervention and track their progress with metrics available online.
The last study I ran had people eating butter, coconut oil, or nothing, then taking a daily math test to collect their reaction times. We were testing the hypothesis that butter improves cognition. I liked the nature of DIWO exploration so much that I’m doing it again! But, this time, there’s a contest. The winner will have their study hosted by Genomera and will receive a 23andMe Complete Edition.
Have you ever wanted to take a closer look at an aspect of life, such as how diet effects exercise, how exercise effects cognition, how sleep effects your work? Test it out! Any field of study is free game. And, if you are reading this, you are qualified to submit an entry! Submit questions and entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details, see here. You have until December 15th.
Eri Gentry is a biotech entrepreneur, citizen science community organizer, and the co-founder of BioCurious, the first hackerspace for biotech, in the San Francisco Bay Area.