To develop Independent Citizen Science to its full potential requires a level of transparency that need to fulfill the following criteria: Can a citizen with no prior experience in science, but who is sufficiently motivated, study freely available texts and data in sufficient detail and depth to make a meaningful contribution to the science?
Free online self-education resources are growing exponentially. Search engines such as Google Scholar and Google Books makes research for sources very efficient. Wikipedia, Wikibooks and Wikispecies now give us free access to basic knowledge. The Khan Academy provides free video tutorials for science and mathematics education. The growing network of The Open University, Wikiversity and the Open Courseware Consortium provides university courses available free online. Harvard and M.I.T. have teamed up to offer free online courses with edX.
However, a serious barrier to self-education is the cost of subscription required by many of the best university libraries, something that is limiting the potential of science itself. Scientific research, journals, and data should be freely available to everyone. Ideally scientific works should be published under legal tools such the Creative Commons. Already the Public Library of Science is providing journals like Plos One, an inclusive, peer-reviewed, open-access resource that is free to everyone.
Even the best texts may still require at least some level of social interaction in order to translate the meaning of texts to individual students coming from a multitude of unique cultural backgrounds and experience. Professional scientists would therefore need to become actively involved in Citizen Science. Even if professional scientists cannot personally interact with all citizen scientists, at least some of the citizen scientists would then be able to mentor other citizen scientists.
If all scientific data can be made available on a free open-access basis to Citizen Scientists it is quite possible that isolated individuals may make significant contributions to science. For every potential Einstein who may succeed, however, thousands of would-be citizen theorists will probably fail. But the occasional citizen breakthrough may make a significant contribution to science. And since they will be driven by their own passion, even those who do not make a major contribution will derive satisfaction from the enjoyment of scientific discovery - the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
Creating conditions conducive to self-education and Independent Citizen Science may unleash the innate creative potential of young people determined to secure their own future. Ultimately, the more independent initiatives we have, the greater the chances that some will make fundamental breakthroughs that could solve the problems we face in the near future. Working without funding and driven by their obsessional passion, large numbers of Citizen Scientists could make a significant contribution to science at very little cost to society.
You can explore options for free self-education here: