I'm a student who, due to circumstances beyond my control, is having to take a gap year. I want this gap year to be productive, however! And would love to engage in citizen science projects/activities. However, given where I live, the citizen science projects and open-lab type spaces are non-existent.

Could I perhaps:

Read a bunch of research papers on a common topic and synthesise a review paper? Do journals publish review papers written by non-academics/amateurs? I certainly enjoy reading review papers: What sorts of criteria are review papers assessed on for publishing? (I assume that the style and format and referencing follow their preference/convention is a necessity for publishing. But what else?)

In doing so, I'd learn about a topic, how to write a review paper and perhaps being published could be an advantage when I look for research internships in the future?

Does anyone have any other potential endeavours to suggest? I've already shadowed & volunteered in hospitals & performed a few lab experiments. I'm currently looking for something that I could do to genuinely contribute to science and use this gap year as a learning experience.

Thank you! jxs

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    Hi there @jxs! It is great that you obviously have a keen in interest in science, however, I would recommend to take the Tour (biology.stackexchange.com/tour) of Biology S.E. This question might need to be moved to Academia S.E. – Johnny Oct 13 '17 at 9:43
  • "Student" potentially covers anything from 12-year-old in secondary school to post-grad in a PhD programmer, and where you fall in that range is quite relevant to how useful a review paper you could write. Suggesting other potential endeavours is probably too broad for a question here, although if you can pick up 20 rep somewhere in the StackExchange network then you could ask it in some sites' chats. The obvious answers given your biology interest would be biodiversity research or activities related to bird ringing (including spotting ringed birds with binoculars and reporting them). – Peter Taylor Oct 13 '17 at 10:31
  • Do journals accept a quality review paper regardless of the student's background though? @PeterTaylor – jxs Oct 13 '17 at 11:33
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    If you can produce a quality review paper, a good journals will accept it regardless of your background. That's a big if, however. I don't know how it works in biology, but in my field you need to be really deeply and actively involved in a field for several years to gain the kind of insight necessary to do the detailed, thorough analysis that a good review paper requires. Just reading others' papers won't give you enough information. – nengel Oct 13 '17 at 12:44

A link to Academia is your best bet.

Stay in touch with people doing research in the field of your interest in a formal setting. If you come up with a notable work you may end up co-publishing it with them.

Open source is a great alternative

There are many, many notable pieces of code developed (and credited to) individuals no tied to major organizations to be found i.e. on GitHub. This is a good way to quickly put your results thru "peer review", albeit informally, get credit for your work and -why not- good PR.

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  • Thank you for your answer. If I wrote a review paper (for the fun of it!) and submitted it to a journal, would it be considered? Or eliminated/discredited immediately due to lack of affiliation/higher ed degree? Surely if a paper is good, they'd be happy to receive it, no? :) – jxs Oct 13 '17 at 12:22
  • I am in a position somehow similar to yours and, discussing with the many friends i have in Academia we basically unanimously reached the conclusion that, by far the best (and probably only) way to produce a work worth of publication is to cooperate with a good friend that already does research and publishes in that field. – Caterpillaraoz Oct 13 '17 at 12:40
  • Have you published work co-produced with them? If so, what kind of work? I understand that that is obviously the case for any form of experimental work, but does it also hold for review articles? I mean, I could get a professor from the uni to read it and give me feedback without actually writing it with me – jxs Oct 13 '17 at 12:53
  • I have not yet. Field is UAV flight path optimization, something I have been in for around 10 years for various reasons. Writing an article is not an impossible feat but not even an easy one, I strongly strongly reccomend you doing it with a good friend with already published work since, simply put, you`ll not go very far going on your own by trial and error :) – Caterpillaraoz Oct 13 '17 at 13:25
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    Depends on the field. Some fields review papers are all done by invited writers. Some fields anyone can write. – Dawn Oct 13 '17 at 13:33

For side activities, you might want to look at Zooniverse.org. They have a wide range of activities in which netizens participate in data classification for various projects. Most of the projects are scientific studies, particularly in biology, ecology, and astrophysics. There is not a requirement for substantial time investment, and you could do bits of classification as a break from other endeavors. Although you would be contributing to useful studies, you wouldn't acquire in-depth knowledge directly from participation, but certainly would be introduced to a variety of subject areas.

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