Equipped with smartphones, computers and do-it-yourself sampling kits, lay volunteers are tweeting about snowfall, questing for comets and measuring the microbes in their guts. They are part of a growing group of 'citizen scientists', networks of non-scientists who help to analyse or collect data as part of a researcher-led project. They learn about science and get a chance to participate, but the scientists involved stand to gain too.
Citizen science: Amateur experts
Nature 496, 259–261 (11 April 2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nj7444-259a