The Museum was recently awarded $1 million from the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award Program to conduct citizen science-based research about taste, one of the largest research grants in the Museum’s history.
The studies will take place over four years in the Genetics of Taste Lab, home to a distinctive model of research using crowdsourced data from Museum guests who volunteer to participate. The NIH grant, led by Nicole Garneau, PhD, principal investigator and curator of health sciences, will start with a sour taste study that launches in November. Previous studies in the lab, which is located in Expedition Health, have helped to debunk the term “supertaster,” have provided evidence that fat is the sixth taste, and have explored how the human microbiome―the unique group of bacteria in and on each person’s body—affects the way we taste sweet.
The grant will also fund research into how citizen scientists learn in community labs, and how citizen science projects might attract more diverse participants. The Museum is partnering with Joseph Polman, professor of learning sciences and human development at the University of Colorado, to conduct this additional layer of research.
“This type of research is designed to be for the people by the people,” Garneau said. “Citizen science and crowdsourcing encourage everyday people to get involved in real and authentic science that is most relevant to their lives. This grant funds the first large-scale study on designing citizen science, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront. We’re grateful to the NIH for this amazing grant.”