Last week I watched a special live broadcast by the PBS show Nature titled American Spring. It was a three night event with the first episode discussing birth and rebirth, the second covering migration. and the third was on connections. You can see episode 1 above. The series chronicled the efforts of citizen scientists in the Spring to gain valuable information about wild life.
All sciences started out with citizen scientists such as Ben Franklin dabbling in electricity. Philosophy is the mother of all the sciences. It began with people (usually elite people who didn't have to worry about surviving) pondering the nature of the universe. As science progressed by building off of what came before, it became increasingly elitist. Likewise as scientific equipment becomes more advanced, the cost of conducting science became more and more prohibitive and dependent on government funding.
The sciences have become more and more ivory tower as the funding for it has become harder to come by and jobs have likewise become harder to maintain. This is what I suspect is driving the call for amateur citizen scientists to get involved in the process. This call for volunteers is to help fill the gap in funding for professional scientists.
Certainly getting involved in the process can be rewarding when people have the time to do it. I still find it rewarding to pursue my brand of citizen science on this blog after eight and a half years though I've made little money off of it. As science becomes more and more automated we all may be citizen scientists, though not always by choice.