The governance of science, including the whole system of quality assurance, depends on specialist access to resources and publication. A new and radical engagement of the public in reality and crowd-sourced science is calling this principle into question.

Following the furore surrounding cancer claims for herbicide-resistant transgenic maize (Nature 489, 484; 2012; and Nature 492, 12; 2012), Russian scientists intend to run a 'rat reality show' that will be broadcast over the Internet around the clock. This year-long, real-time feeding experiment aims to test the safety of genetically modified food products (see Actually witnessing the experiment, the team suggests, will allow the public to draw their own conclusions. If the scientists are unable to fund the show from orthodox sources, they plan to crowd-source public funding.

It would be easy to dismiss such 'reality' experiments as a stunt — as frivolity leading to demagoguery. But social media are increasingly influencing mainstream scientific communication and could stimulate a spread in reality science, blurring the demarcations on which the legitimacy and quality assurance of science traditionally depend.