Archive for the ‘Citizen Science’ tag
Citizen scientists document in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles help document reptiles and amphbians in Southern California to aid in conservation efforts. Find more information about participating in RASCals, the citizen science project on SciStarter and watch out for our herptile themed newsletter!
by Sharman Apt Russell
This June, I walked the wilds of Los Angeles looking for lizards. And snakes. And turtles. And because I was finally looking for them, I also began seeing them—and isn’t that a basic truth of life as well as citizen science?
I visit Los Angeles for ten days twice a year as a teacher for the low-residency MFA graduate writing program at Antioch University. My time in nature is mostly spent in a few long runs near my hotel and in walking back and forth from the hotel to the university campus. This summer, wherever I went, I also took along my camera. I was on a mission for the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) citizen science project—to document any reptile or amphibian I came across and to send that image to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Read the rest of this entry »
It was a crisp morning following a cold night in Goleta’s Coronado Monarch Butterfly Preserve. As Luke crossed a beam that had been dropped across a swampy area, he looked up at the Eucalyptus grove and sighed quietly. “Where are the butterflies Dad,” he asked me—with one part expectation and one part disappointment.
The next time you get into an argument with your laptop or shake a fist at your computer, try to refrain from calling it “a stupid machine.” That would be gloating. We really are more intelligent than our computers. Case in point, the human mind can solve some puzzles better than computers. On this principle, using game elements in citizen science, called gamification, is a popular approach in biology. That’s the topic of the next #CitSciChat on Twitter.
The next time you want to argue against a group, think twice. Groups can be more intelligent than individuals. On this principle, some game elements often involve creating teams that compete against each other. Within group cooperation, in the context of competition across teams, is a powerful motivator.
The fields most gamified in citizen science – molecular, cell, and synthetic biology – are key to understanding, treating, and curing diseases. Studies of proteins, amino acids, RNA, and DNA can happen in silico (in computer models) and in vitro (in laboratory experiments), but are often too difficult in vivo (in a living cell). Now these serious topics of research are being carried out in gamo. (have I coined a term, in Latin no less?)
For example, figuring out DNA configurations presented researchers with problems that were computationally too intensive for a single computer. At first, molecular biologists looked for a solution with a type of citizen science called distributed computing. Volunteers help research by donating their unused CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) cycles on their personal computers to causes like Rosetta@Home and Folding@Home.
Unexpectedly, when distributed computing volunteers saw the screensaver of Rosetta@Home, as it illustrated the computer stepping closer and closer to a solution of each protein-folding puzzle, they wanted to guide the computer. Volunteers came to the conclusion that they could solve these 3-D puzzles better than their computers. Researchers and game designers believed in the abilities of their volunteers and declared, “Game on.”
At the cellular level, human minds are important again. One doesn’t have to be a trained pathologist to identify cancer cells and help find biomarkers in these cells. Cancer Research UK takes games very seriously. In their newest game, Reverse the Odds, players identify bladder cancer cells before and after different treatments, which will help future patients know whether their best odds are with surgery or chemotherapy.
Why are people better than computers at protein-folding puzzles? Why is the human mind better than computer algorithms at figuring out how DNA regions align? Why is the trial and error approach of people better than formal techniques and alogrithms of bioengineering RNA? Why are teams smarter than individuals? Why is gamification so popular that, when the online game Phylo launched in 2010, the computer servers crashed, unable to handle the volume of thousands of simultaneous players? Why are there over 37,000 people working (meaning playing) at RNA design puzzle in an open, online laboratory called EteRNA?
For answers to these questions and more, join us for the next citizen science Twitter chat by following the hashtag #CitSciChat. The #CitSciChat are co-sponsored by SciStarter and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Anyone is welcome to join with questions, answers, comments, and ideas. Don’t be shy and don’t forget to include the hashtag #CitSciChat so that others in the conversation don’t miss your Tweets. I will Storify each session and post the recap on this blog.
The #CitSciChat guest panelists this Wednesday, February 25 at 7pm GMT (26th in Australia) include:
- Seth Cooper (@UWGameScience) at University of Washington, with Foldit and nanocrafter
- Jerome Waldispuhl (@PhyloDNApuzzles) at McGill University, with Phylo
- Benjamin Keep (@bkeep) at Stanford, with EteRNA,
- Leslie Harris (@LittleVenetian) at Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK), with Reverse the Odds
- Vickie Curtis (@Vickie_Curtis), who received her PhD at Open University where she investigated gamification in citizen science. Next week she begins with the Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology at the University of Glasgow.
- Paul Gardner (@ppgardne), at University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Editor for RNA Biology & PLOS Computational Biology
Phylo, nanocrafter and FoldIt were featured in a recent SciStarter newsletter, check out the rest of the projects here and sign up for the newsletter on the SciStarter homepage to get to know about more.
Citizen science chats take place on Twitter at #CitSciChat the last Wednesday (Thursday in Australia) of every month, unless otherwise noted. To involve people across the globe, chats take place 7-8pm GMT, which is 2-3pm ET in USA and Thursday 6-7am ET in Australia. Each session will focus on a different theme. To suggest a project or theme for an upcoming chat, send me a tweet @CoopSciScoop!
A few days ago was the first #CitSciChat, sponsored by SciStarter and my lab (The Counter Culture). The #CitSciChat was a fast-paced and exhilarating hour of citizen science discussion. Guest panelist and many others carried out a lively conversation structured around questions that I posed over the hour. Twitter chats have a hilarious side because so many people can chime in at once, which creates a kind of crazy that we rarely do in person. It is near impossible to follow all the discussion, especially in the moment, but in the calm after the Twitter storm, it is easy to go back to the #CitSciChat stream or read a capture of the majority of tweets created in Storify. I’ll summarize a little here.
In some ways, the #CitSciChat was like instant crowdsourcing. What are other names for citizen science, I asked. Within minutes we generated this list: Citizen Observatories, Responsible Research Innovation, Science 2.0, Smart Citizens, Fablabs, livinglabs, crowdsciences, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, volunteered geographic information, civic science, public participation, Public participation in Scientific Research (PPSR), Amateur Science, Popular Science, Amateur naturalists, birdwatcher, butterfly collector, amateur astronomer, volunteer monitoring, volunteered science.
What disciplines are involved in citizen science? Within a few more minutes, we had this list: economics, deciphering handwriting, ecology, biology, social science, GIS, fisheries, education, arts, linguistics, geography, biochemistry, genetics, oceanography, physics, biotechnology, humanities, environmental monitoring, policy making, ethics, weather monitoring, ecology, environmental sciences, astronomy, geology, medical science, marine science, water quality, human-computer interactions, human health, seismology — Transdisciplinary!
And it was noted – not chemistry.
We discussed the goals of associations, best practices, differences among countries, and activities of participants. There were provocative comments, including campaigning for tenure points for scientists who use best practices in citizen science. We discussed resources practitioners need, and responses included ethics, evaluation, computing and other tech.
I asked the Chatters about the pros and cons of associations. The quickly listed the following pros: democracy, visibility, efficiency, pervasive sci literacy, global, share, collaborate, network, respect and promoting citizen science, resources, collective learning, transparency, sustainable long-term communities. And the following cons: top-down, self-interest, hard to be global, echo chamber, me toos, can exclude volunteers, no longer novel to funders, over-professionalizing, don’t silo citizen science from science. (Elsewhere, I’ll summarize the Chatters hoped for outcomes of the upcoming CSA conference).
My favorite part was to learn what Chatters thought were the promising frontiers, and these included wearable citizen science, digital arts, collective intelligence, neurodata gathering, new societal values, the internet of things to generate data, dedicated funding lines for citizen science, projects sharing platforms and technologies and protocols, mobile tech, greater access globally, connecting silo’ed and distributed but related data, neurosynapitc processors, improved policy making, and sensor networks for biodiversity.
Thanks to researchers in Sweden, we know that there were just under 200 participants in the first #CitSciChat. This group created 867 interactions. They made this visualizations of the online network, with Twitter handles and avatars. Visit their blog post for more details and if you want to zoom in on the visualizations.
Thanks again to all who were involved. Try to find your profile picture below. I hope you’ll jump into the February (25th) #CitSciChat too!
Starting this month, you can tune in and take part in monthly discussion sessions about citizen science. The discussions take place on Twitter and anyone is welcome to join with questions, answers, comments, and ideas. You can follow the discussion at the hashtag #CitSciChat.
The monthly #CitSciChat are sponsored by SciStarter and The Counter Culture, which is my new research lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. These Twitter chats are designed to bring citizen scientists, project managers, students, and scientists together to share ideas, knowledge, and resources. We’ll discuss news, policies, discoveries, papers, and projects. The chats are opportunities for people around the world to meet and share their experiences with citizen science.
Whether you are experienced with Twitter or not, I hope you will find it easy to take part. Here’s how it works. I’m the moderator (@CoopSciScoop) and for each session I will invite a few guests with varied expertise and who enjoy lively discussions. I’ll pose question (Q1, Q2, etc.) and guest panelists and others will answer (prefaced with A1, A2, etc). Others can answer too, and pose related questions (label them, e.g., Q1a, Q1b, etc). There are no expectations that everyone will agree, but there are expectations that everyone will be courteous, polite, and respectful. Know that it’s okay to simply follow along, but I hope you will join the conversation. If you do, be sure to remember to include the hashtag #CitSciChat so that others in the conversation don’t miss your Tweets. I will Storify each session and post the recap on this blog.
The #CitSciChat follows in the footsteps of many other Twitter chats. For example, there are Twitter journal clubs, such as #microtwjc for discussions of microbiology papers (initiated by @_zoonotica_). There are chat sessions like #StuSciChat that connects high school students and scientists (moderated by Adam Taylor @2footgiraffe) and #STEMchat that connects parents, educators, and STEM professionals (moderated by Kim Moldofsky @MakerMom). A very popular #Edchat, founded by Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell), hosts conversations among educators.
Citizen science chats take place on Twitter at #CitSciChat the last Wednesday (Thursday in Australia) of every month, unless otherwise noted. The first will be January 28 (29th in Australia). We’ll increase in their frequency if interest levels are high. To involve people across the globe, chats take place 7-8pm GMT, which is 2-3pm ET in USA and Thursday 6-7am ET in Australia. Each session will focus on a different theme. To suggest a project or theme for an upcoming chat, send me a tweet @CoopSciScoop!
Building A Community of Practice: Organizing the Organizers in Citizen Science
I’ve invited guests among the leadership of the Citizen Science Association, the European Citizen Science Association, and Citizen Science Network Australia. These panelists will discuss how these organizations are helping coordinate practitioners across the many disciplines that engage the public in research.
Panelists to follow:
- Darlene Cavalier @Scicheer – CSA
- Mary Ford @maryeford – CSA
- Jennifer Shirk @ShirkSci – CSA (tentative)
- Martin Storksdieck @Storksdieck – CSA
- Muki Haklay @mhaklay – CSA & ESCA
- Fermin Serrano @Ibercivis – ECSA
- Joseph Perello @OpenSystemsUB – ECSA
- @CitSciOz – CSNA
- Michelle Neil @Michelle_Neil – CSNA