Author: dcavalier

SciStarter will recruit more participants for your citizen science project.

Recruit More Participants for Your Project

SciStarter is proud to be a leading and consistent source of information about citizen science projects, people, platforms, tools, and trends!  Did you know that in addition to the services we provide at no cost, SciStarter helps grantees and organizations reach new audiences and broaden the impact of research through customized, premium services?

Consider SciStarter as you develop your grant proposals! We identify and recruit targeted participants for citizen science projects. Whether you are seeking a few dozen, highly targeted participants, or several thousand, we provide a menu of services to help you launch or manage a successful initiative and we will deliver an engaged community.

Here are some premium services you can expect from SciStarter:

  • Participant recruitment and management
  • Marketing and promotions
  • Events
  • Distribution of kits, sensors, project materials
  • Collection of samples, data, information
  • Ongoing communications with your community

The University of California, Davis, for example, recently contracted our services to recruit 2,000 participants to collect and submit 4,000 microbe samples for Project MERCCURI.

We loved receiving this email from Dr. Carlyn S. Buckler at the Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth:

“Because of SciStarter, libraries are participating in the Mastodon Matrix Project in droves!”

To learn how we can help you, email .

SciStarter’s mission is 1) to help lay people find interesting science-related activities to take part in, and 2) to help the coordinators of such projects promote them and find potential participants. We perform this free “match-making” function by inviting organizers to submit descriptions of their projects to our Project Finder tool. We promote these projects on our site and through our partners including Discover Magazine and the National Science Teachers Association.

To give you a little background, SciStarter was started by Darlene Cavalier, who also founded Science Cheerleader, to help make it easier for people to learn about, and get involved in citizen science projects. SciStarter launched in late December 2011 and, thanks to the addition of a smart, creative team and an enthusiastic community of supporters, more than one million visitors have turned to SciStarter to find projects of interest to them! Sponsors and early participants include the National Science Foundation, Science House, Discover Magazine, the National Science Teachers Association, Instructables, NBC Learn, and dozens of universities, federal agencies and others.

We are also an official partner of the USA Science and Engineering Festival, and will be hosting citizen science projects at their DC events and at several dozen additional events around the world this year.

If you have a project you’d like to add to SciStarter, go right ahead. It’s simple and free. Just click on “Add a Project” in the “For Scientists” section on the homepage.

Cheers to citizen science!

The SciStarter Team

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“How Public Lab Turned Kickstarter Crowdfunders Into a Community”

This post originally appeared on Lab on April 2, 2013.
The author has approved this repost.

By Jeffrey Warren (Bio), April 2, 2013 This post was co-authored with Becki Chall, also from Public Lab.

Public Lab is structured like many open-source communities, with a non-profit hosting and coordinating the efforts of a broader, distributed community of contributors and members. However, we are in the unique position that our community creates innovative open-source hardware projects — tools to measure and quantify pollution — and unlike software, it takes some materials and money to actually make these tools. As we’ve grown over the past two years, from just a few dozen members to thousands today, crowdfunding has played a key role in scaling our effort and reaching new people.


Kickstarter: economies of DIY scale

Consider a project like our DIY Spectrometry Kit, which was conceived of just after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to attempt to identify petroleum contamination. In the summer of 2012, just a few dozen people had ever built one of our designs, let alone uploaded and shared their work. As the device’s design matured to the point that anyone could easily build a basic version for less than $40, we set out to reach a much larger audience while identifying new design ideas, use cases, and contributors, through a Kickstarter project. Our theory was that many more people would get involved if we offered a simple set of parts in a box, with clear instructions for assembly and use.

By October 2012, more than 1,600 people had backed the project, raising over $110,000 — and by the end of December, more than half of them had received a spectrometer kit. Many were up and running shortly after the holidays, and we began to see regular submissions of open spectral data at, as well as new faces and strong opinions on Public Lab’s spectrometry mailing list.

Kickstarter doesn’t always work this way: Often, projects turn into startups, and the first generation of backers simply becomes the first batch of customers. But as a community whose mission is to involve people in the process of creating new environmental technologies, we had to make sure people didn’t think of us as a company but as a community. Though we branded the devices a bit and made them look “nice,” we made sure previous contributors were listed in the documentation, which explicitly welcomed newcomers into our community and encouraged them to get plugged into our mailing list and website.
Continue reading »

Category: Citizen science, Crowdfunding, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Citizen Science Academy: Bunny Slippers Optional

Project BudBurst Citizen Science SciStarter
When I first became involved in online professional development (PD) courses about 10 years ago, the casual approach to participation in terms of time and attire were often noted as desirable features.  An often-touted advantage to online PD was that individuals could participate at 3 a.m. wearing pajamas and bunny slippers.  Over the years, as the boon in online PD has expanded, I sometimes wonder if the sale of bunny slippers has kept pace with the expansion of online PD opportunities for educators.

Online education has gone mainstream, as evidenced by the large number of colleges and universities providing accredited online courses as part of their degree programs.  Powerhouse universities like Stanford and Yale helped lead the way a few years back by offering their courses online and attracting hundreds of thousands of students.  The widespread acceptance of top-notch universities provided an endorsement of sorts for the effectiveness of online education.  The demand for online education continues to grow and this includes PD opportunities for educators.

Traditionally, PD for educators was synonymous with face-to-face classes, workshops, and seminars.  Face-to-face PD, while valuable, is generally location- and time-limited which can exclude many educators who have other obligations or do not have flexible schedules outside of teaching due to family, extracurricular obligations, or other time constraints.  Online PD courses that are self-paced are very appealing because individuals can chose when to participate based on their unique situation. One of the most appealing aspects of online PD is that it can be a great equalizer, providing PD for educators at all stages of their lives and careers.

As online PD has gained popularity, citizen science (CS) has also enjoyed a time of rapid growth.  In recent years, CS programs and activities have proliferated, and many are Internet-based.  Examples include Project BudBurstProject Feederwatch , and The Great Sunflower Project .  It is widely known that effective PD results in better implementation of programs and activities. In the case of CS, effective PD may also help with data quality.

CS programs that are entirely online — such as the NEON’ s Project BudBurst – may not have the opportunity to offer face-to-face PD or employ the old tried and true “Train the Trainer” model. We decided to test online PD using Project BudBurst and created our first course  Introduction to Plants and Climate Change for Educators.  In January, 2012, we informally put out the word that we had a pilot online PD course for educators hoping to register about 15 people.  Within a week, we had over 200 registrants and had to close registration as we could not meet demand.  That is when it became clear that online PD was needed and that NEON could fill this important niche through the development of an online academy devoted to citizen science professional development – the NEON Citizen Science Academy (CSA).

NEON’s Citizen Science Academy Mission Statement: Provide online professional development resources for educators to support effective implementation of Citizen Science projects and activities that focus on ecology and environmental sciences.

The NEON CSA is intended to be a complete online PD resource for educators and will include online courses, modules, tutorials, and a virtual community of practice.  Initially, I had been concerned that sharing and communication, a hallmark of face-to-face PD, would be sacrificed for the convenience of online courses.  I have been pleasantly surprised to observe the exchange of ideas and thoughts in our virtual classrooms via discussion forums.  Perhaps wearing bunny slippers encourages these informal exchanges.

As CSA develops, we intend to partner with other online CS programs and partner to offer a full suite of online courses and resources that support all aspects of CS for educators.  Further, through a partnership with the National Geographic FieldScope program, CSA will also include innovative, free online mapping, analysis and data visualization tools that facilitate data analysis.

In the case of Project BudBurst, we now offer several courses for a wide variety of educators.  One of our educators used her online PD participation to write a successful grant to engage her students in making observations of trees in their schoolyard.  Another educator shared her efforts to have students in her art class take photos of plants as the seasons change.  Several informal educators have designed exhibits and displays that feature Project BudBurst.

We hope you will join the growing CSA community by signing up for one of our online courses (  Bunny slippers optional.

This is a guest post from  Sandra Henderson, Director for Citizen Science at the  National Ecological Observatory Network. This post originally appeared on SciStarter.

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Citizen Science Synthesis: Observations from Science Online 2013.

This is a guest post from Dr. Holly Menninger, the Director of Public Science for Your Wild Life, a citizen science and outreach program based at NC State University. An entomologist by training, she’s a science communicator by passion and practice. Follow her on Twitter @DrHolly.

Science Online 2013 Mite Sampling

#Scio13 participants respond with ENTHUSIASM to our new #citizenscience project studying the evolution and biodiversity of Demodex face mites. Credit: Mindy Weisberger

During the last week of January, 450 science communicators converged in Raleigh, NC, for Science Online 2013 (#Scio13). We were a diverse groupthat included established and new-on-the-scene journalists, students (grad, undergrad and even a few high school), artists, post-docs, bloggers, scientists, professors, web geeks, community organizers, radio and tv producers and personalities, government employees, university flacks, retired persons, early career professionals, and outreach aficionados. Most persons attending could be tagged with multiple labels.

All had in common a love for science and an incredible passion for sharing it with others.

From this passion emerged a common thematic strand that wove through many conversations held in the hallways and meeting rooms of #Scio13: How can we do a better job sharing (and doing!) science with public audiences?

Let’s be frank. This really isn’t a new question. It’s one that scientists and science communicators have wrestled with for years. But it’s an important one, so much so that it continued to pervade the sessions of Science Online 2013 (see a list of relevant sessions and links to their wikis at the end of this post), as it has the past few years, and is becoming an increasingly popular topic at more traditional scientific conferences including the upcoming AAAS meeting in Boston.

Yet what made the familiar, recurring discussions a bit different for me at Science Online 2013, compared to years past, was the growing contributions and insights shared by practitioners (and participants) of citizen science.

Rather than give you a rundown of each session, I thought I’d share a handful of observations I took away from these discussions:

Citizen science continues to grow and innovate as a means to engage the public in science. A number of new projects employ play and gaming as a means to inject some fun into science. Play with Your Dog, a project from the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab, asks citizen scientists to record short videos while they play with their dogs and then upload these videos to contribute to research about dog behavior and cognition. EyeWire seeks participants to play an online game that helps map the brain’s neurons. Other projects are seeking to do science in (or about) unusual places – microbiologist Jonathan Eisen and the Science Cheerleaders are making plans to implement a new project on the International Space Station as well as in a football stadium near you. Even my own Your Wild Life team got in on the act, launching our new project on face mites at the Scio13 Opening Reception. Nearly 50 über-enthusiastic science communicators lined up to let us scrape the pores near their noses in quest of the microscopic Demodex mites that live, eat and breed in our sebaceous glands.

While many citizen science projects are implemented at continental scales, other projects intentionally stick closer to home, successfully engaging participants at local scales. For example, Karen James and colleagues are leading a new effort in Maine to engage citizen scientists in the documentation and DNA-assisted identification (“barcoding”) of the biodiversity of Acadia National Park. Chris Goforth at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences hosts regular citizen science workshops at the Museum’s field station where she guides visitors in explorations of the forest and fields, with smartphones and citizen science apps in hand.

Citizen science is moving beyond the model where participants contribute only as data collectors. The growing popularity of the Hacker and DIY movements means many citizen scientist-types are eager to jump in and build something – whether that’s designing a new piece of scientific equipment or developing software to aid data visualization. Many projects are openly sharing data and asking citizens to lend a hand in data analysis, interpretation, and the generation of new hypotheses. Increasingly, citizen scientists are becoming scientific collaborators.

Ultimately, citizen science is about the people, the citizens, who contribute to the science, and project coordinators are seeking ways to more directly and personally engage participants. As attendees of Science Online 2013 could attest, we benefit greatly from our online interactions, yet there’s something extra special about the face-to-face, in-person interactions we had at the meeting. To that end, CosmoQuest has harnessed the power of Google hangouts to bring together an international community of citizen astronomers for regular, virtual star parties. I was challenged by their example to think about how we can create more opportunities to better connect our citizen scientists to one another and to their professional partners.

The beauty of Science Online is that the conversation never stops when the meeting ends. It continues on in the meeting wiki (a site that hosts dynamic docs for each session with links, notes and wrap-up materials from the sessions, storifies, and sometimes video), on the comment threads of related blog posts, and most certainly via Twitter (hashtag #scio13).
And now, the planning wiki for Science Online 2014 has launched so you can chime in your ideas for next year.

As promised, here’s a link fest of sessions related to citizen science and outreach:Three #Scio13 sessions focused entirely on citizen science topics:

What’s news in citizen science? Perspectives, people, projects and platforms
Citizen scientists and ethical research
Sticking with it for the long-haul: Building community and maintaining long-term engagement in citizen science

Other related #Scio13 sessions where citizen science, while not explicitly the theme, came up in conversation:
Why should scientists ‘do’ outreach?
Helping scientists ‘do’ outreach
Why won’t the science deficit model die?
Opening doors: Science communication for those who don’t care/don’t like science
Outreach in unusual places

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