Coop’s Scoop: Mind over Mainframe – next #CitSciChat discusses citizen science games

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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.

rosetta_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:

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!

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Nanocrafter: Playing a Game of Synthetic Biology

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Nanocrafter image

Image Credit: Nanocrafter

On its surface, it looks like just another science puzzle game. In reality, the game is part of a broader goal to enable non-scientists to contribute to synthetic biology research.

‘It’ is Nanocrafter, a project created by researchers and game developers at the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington. They are the same team behind the citizen science project FoldIt.

“Most citizen science games are designed to gather data for a specific research question. Players may need to be good at pattern recognition, abstract reasoning, or other cognitive skills. Our focus at Nanocrafter is different,” says Nanocrafter Project Lead Jonathan Barone. “The project isn’t intended to address any existing research. Rather, we are interested in developing a user community that is familiar enough with the principles and parameters of synthetic biology to generate new ideas, identify new questions and create their own solutions.”

Synthetic biology is an engineering discipline within a biological context. The field uses techniques and principles from a number of different disciplines to create biological devices and understand biological systems. Synthetic biologists use biological components like DNA, RNA or proteins as their building materials. For example, scientists can insert DNA or proteins composites into a bacterial host to increase or refine a biological pathways involved in drug synthesis. In other cases, the molecules are used in ways that are unrelated to their normal biological function. A DNA fragment can be constructed as a biosensor, fluorescing in the presence of a pathogen.  Or in a particularly wild example, DNA can be used to store data like a computer hard drive.

But these are complex tasks. Before users start working on these kind of problems, they must master the basics.

The Nanocrafter game teaches users about basic DNA biochemistry and how to manipulate DNA reactions, eventually enabling the player to create logic circuits or mechanized structures. Their video provides examples. In the game, players organize colored puzzle pieces to react in specific ways. The behavior of the puzzle pieces mimics the principles of DNA nucleotide-nucleotide pairing, nucleotide chaining and double helix formation. In the game, only certain puzzle pieces can pair up and pieces only form chains and double strands in a precise hierarchy of reactions.  This might seem overwhelming but the game eases player into the rules, step by step.

“Once users master the principles, they can try our biweekly challenges. Challenges might replicate existing research or be a problem the Nanocrafter team thought up,” explains Barone. “While replicating published data is always useful, it is when users create their own solutions that we start to see really interesting and exciting stuff.  If we can demonstrate that player submissions are theoretically sound, we can present them to scientists to try in their labs.”

Of course if that is too much structure, users can always play in the ‘sandbox’. The sandbox is a completely open ended format with no rules or defined goals. One player created a ‘flagellum’ from DNA, which ‘though not scientifically interesting (or even possible)’ says Barone, speaks to the creativity and fun people seem to have with Nanocrafter.   User designed solutions to past challenges include strands that assemble into a three-way junction or strands that form long repeating polymers.

Though they have a community of over one thousand individual users, posted challenges only get half dozen responses. Moving forward, the Nanocrafter team wants to increase their user base and are hoping to increase the computational and modeling capabilities of their online interface.

If logic, creativity and a little DNA pique your interest, be sure to check out Nanocrafter.

 

Category: Citizen science | Tagged | 1 Comment

Coop’s Scoop: the STEAM of citizen science

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Karen_Purcell_photo_dancer_birds

Last week the Citizen Science Association held its first conference ever, with 600 people attending from 25 countries. Topics covered in talks, posters, panels, and stories, ranged from do-it-yourself projects to the technical aspects of managing data crowd-sourced in large-scale projects.

When I look at the diverse spectrum of citizen science and admire the new knowledge that crowds have produced, the social outcomes generated, and its policy influence, sometimes I see a radical science movement driven by social forces, and other times I see a radical social movement driven by scientific activity. Either way, I’ve seen citizen science used to support social and environmental justice.

At the CSA conference, there was an open session for discussions about justice in the context of citizen science. I missed the session and was glad that Melissa Eitzel took notes and shared them via email. In the session, when Rick Hall brought up the issue of young people and the arts, Melissa recorded the gist of his statements as, “cultural entitlement – everyone has the right to freely participate in the arts and the sciences.  a freedom and a right to participate and to express culture through activities, and why [can't] science be one of those expressions?  that’s truly participatory.”

There is a movement to expand STEM to STEAM (and here), that is, support innovation from Art/design as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The arts already play a role in some citizen science programs, like Celebrate Urban Birds. For example, Katie Yamasaki created a lesson plan for creating wildlife art in natural habitat. The personal character of the arts make it accessible to all, and Celebrate Urban Birds uses interest and comfort with the arts as a stepping stone to garner participation in the science.

The step from feeling comfortable with art to feeling comfortable with science is a small one. Art and science have a lot in common. Art involves imagination and skill to construct windows through which to view reality. Art is an umbrella term for creative expression through painting, music, dance, poetry, and crafts. The word art can describe the process of creative skill or its products. Similarly, science is an umbrella term for the creative process of discovery in any number of fields of specialty, and science can describe the process of inquiry or its products.

Art can be therapeutic and so can citizen science (given health benefits of volunteering combined with mental health benefits of time in nature).

Even Albert Einstein noted a similarity, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” Art and science both allow us to experience the mysterious, and both serve as an outlet for our imagination.

Art can be used to motivate political change. Citizen science also provokes social inquiry, builds human capital, and organizes an undercurrent of human energy that can change the status quo.

The main difference between art and science was succinctly put (albeit without proper attribution) by Claude Bernard, “A modern poet has characterized the personality of art and the impersonality of science as follows: Art is I: Science is We.”  Now let’s add “Citizen science is Us” because it is both personal and collective. Art is an expression of a personal perspective that others can share and relate. Science, in contrast, is an agreed-upon process and structure that expresses a universal perspective, not unique to you or me but common to both. Citizen science is created by all of us. All are ways that change the way we experience the world.

Rick Hall raised two ideas at the CSA conference that could help how we envision citizen science.

First, Rick mentioned the need to move science to the center of culture (an idea I explored from a different angle). In a follow-up email, Rick wrote, “The arts do that quite naturally…we don’t talk about Citizen Readers (in book clubs for example) or Citizen Singers in community Choirs.” The way the arts are situated in culture is something for citizen science to emulate. As citizen science gains more acceptance, making new knowledge will becomes another way that people creatively engage with one another.

Second, one way to move science into culture is to promote science as a form of free expression. And when science is expression, then it is a voice that homes in on a sharable view of the truth. Hell yes, everyone should have the right to freedom of expression through scientific activity. Citizen science provides that freedom.

photo credit: Karen Purcell

 

Category: Citizen science | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Capacity Crowd for Citizen Science 2015 Conference

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SAN JOSE, CA – A global audience is gathering this week, intent on changing the way science is done. Over 600 people from 25 countries will convene February 11 and 12, 2015, at the San Jose Convention Center for “Citizen Science 2015,” the inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association (CSA).

In citizen science, members of the public participate in real scientific research. To date, participants in this rapidly expanding field have made significant contributions to the study of neurobiology, astronomy, ornithology, genetics, psychology, linguistics, and many other disciplines. At the same time, public knowledge and insights have helped bridge research and action in arenas such as environmental justice, public health, conservation, and engineering.

Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS, comments: “AAAS is pleased that the Citizen Science Association is hosting their first conference near the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose. Our meeting offers scientist-citizens many ways to engage with public audiences; the Citizen Science Association offers additional strategies for scientist-citizens and citizen-scientists to connect in meaningful ways.”

In brief, citizen science stands to transform scientific research. To ensure integrity as it does, Citizen Science 2015 brings together scientists, volunteers, data managers, educators, and many others to addresses the frontiers, innovations, and challenges that are common across the diverse disciplines using this research approach. Over 350 talks and posters will address, among other things, data management and visualization, STEM education, novel technologies, industry partnerships, and strategies for addressing issues of ethics and inclusivity in participation. Sessions include:

KEYNOTE: A Place in the World–Science, Society, and Reframing the Questions We Ask. (Dr. Chris Filardi – Director, Pacific Programs, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History)

KEYNOTE: EyeWire: Why Do Gamers Enjoy Mapping the Brain? (Amy Robinson – Executive Director, EyeWire)

WORKSHOP AND OPEN SESSION: Developing a Framework for Citizen Science in STEM Education (Citizen Science Association Education Working Group, supported by the National Science Foundation; Session Chair Sarah Kirn, Gulf of Maine Research Institute)

PANEL: Biomedical Citizen Science: Emerging Opportunities and Unique Challenges (National Institutes of Health Citizen Science Working Group; Session Chair Dr. Jennifer Couch, National Cancer Institute)

SYMPOSIUM: Using a Citizen Science Approach to Change the Face of Environmental Public Health Research (Session Chair: Dr. Monica Ramirez-Andreotta, University of Arizona)

PANEL: Creating a Welcoming, Inclusive, Diverse, and Just Citizen Science Association (Session Chair: Tim Vargo, Urban Ecology Center)

SYMPOSIUM: Supporting Multi-Scale Citizen Science: Leveraging the Local, Addressing the Global (Session Chair: Mark Chandler, Earthwatch Institute)

Additional conference activities include a poster session and reception, a hackfest, and a BioBlitz of downtown San Jose.

This event is an official pre-conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting. Conference supporters include the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, and others.

For more information: please visit http://www.citizenscienceassociation.org/conference/

Conference blog: http://citizenscienceassociation.org/category/conference/citsci2015/

Follow us on Twitter: @CitSciAssoc and #CitSci2015

Additional contacts from the CSA Board of Directors:

Rick Bonney, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reb5@cornell.edu
Darlene Cavalier, Arizona State University, darlene@scistarter.com
Mary Ford, National Geographic, mford@ngs.org
Muki Haklay, University College London, m.haklay@ucl.ac.uk
Greg Newman, Colorado State University, Gregory.Newman@colostate.edu

Contact: Jennifer Shirk, CSA Communications Coordinator (additional contacts below)
Phone: 607-342-0995
E-mail: JLS223@cornell.edu

- See more at: http://scistarter.com/blog/#sthash.6zA7qQHA.uFXcnCGs.dpuf

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And the winners of the #spacemicrobes Microbial Playoffs are…

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bacteria plate

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Coil a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis and a member of the Project MERCURRI team. 

 

We’ve finished analyzing all the data from the “Microbial Playoffs” part of Project MERCCURI(described here).   Each microbe that was chosen to fly to the International Space Station (list of candidate microbes here) was plated out 6 times on the plates that were analyzed in space.   We looked at three categories; Best Huddle, Best Tip-Off, and Best Sprint.    Here are the winners for each of the three categories:

 

Best Huddle (The microbe that grew to the highest density, really packing into their space)

best huddle

Yuri’s Night, Los Angeles: The microbe “Kocuria rhizophila” was collected on a camera at a Yuri’s Night Party with Buzz Aldrin in Los Angeles. Here are some photos of the team swabbing Buzz Aldrin’s shoe. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

San Antonio Spurs: The microbe “Kocuria kristinae” was collected on the court after a San Antonio Spurs game. Here are some photos of the team swabbing the court and a blog post about the experience. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

Davis, CA: The microbe “Leucobacter chironomi” was collected in a residential toilet in Davis, CA. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

 

Best Tip-Off (The microbe that got off to the fastest growing start straight out of the freezer)

best tip off

Pop Warner Chittenango: The microbe “Bacillus pumilus” was collected on a Porta-Potty handle by Pop Warner Chittenango Bears cheerleaders. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

Academy of Natural Sciences, PhiladelphiaBacillus stratosphericus: found in a butterfly water dish at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Here is a photo of the kids that participated in the swabbing. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum: The microbe “Pantoea eucrina” was collected on the Mercury Orbitor at the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space. Here are some photos of the team swabbing at the Museum. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

 

Best Sprint (The microbe that grew the fastest in any single 24-hour period in space)

best sprint

Parkway Middle School: The microbe “Bacillus horikoshii” was collected on a lobby banister at Parkway Middle School as part of a Broward County STEM teacher’s event. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

Pop Warner Chittenango: The microbe “Bacillus pumilus” was collected on a Porta-Potty handle by Pop Warner Chittenango Bears cheerleaders. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

Mars Exploration Rover (JPL): Paenibacillus elgii: On a Mars Exploration Rover before launch (2004) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL- NASA, Pasadena, CA) For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

 

Shown here are the top three microbes from each category, a full ranking of all the candidates will soon be published at www.spacemicrobes.org

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Declining monarch population means increased need for citizen scientists

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(Wendy Caldwell) adult monarchWith its striking orange and black coloring and transcontinental range, the monarch butterfly is probably the most recognizable insect in North America.  All pollinators are important to maintaining our food supply, but monarchs also have a key role in education; for decades schoolchildren across North America have been raising and releasing monarchs as part of their science lessons.  Unfortunately, while monarchs were once one of the most commonly seen pollinators in gardens and fields, in the past decade there has been a precipitous drop in the monarch population.  Just last week the World Wildlife Fund, in conjunction with the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, released the latest monarch population estimate- a number that was the second lowest on record for the population1.

The annual estimates of the monarch population are taken at the monarch’s overwintering site in central Mexico.  Most of the monarchs in North America live east of the Rocky Mountains, and each fall they migrate thousands of miles south to their overwintering location in Mexico, where they cluster together on oyamel fir trees.  In the spring those same monarchs fly north, where they produce new generations that spread throughout the United States and Canada.  Their vast summer range can make it difficult to get precise estimates of the population size, but in winter the monarchs are bunched tightly together, making population estimates more feasible.  Instead of counting individual monarchs, scientists record the amount of land that the overwintering monarch population covers.

eastern_pop_graph_2015This year, the monarchs covered 1.13 hectares; that’s a little more than two football fields’ worth of land.  That might sound like a staggeringly small size, but it’s actually a 69 percent increase over last year’s population, which was the smallest on record (see graph). This increase offers some hope to counterbalance the fact that the current population size is the second smallest on record, but there is still much concern about the monarch.  In fact, the US Fish & Wildlife Service is currently evaluating the monarch for listing as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

A listing would provide the monarch with legal protections, but a decision is not expected for at least a year, and in the meantime, there are many things that the public can do right now to help monarchs!

Planting native nectar plants and native milkweed, the only plant on which monarchs will lay eggs, is an easy way to help, but people who want to get more involved will find a whole host of monarch citizen science projects in need of volunteers.  These projects study monarchs as they migrate and reproduce in the United States and Canada, and provide insight into how disease, climate change, and habitat loss are affecting the monarch population.  Citizen science is so important to monarch research that since 2000, almost two-thirds of the published results on monarch field research have used citizen science data2.  University of Minnesota Professor Karen Oberhauser, who heads the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, emphasizes the need for continued participation in monarch citizen science projects.

“As the monarch population becomes smaller, it is important that we continue these efforts, even if it’s not as much fun to monitor something that we don’t see as often,” said Oberhauser. “We need to understand what’s driving the declines, and, hopefully, what drives future increases.”

If you’d like to help with the ongoing research into monarch conservation, check out these projects:

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project- Volunteers from across North America regularly monitor milkweed plants for monarch eggs and larvae, in order to understand variations in the monarch population.  Some volunteers rear wild caught monarchs and record rates of parasitism.

Project Monarch Health- Participants carefully take scale samples from adult monarchs to test for the presence of a widespread parasite called OE.  Sampling doesn’t hurt the monarchs, and it’s easy to do.

Journey North- People from across North America help track the monarch’s spring and fall migrations by entering observations online.  Anyone who sees a monarch is encouraged to log the sighting with Journey North, which then creates interactive maps of the migration.

Monarch Watch- Volunteers with this project place small, lightweight tags on monarch wings.  When monarchs with those tags are recovered, Monarch Watch can track how far monarchs travel.

Western Monarch Count- Most monarchs along the West Coast don’t migrate to Mexico; instead, they overwinter in California. Every November and December, volunteers are needed to count overwintering monarchs.

1Monarch Joint Venture. http://monarchjointventure.org/news-events/news/2015-population-update-and-estimating-the-number-of-overwintering-monarchs

2 Ries, L., and K. S. Oberhauser. In press. A citizen-army for science:  Quantifying the contributions of citizen scientists to our understanding of monarch butterfly biology. Bioscience.

Graph courtesy of Monarch Joint Venture.  Photo courtesy of Wendy Caldwell.

Eva Lewandowski is a PhD candidate in the Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Minnesota.  She is part of the Monarch Lab, where she studies citizen science and conservation education.

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Coop’s Citizen Sci Scoop: Crowdsourced Hopes for the 1st Citizen Science Association Conference

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The inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association (CSA) is next week, just prior to the meeting of the AAAS (American Academy for the Advancement of Science). Both conferences will be held in San Jose, California. The CSA conference reached its attendance limit quickly and had to turn people away. The line-up of presentations shows attendees from a high diversity of disciplines, countries, and perspectives coming together, making this is a milestone event for citizen science as a discipline.

In last week’s #CitSciChat, the citizen science community had a face-paced discussion on Twitter. As moderator, I asked several questions, including “Q8. What are hoped for outcomes of the upcoming conference of the Citizen Science Association?” Here is a brief summary.

Answers covered several themes. One important theme focused on building an equitable and inclusive community. Encouraging the CSA to walk the walk reflects the desire of citizen science practitioners to have their Association embody the same values they promote in their citizen science projects. It appears that the membership of the CSA is committed, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, to ensuring that science of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.

Another theme was related to networking and Tweeters mentioned their hopes to find synergies, connect local and global projects, talk across disciplines, and form new partnerships that will advance the field of citizen science.

Another theme was innovation and action! There was a call to not only talk and share, but to catalyze and create. These are optimistic hopes because, as Michelle Neil from the Citizen Science Network Australia tweeted it, “the best science enquiry happens when you get people together.”

Some Tweeters had specific ideas about the types of directions they hope the CSA conference will spark, including bridging a perceived divide between life and environmental sciences, understanding how to measure project outcomes, and developing projects that engage people in more than data collection.

A final theme was related to having fun, making friends, and meeting people in person that they only knew via Twitter or email.

In further preparation for the Citizen Science Association’s conference next week, @johannavarner of the @CitSciAssoc Conference Communications Working Group started a hashtag #WhyICitSci.  Use the hashtag and share why YOU love citizen science and what motivates you to be a part of citizen science. The #WhyICitSci campaign is a great Twitter pre-conference icebreaker to help us get to know each other before we gather in San Jose!

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In True Citizen Science Fashion, Crowdsourcing a Bibliography

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Books on a library shelf (CC0 Public Domain)

Books on a library shelf (CC0 Public Domain)

Record of the first bibliography can be traced back to the Ancient Library of Alexandria. The former Macedonian general Ptolemy I Soter, who was a successor to Alexander the Great, founded the library. The library itself would go on to become a renowned center of scholarship.

The website History of Information records that in approximately 200 BCE, Callimachus, the highly respected head of the library compiled a catalogue of its entire holdings. Called the Pinakes, which translates to tables or lists, he divided the authors into classes; arranged the authors in the classes or subdivisions alphabetically; added biographical information to the name of each author and listed titles of each authors work under their names etc.

With recent developments in citizen science the world over, a Pinakes for the field was inevitable.  In a piece posted on the Extreme Citizen Science blog, Diana Mastracci writes that the team at Extreme Citizen Science, the UCL Interaction Center, and the University of Geneva, com Citizen Cyberlab,” says Cindy Regalado, a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at the University College London, referring to piled a list of scholarly resources (journals articles, books, web pages, magazine articles, etc.) considered to be most important to the study of “citizen science, creativity, learning and education in citizen science, and the evaluation of citizen science projects.”

“It was originally conceived as an idea for our project EU-FP7 an initiative which is exploring technology enhanced creative learning in the field of citizen cyberscience. “We knew that a large group of researchers and practitioners coming together would draw from various sources, both external and their own, so a shareable repository of articles made sense—shareable not only with the project team, but as a valuable resource for anyone interested in citizen science,” she says. As part of the project with Cyberlab the group proposed publishing an online annotated bibliography of relevant literature from citizen science, creativity and education at the end of the first year of the project.

They brainstormed the most important topics and themes in order to categorize the resources and create a series of tags that reflect the work, understanding and development of Citizen Cyberlab.

The main tags are: disciplinary domain (within e.g. science, humanities, etc.), methods (the procedures, approach, techniques, plan or arrangements used in the article/book) and purpose (review, critique, reflection, ethical considerations, evaluation, etc.). Regalado says the original intention was twofold, “Considering that there is a great number of papers and articles written on citizen science, we wanted to select the ones that were relevant for our project, have them in one searchable place, and share them with ourselves and world online.” It also serves as a way to categorize the vast number of papers, based on different categories relevant to the project. The main theme categories are citizen science, education, and creativity. The sub-themes in citizen science include typology, design, and evaluation of citizen science projects. The sub-themes in education and creativity include learning (informal, accidental, and online, etc.), games (serious games, leisure, gamification, etc.), definitions, and design (in, of and for citizen science).

Regalado adds, “When we published the bibliography we categorized the publications (including peer-reviewed, magazine articles, videos, etc.) according to the tags above, relevant to our project. Since then, more than 50 people, not associated with Cyberlab, have joined the collection titled Citizen Cyberlab: Learning & Creativity Aided by ICT on Mendeley, a popular bibliography management program and have uploaded articles they think are relevant.” And if the keywords and categories they created are not relevant to your project, you can create your own.

“Seeing how it has grown on its own since we published it is really exciting,” says Regalado. “It was publicized when it first came out but we haven’t promoted it since, which means that people have just found it through their own searches. People are adding articles to it, which means they value it and want to contribute to it, and by doing so they also make it their own.”

This being citizen science, the group is interested to learn what topics are important to you as a citizen scientist! Anyone can join the group, and add to the bibliography—which is quickly earning praise—so please, read up on how to join here! The bibliography can be found here.

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Coop’s Citizen Sci Scoop: Recap of Jan 28 #CitSciChat

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citscichat1-1024x984

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 #CitSciChat too!

Skärmavbild-2015-01-29-kl.-11.30.18-1024x923

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Propose or Join a Citizen Science Hackfest Project!

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Propose or join a project or activity for the SciStarter Hackfest at the Citizen Science Association Conference!

A hackfest to make citizen science easier for project managers and participants. Join us in San Jose!

Be a part of SciStarter’s hackfest at CitSci 2015 in San Jose, California!

What: A hands-on and discussion-driven meet-up where everyone participates in dreaming up AND building creative tools to improve the field of citizen science!

Where: Citizen Science 2015 Conference, San Jose, CA

Who: The SciStarter team and YOU!

Why: To capitalize on the collective wisdom (and desire to act!) at the Citizen Science Association Conference

The inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association will take place February 11-12 in San Jose, California and the SciStarter team is looking forward to soaking up new information during the scheduled sessions and talks!

We’ll also contribute to these conversations through a few presentations and an interactive, “roll-up-your-sleeves!” hackfest designed for everyone.

Will you join us? Learn more about SciStarter’s past Hackfests here.

First, make sure you have registered for the Citizen Science 2015 Conference if you want to participate in person. You can join us remotely, too. Just let us know how you plan to participate when you sign up.

Then, fill out this form to let us know you’re coming so we know how many people to expect. Remember, ALL contributions are valuable, and some projects may be discussion-based (no programming skills required). All projects should spark the start of something great! Just bring your creativity, enthusiasm and talents and we’ll make sure you’ll have fun!

Do you have a Hackfest idea or project you’d like people to know about or join at the event? Great!

Use this form to propose a project for the Hackfest at the Citizen Science Association meeting, February 11, 2015, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the San Jose Convention Center!

Here’s the running list of proposed projects! Just click on the image to learn more about the proposed project.

scistarter robot

Agile Citizen Science: Join this group to participate in a brainstorm session to generate ideas and examples of possible agile citizen science projects and of the design features for a digital platform that would support those projects. Click to learn more.

scistarter robot

Locating Citizen Science Activity: Having a simple, accurate representation of a project’s geographic area of interest is important not only for validating the contributed data, but also for finding and recruiting potential participants who live or visit the area of interest and may be able to contribute. Click to learn more.

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