By Editorial Team February 11th, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Comment
Who needs chocolate, cards, roses, or a significant other, when you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with citizen science?
Below you’ll find five projects we love. Visit SciStarter to find 1000 more.
PS: If you have 30 seconds, consider taking this quick poll. We’re curious to learn more about the formal education level of the citizen science community.
The SciStarter Team
The Great Backyard Bird Count
This annual bird count runs from February 12th to 16th this year, and it’s open to anyone in the world. Simply pick a location (such as your backyard!) and count the birds that you see for at least 15 minutes; by participating and reporting your data you’ll contribute to our understanding of birds across the globe. Get started!
Beats Per Life
Is there a correlation between heart rate and lifespan? Help researchers find out by looking through published research results to compare the resting heart rates of all types of animals. Get started!
When it snows in your area, stick a ruler in the snow and tweet your location along with the snow depth. Your data will be added to a real-time worldwide map of snow depth which will help scientists calibrate the accuracy of satellite instruments. Get started!
Bonus! The SciStarter team will join Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine and the Science Cheerleaders at the AAAS Family Science Days in Washington, DC February 13th and 14th. This free event is open to the public! We’ll give away rulers with Snow Tweets instructions to help you get started.
Want to help fight heart disease? By completing a simple online survey about your health and behavior, you can contribute to our understanding of heart health. Get started!
Create a diary for your child and harness crowd wisdom to predict and improve her/his development. This project is part of an international scientific effort to understand the way children grow.
The gamification of data analysis in cancer increases citizen contribution and reduces research time
By Carolyn Graybeal February 11th, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Comment
Individuals diagnosed with muscle-invasive bladder cancer face a difficult treatment decision – intensive radiotherapy or complete surgical removal of their bladder. Each option has benefits and draw backs, and there are limited data available to patients and physicians to help predict which treatment might provide the best outcome.
Dr. Anne Kiltie, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Oxford University and Clinical Group Leader at Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is trying to improve that decision making process. She is investigating whether proteins involved in DNA damage signaling and repair might serve as biological indicators, or ‘biomarkers’, predictive of a patient’s response to treatment.
In 2010 her team published data showing that higher levels of the DNA repair protein MRE11 correlated with better survival rates in bladder cancer patients who had undergone radiotherapy. This was a critical finding suggesting that MRE11 could be a treatment predictive biomarker. Unfortunately the finding relied on time consuming pathology analysis. Bladder tumor samples are sliced, labeled for each protein of interest and photographed. While the staining and imaging of these slices can be automated, each image must be manually quantified for the level of protein present. Computer algorithms are not yet as reliable as the human eye. So to study just one protein, Kiltie’s team must individually score hundreds of images, a major time sink.
Of course if there was a way to get more people involved, the research could proceed much faster.
And this is the basis of Reverse the Odds, a mobile app game in which citizens help with real data analysis. The game was the result of CRUK’s partnership with British television broadcaster Channel 4 and developed in collaboration with Chunk, Maverick Television, and Zooniverse.
“Developing this game was a new experience for both our researchers and the game developers,” says Rupesh Robinson-Vyas, Science Engagement and Operations Officer at CRUK. The development team had some key concerns. Could a game that dealt with a serious topic like cancer still be approachable and fun? And could the data analysis be gamified without compromising the quality of analysis?
Yes and yes.
The final product is a puzzle game in which players help whimsical creatures, ‘Odds’ reclaim their world. Rather than hide the science, the game developers put the science front and center. To level up, players visit the ‘lab’ where they learn to quantify protein expression in real bladder tumor samples. All the samples are from patients who have already undergone treatment. Players are not diagnosing patients.
Each image is reviewed by multiple players, with each player’s response being compared to other players’ responses. In this way discrepancies in analysis are weeded out. After the images are quantified, the data are sent back to Kiltie’s team who compare the level of protein expression to the patient’s known outcome.
Not only has the game cut down on data processing time, Kiltie’s team can concurrently evaluate the expression level of multiple proteins. This means the relationships between proteins, how they might work together to affect treatment outcome can also be studied.
As for the seriousness of the subject matter, rather than a deterrent, the science and the potential to make a significant contribution to cancer research is a strong motivator for game play.
“It was an unexpected outcome. The game allowed us to engage a younger age group, individuals who might not be able to contribute financially, could instead contribute their time,” says Robinson-Vyas. The game has been a huge success, translated into five languages, with an international reach of 150 countries.
CRUK is testing new methods of training and presenting pathology data to users. “Rather than asking our users just one question, the new interactive will teach us how to ask questions and identify what kind of data our users can help us collect,” says Robinson-Vyas. Results with citizen scientists matching pathologist’s accuracy in data analysis are encouraging; CRUK is writing a paper on these methods and plans to test further iterations.
As for Reverse the Odds, Kiltie’s team hopes to complete data collection this spring. Her team intends to make the results as well as background on game development openly available.
Visit the project page to learn more about Reverse the Odds and join the effort help Kiltie’s team analyze the final 500,000 slides by March.
Learn about CRUK’s other project Play to Cure: Genes in Space
By Darlene Cavalier February 10th, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Comment
Have you ever wondered?
We did, too…so we asked our Twitter pals to complete a simple poll. Here are the results of our informal poll. Next: we’ll ask our friends on Facebook, poll our community of 50,000 citizen scientists, and ask citizen scientists we meet in person at upcoming events. Stay tuned!
By Editorial Team January 28th, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Comment
Citizen Science Genetics Projects
Here are six citizen science projects in need of your help to explore life all around us.
If you are interested in additional genetics themed citizen science, be sure to visit our storify of the January #CitSciChat which focused on citizen science and genetics!
The SciStarter Team
Genetics and Smell Chemistry
Part of the way we smell things is controlled by our genes. Families are needed to smell a provided sample and record how their perceptions of the smell differ. The results will inform understanding of the genetics of smell.
Genetics of Taste
Have a sweet tooth? It could be genetic. This project, based at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, explores the factors that influence taste.
If you like both online games and trees, this might be the project for you! You can play a game using real genetic data to help protect ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) from disease.
The cabbage white (Pieris rapae) is one of the most common butterflies worldwide. Help this project collect genetic data on cabbage whites to investigate how the species has successfully spread and adapted to many different environments.
The Genographic Project
National Geographic is collecting and analyzing samples of DNA to learn how humanity spread across the earth. With a simple cheek swab, you can learn about your personal genetic history and contribute to a larger body of knowledge
Personal Genome Project
Harvard’s Personal Genome Project studies how genetics and the environment influence traits, while at the same time creating a publically accessible database for genetic and health information.
By Arvind Suresh (Editor) January 28th, 2016 at 9:20 am | Comment
SciStarter adds first Canadian organization as a citizen science partner
The David Suzuki Foundation expands citizen science projects to include Canadians
Philadelphia, PA / Vancouver, B.C. (January 28, 2016) — The David Suzuki Foundation is teaming up with SciStarter to encourage science researchers in Canada to engage more citizen science partners through SciStarter’s North America-wide database and international reach.
“Global collaboration on scientific research on the environment is crucial,” said Darlene Cavalier, founder of SciStarter and professor of practice at Arizona State University. “We’re thrilled to see growing involvement from the international scientific community, particularly from the David Suzuki Foundation, which works to conserve the environment and find solutions to some of Canada’s most pressing environmental concerns.” Read the rest of this entry »