Author Archive

Do citizen scientists have formal STEM education experiences?

By 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!

Informal Twitter Poll: 233 responses

Informal Twitter Poll: 238 responses

SciStarter, Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine and the Science Cheerleaders at AAAS Family Science Days!

By January 26th, 2016 at 11:40 am | Comment

aaas family science days
Saturday and Sunday February 13–14, 2016
11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel Washington, DC

Register now: Free, hands-on science fun for the entire family.

Explore interactive science exhibits, learn about cool science jobs, and have your questions answered by scientists, including these Science Cheerleaders!

Megan, Computer Scientist, Redskins alumni
Megan, Computer Scientist, Redskins alumni
Margaret, PhD Chemistry, Baltimore Blast alumni
Margaret, PhD Chemistry, Baltimore Blast alumni
Lauren, Mathematician, Redskins and Wizards Alumni
Lauren, Mathematician, Redskins and Wizards Alumni

We’ll also be joined by our pals at Discover Magazine and Astronomy Magazine to lead a Science Quiz Show on Sunday, 2/14 at 11:30 am sharp! Answer some questions about science and win cool prizes!

All weekend-long, guests will learn how to get involved in Snow Tweets, an awesome citizen science project to help cryosphere researchers calibrate the accuracy of weather satellites. We’ll even get you started with a free ruler complete with instructions to simply stick the ruler in snow and tweet your snow depth measurement and location to #snowtweets!

Grab your free ruler and ground truth snow measurements during the next snowfall!

Grab your free ruler and ground-truth snow measurements during the next snowfall!

SciStarter’s database of citizen science projects now featured on AllForGood.org and Serve.gov

By January 16th, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Comment

SciStarter’s database of citizen science projects now featured on AllForGood.org and Serve.gov . Federal employees will now be able to find and join SciStarter’s citizen science projects just in time for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when everyone is encouraged to participate in a Day of Service.

All For Good, a service of Points of Light, now features hundreds of citizen science projects from SciStarter’s database, making it easier than ever to connect passionate people looking to make change happen through scientific research projects in need for their help. All For Good generated more than 64 million searches for volunteer projects last year.

A citizen science project can involve one person or millions of people collaborating toward a common goal. SciStarter aggregates more than 1,100 citizen science projects on a single website in order to connect scientists and community leaders with anyone who wants to contribute to valuable science.

“SciStarter is thrilled to share its extensive database of citizen science projects with All For Good’s active community of millions of people eager to find ways to make the world a better place,” said Darlene Cavalier, Director of SciStarter. “Why not change the world through service to science?”

“SciStarter will help us connect more people to projects that will have a real impact on a range of diverse research areas, including ecology, environment, health, astronomy, ornithology and more,” said Art Ordoqui, Senior Director, Product Development, Points of Light. “All For Good also shares projects with the Serve.gov website for volunteer opportunities, so federal employees will now be able to find and join SciStarter’s citizen science projects just in time for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when everyone is encouraged to participate in a Day of Service.”

All For Good is joined by several other partners that feature projects from SciStarter’s database, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, PBS Kids, and more.

Participation Details for Project Owners and Interested Citizen Scientists
It’s easy for researchers from around the world to add their projects to SciStarter’s growing Project Finder, tapping into the network of portal partners and project participants at All For Good and others, by clicking “add a project” from SciStarter’s homepage [www.SciStarter.org]. AllForGood.org and Serve.gov website visitors can search for SciStarter’s citizen science projects using the keywords “STEM” or “citizen science”.

About SciStarter
SciStarter enables people to contribute to science through informal recreational activities and formal research efforts. The website creates a shared space where scientists can connect with people interested in working on or learning about joint research projects.

About All For Good
All for Good – a service of Points of Light – is one of the world’s largest free, online marketplaces matching volunteers with opportunities to serve. Users of All for Good generated nearly 64 million project searches in the past year for 300,000 volunteer projects.

My 10-year citizen science journey.

By December 23rd, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Comment

darlene bill nye

Earlier this month, I had the immense honor  of sharing the stage with Bill Nye and some fascinating thought leaders in space exploration from academia and industry, thanks to the leaders at Arizona State University’s New Space. We talked about colonizing Mars, mining asteroids, women in STEM and more. Amid all the exciting, forward-looking discussions, bolstered by the super-pumped-up audience of 3500 ASU students, I couldn’t help but think about the voice we needed to hear as we imagined YOUR place in space: YOUR voice. A decade ago, YOUR voice (and your tax dollars, your values, your informed opinions) would have been represented by your elected officials, or the noisiest advocacy groups, or industry.

I know this because exactly 10 years ago, I was wrapping up my master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania where I spent a lot of time learning about people like me, like us: people who are interested in science, who want to be part of science–of discovery, of shaping the future–but who don’t hold formal science degrees.
family graduation
The degree from Penn wasn’t what motivated me. I went back to school after a decade of working at Discover Magazine (and, believe or not, after a few years as an NBA cheerleader!) so I could learn more about my role in science and society. Where does someone without a formal science degree fit in? For all the investment in time and money we give to K-12 STEM education, what are we doing to support the majority of those kids who don’t go to college or, if they do, who choose non-STEM careers?

What are we doing to take seriously the fact that, while our nation’s students rank low on international STEM exams, year after year, our nation’s adults (US) fair exceptionally well when compared to our peers in other countries? This must seem impossible. How can that be when our country has resisted scientifically sound issues such as climate change, vaccines, GMOs and stem cell research? Because the resistance stems from all the factors that shape science and science policy: values, economics, personal benefits, etc. Teaching people more science via the all-too-common deficit approach does not work.

How do we start real conversations with–and tap the talents and interests of–adults who have demonstrated that they/we like science? Did you know that more Americans visit science museums, zoos and aquariums than sports events? I didn’t…read more about this here. What are we doing to support us and enable us to be part of these conversations we are absolutely every bit entitled to be part of, NOW?

Well, almost immediately upon starting graduate school, I learned about citizen science. This is often described as crowdsourcing, community science, or public participation in scientific research. It usually takes the form of a scientist asking the public to share observations or analyze data to help advance areas of research.

I couldn’t wait to jump in and participate in formal and informal research projects in need of my help! Back then, it was difficult to find these opportunities. This is how SciStarter emerged. It was a very simple, searchable database embedded in a blog called Science Cheerleader, created to help me organize projects I was going to write about in my Capstone paper. I invited people to add projects or find projects. Before too long, this database spawned its own start up, featuring 1100 projects and a community of more than 50,000 citizen scientists.

Today, SciStarter’s database is shared with Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, the National Science Teachers Association, the U.N., PBS, AllForGood, and many other partners. Thanks to support from the Simons Foundation, anyone can add citizen science to their website via simple to use, embeddable widgets. We are coPIs of research projects; universities and agencies hire us to organize and manage projects and participants; we have a syndicated blog network and a series on an NPR radio station. We’re really happy with developments at SciStarter.

BUT, most of these projects either invite people to share observations about the natural world or analyze big data. Very few offer people the opportunity to impart their local knowledge, values, insights, etc, directly to inform science policy.
Things are starting to change a bit thanks to the efforts of a LOT of people spanning many fields, motives, and generations.

Ten years ago, I started pushing to reopen the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which I thought had the most potential to bring together the public and scientists in shaping science policy. While interviewing experts to learn more about the rise and fall of the OTA, I found some soulmates-of-sorts and five years later our merry band of renegades officially organized.

safe_image

Dr. Richard Sclove (left of me, pictured here with the cofounders of ECAST) wrote in Issues in Science and Technology, why it was high-time to formalize a mechanism to invite non-experts to both learn about and weigh in on the societal implications of emerging technologies and their related policies. Check out his essay:Reinventing_Tech_Assessment_-_Sclove_in_Issues_in_S&T_-_Fall_2010-1 

Earlier that same year,  Dr. Sclove, the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Boston Museum of Science, Arizona State University, and I (as the Science Cheerleader and founder of what would become SciStarter), joined forces to launch the first-of-its-kind effort in the U.S. to realize this vision: ECAST, Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology. Read more on this, here. ECAST is taking the best of the defunct OTA and spicing things up by borrowing best practices from successful participatory technology assessment activities in the European Union.

Last year, ECAST worked with NASA to inform and then solicit input from people from all walks of life, to better understand what important questions were missing from science policy considerations. People involved in those deliberations sure had a lot to add to the conversations. I encourage you to read more about the effort and outcomes of Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative. You’ll see that space exploration-the future- is complex and absolutely needs your perspective. Thanks to forward-thinking Federal agencies, like NASA, NOAA and others with an authentic interest in soliciting informed input from YOU, ECAST is able to experiment with mechanisms to unite the public with policymakers and scientists.

Looking ahead, the SciStarter team wants to see more opportunities spanning a wider spectrum of engagement levels, like those we organize at ECAST. We want to help more people find and get involved in all of these opportunities. We want to help you keep track of your contributions and maybe even be rewarded for your efforts. Why not? Maybe you didn’t finish high school. Maybe you earned an advanced degree in business or the arts. You connected with science later in life (like me!). You had the courage to move from spectator to participant. Why shouldn’t your contributions be validated and rewarded with college credit or career advancements or a free cup of coffee from Starbucks? :)

These are the types of questions we will start to address thanks to support from the National Science Foundation. The NSF awarded a $300,000 Pathways grant to Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training in Science and Society (of which I am a proud Professor of Practice!) for the development of SciStarter 2.0. The grant will advance the growing field of citizen and community science and help us build the capacity to be able to start to test some theories while scaling up our ability to engage and support more citizen scientists.

SciStarter 2.0 team at our kick off meeting last week

SciStarter 2.0 team at our kick off meeting earlier this month

So, now that government and the scientific community have stepped up to the plate to welcome you with open arms and now that SciStarter (and others!) have made it very easy for you to get involved, the question is, will you accept the invitation? Make 2016 the year you accept the challenge. Do a citizen science project. Go to a science festival or science cafe. Get involved in an ECAST project.

You’ve got 300 Science Cheerleaders (including me) rooting for you and ready to support you!

Science Cheerleaders break Guinness World Record for largest cheer (cheered for science!).

Science Cheerleaders break Guinness World Record for largest cheer (cheered for science!).

Ten Citizen Science projects and events added to SciStarter this week

By October 23rd, 2015 at 12:40 pm | Comment

Check ’em out!

We thought it would be interesting to share the growth in the number of projects added to SciStarter’s Project Finder so our developer, Daniel Arbuckle, put this chart together (it doesn’t account for 100 or so projects awaiting images and additional information before we publish them!):

Growth in number of projects added to SciStarter.

Growth in number of projects added to SciStarter.