We are very excited to share the very first teaser segment for WHYY’s The Pulse with you, which aired last night at 6PM ET! Listen here: http://bit.ly/1bgaPTS The producer Kimberly Haas talks about PhillyTreeMap, Azavea, and the local Plant One Million Campaign.
The Pulse is WHYY’s upcoming weekly one-hour radio program focused on health, science and innovation in the Philadelphia region. The show will explore the personal stories of illness and recovery, discovery, health and science trends and much more. Working with SciStarter’s founder, Darlene Cavalier, the show will also take a close look at citizen science initiatives in the PA, NJ, DE region and report out on which projects are gaining the most traction and yielding effective results. WHYY’s Behavioral Health Reporter, Maiken Scott, will host the program every Friday at 9 a.m. with a rebroadcast on Sunday mornings. Here’s where to listen:
WHYY’s Friday morning schedule (come Dec. 6th):
6-9 a.m. – Morning Edition
9-10 a.m. – The Pulse
10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Radio Times
Here’s where you can help. If you’re a citizen science researcher, project manager, or participant in the PA, NJ, or DE areas, we want to hear from you! If you have an interesting story to share about a citizen science project or experience, let us know. Send your stories for consideration to Lily@SciStarter.com.
This is a guest post by Dr. Tom Keeble, who was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, and completed a science degree with honours at The University of Melbourne. He then completed a Ph.D, studying Developmental Neurobiology, at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, and the Queensland Brain Institute. He did a postdoc in Singapore and has now moved into Science Communication. Because he couldn’t see himself staying in the active research scene but hated the thought of leaving science entirely, becoming the Neuroscience Communicator at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health has been the perfect fit.
Most people reading this blog will be familiar with the idea crowdfunding – so I won’t explain the concept in much more detail other than to state its definition as “asking heaps of people to chip in to do something epic.”
Pozible is the Australian equivalent of Kickstarter.com, and is the third largest crowdfunding platform in the world. It works on the “all-or-none” model of funding projects, so if you don’t reach your target, you don’t receive any of the funds (you can’t buy ¾ of a PCR machine…). Fifty-five percent of Pozible projects are successful, and they have raised over $11 million since 2010. What’s more, they have an entire section of their site dedicated to crowdfunding research projects.
The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health performs some pretty epic neuroscience – we’re 4th in the world in terms of cumulative publication citations since 2002, and we study the brain from conception right through to the end of life. Major disease focuses include stroke, epilepsy, autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases.
In the Australian context, the pool of funds available for Medical Research via our National Health and Medical Research Council has remained static at $800 million, while funding success rates have fallen to an all-time low of 17%, with even more dismal early career researcher success rates.
Against this background, crowdfunding can provide the resources to generate pilot data that forms the basis of a larger grant application, particularly for a high-risk high-reward project where proof of principle is crucial, and for younger researchers still establishing that vital “track record.”
Pledgers at every level get to be more hands-on with the research, becoming part of the daily life of the labs that are raising the money, through online engagement and in the case of higher pledgers, visits to the Institute. The campaign is also a valuable tool in educating scientists about their role in public engagement – increasingly being seen as non-negotiable when receiving public dollars.
Traditional engagement tools at The Florey Institute include direct mail, e-newsletters, on-site public lectures and school outreach programs. These are very successful, but in the next decade this model is going to need updating – and online engagement through crowdfunding is great training for scientists; engage or perish!
Now, to the projects themselves!
The Florey Institute has 7 projects up on Pozible, the most successful ones being run by those with extensive online and offline networks to draw upon. Our standout performers have been, in no particular order:
- A project run by Dr David Hawkes gives pledgers the chance to either suggest names for 4 viral vectors he’s creating, with the most popular names getting the honour, or you can skip the popularity contest and ‘buy’ a name for the vector yourself – which will then literally go viral as it spreads to his collaborators around the globe.
- Dr. Wah Chin Boon has leveraged her extensive international connections to great success for her project examining DNA changes in response to environmental chemicals possibly leading to Autism.
- Everyone’s looking for ways to reduce the pharmacopeia associated with modern day life. Animal studies have shown that light levels play an important role in increasing or decreasing the number of brain cells that produce dopamine, an important “feel-good” neurochemical. Dr Tim Aumann is looking to see whether this holds true for humans as well, by examining brains from people who lived (well, died) during periods of long days and short nights, or vice versa, opening the door to drug-free brain treatments.
- And finally, in what might be a world-first, Faith Lamont is looking to crowdfund her Ph.D stipend! Due to citizenship restrictions, Faith as a New Zealander is ineligible for funding from the Australian Government, so she’s looking for funding from the people! Her project aims to use humanized mouse assays – ipads for mice - to better assess learning and memory in mice in the context of Schizophrenia and Autism. Faith’s even made a little game where you can test your cognitive skills against those of a mouse.
So head over to Pozible and check out the projects – one of the added beauties of crowdfunding is that the project doesn’t even have to be in your own backyard, the benefits of science are global – and epic.
Remember the game Mouse Trap? For those of you not familiar with it, Mouse Trap is a board game in which players build a contraption, using various tools and materials, in order to capture a toy mouse on the run. Players often build creative, elaborate traps that operate in various stages, with each distinct stage setting off a another. The game is based on the concept behind Rube-Goldberg machines, devices that perform a very simple task but require an elaborate chain reaction to operate between start and finish. Just like in Rube-Goldberg machines, the value of Mouse Trap is very much in the journey, not the destination.
Now, imagine an even larger version of this game, without the mouse. This is the MIT Museum’s annual Friday After Thanksgiving: Chain Reaction event. Aptly shortened to F.A.T. for the Friday After Thanksgiving, the event is an innovative way to get families out and about after Thursday night’s collective feasting. This year, the Chain Reaction took place at the Rockwell Cage Gymnasium on MIT’s campus and was attended by approximately 2,000 people.
Here’s how it works. Each year, the MIT Museum invites its community to join the event as spectators or participants. Participants and teams build individual sections of a larger chain reaction. The aim is to be as creative as possible, and believe me when I say that participants take this creative license very seriously. Upon strolling around the basketball court-sized area set aside for the entire machine, I spotted everything from action figures, straws, water balloons, Arduino robots, monkey wrenches, bicycle wheels, legos, Daleks, and yes–even mouse traps.
Because the event is open to anybody and everybody, participants every year range from Girl Scout troops to artists and engineers, from MIT clubs to high schools and family teams. Teams have also come from as far away as Michigan and California to contribute. This year, artist/inventor Arthur Ganson and local artist/MIT alumnus Jeff Lieberman both emceed the event.
The F.A.T. Chain Reaction event is not only a creative way to get the family together during the Thanksgiving holiday season, but it’s also an opportunity for kids (ages one to ninety-two) to engage and experiment with the basics of engineering. Who knows? Perhaps participating could set off a chain reaction that results in even more collaborative citizen science in your future.
You can view a live video of the 2012 Chain Reaction below (2013 video forthcoming):
Lily Bui is the Executive Editor of SciStarter and holds dual degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine. She has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. She currently works in public media at WGBH-TV and the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Boston, MA. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns. Follow @dangerbui.
This is a guest post by Karen McDonald. When not writing her blog The Infinite Spider, Karen is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel.
When you consider the field of citizen science you probably think of it as something you do by collecting data, taking pictures, finding plants or animals, or uploading sightings. There’s a new form of citizen science emerging called a “thought experiment.” You may be familiar with thought experiments like that of “Schrödinger’s Cat” or Einstein’s “Chasing a Beam of Light” which use theoretical reasoning to solve a problem. However, thought experiments may also be applied to biological science because you are considering a hypothesis, principle, or theory and its consequences as it applies to a scientific application. This theory may or may not be implemented. The big difference between traditional citizen science and a thought experiment is that thought experiments do not use direct observation or experiments, they rely completely on theory. Thought experiments also have the advantage that they can be done from anywhere, which make them accessible to anyone who might be interested in trying them out. You can do them in a classroom, on the metro, or on an exercise bike.
A Bit of Background for This Thought Experiment
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Marine Invasions Research Lab, located in Edgewater, MD, along with a field branch in Tiburon California have teamed up with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Alaska Southeast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and San Francisco State University to monitor a creatively named species of invasive brackish water tunicate called “rock vomit,” or Didemnum vexillum. It’s thought that D. vexillum originated in Japan, but now it’s found all over the world and it’s an aggressive invader. SERC scientists first found it growing in the bay of Sitka Alaska in 2010 during a bioblitz.
Rock vomit is a big problem for native habitats and commercial fishermen because it grows in mats (in quickly moving water) and long strands (with low water movement) and covers everything in sight. This includes fishing nets, lines, docks, ship hulls, and all living sessile (non-moving) creatures on the bottom. Rock vomit literally blankets sponges, anemones, bryozoans, scallops, oysters, and mussels. Here is the USGS official page with images and descriptions.
How Does This Citizen Science Thought Project Work?
SERC scientists have been trying to determine how rock vomit spreads and what factors might influence its demise. You can read more about their work using treatments of fresh water, extremely salty water, lack of oxygen, acetic acid, and bleach in a controlled field setting as they try to find out what might work to control it. These researchers are asking you, as citizen scientists, to participate in a thought experiment project to help come up with a way to control rock vomit based on their findings. On the page listed above they give you some factors to consider such as treatment area, containment, limiting mortality of other species and outside the area, wind, waves, and tides. Your job is to think about these variables and to design a theoretical solution to the problem of this invasive species. Remember, the solution may or may not be implemented but your thoughts and theories could help solve a major invasive species problem!
If you would like to submit an idea please send your proposal to Monaca Noble (Noblem@si.edu) by December 16th. The lab will choose the best solution and post the winner on the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center website for Invasive Species.
If you’re looking for some scientific inspiration, try this paper:
McCann, LD, K Holzer, IC Davidson, GV Ashton, and GM Ruiz. 2013. Promoting invasive species control and eradication in the sea: options for managing the tunicate invader Didemnum vexillum in Sitka, Alaska. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Available online.
This is an announcement from the Citizen Cyberscience Summit.
Following the successful Citizen Cyberscience Summits in 2010 and 2012, we are pleased to announce a third meeting in London on 20-22 February 2014.
By citizen cyberscience, we refer to the wide range of activities that enable people from all walks of life to join in scientific projects through internet-based applications such as contributing the unused processing power of their computers to help scientific computing, classifying information, using their smartphones to collect nature observations or building their own Internet-enabled sensors to collect environmental information.
The summit will be structured as a 3-day event that offers scientists, practitioners, enthusiasts, policy makers and citizen scientists the unique opportunity to meet and discuss citizen science and citizen cyberscience, participate in activities, and develop prototypes for new projects.
The first day (Thursday, 20th February 2014) will focus on the wide range of citizen science activities, exploring the engagement, creativity and participation, outreach of citizen science to the developing world, and the undertaking of citizen science projects in challenging environments (e.g. in a rainforest or the Arctic). We also welcome talks that deal with the growing policy and environmental management implications of citizen science.
For the second day (Friday, 21st February 2014) we are calling for presentations on the technical aspects of citizen science, such as: the need for suitable hardware and software; or panels discussing with citizen scientists about their perceptions, participation and engagement; or a showcase of citizen science projects. Based upon the success of this event in 2012, we will launch a ‘think camp’/’hackfest’, which will carry on to the next day and is aimed at developing demonstrations of hardware and software that can be used in citizen science projects or simply a concentrated discussion on a specific topic of interest.
The final day (Saturday, 22nd February 2014) will include further conference sessions, workshops and development of prototypes, with an afternoon talk, presentations and awards for the best prototypes.
Overall, we hope to cover a range of topics of relevance to citizen science research, including: technical aspects of citizen science such as use of sensors; applications of smartphones for data collection or in combination with external sensors; linking the Internet of Things (IoT) and citizen science – sensor networks to human sensors; motivations, incentives and engagement patterns; citizen science with indigenous and low-literacy communities; social science, ethnographic and anthropological aspects of citizen science and creativity and learning in citizen science.
During the summit, there will be an opportunity to present short papers, run panels, organise workshops or provide showcase demonstrations. We would like to invite anyone interested in participating in this way to submit brief proposals of up to 750 words using the form: http://bit.ly/15SWBnw
Proposals should be submitted by 31st December 2013.
Registration will open in mid-December; full details will be available on our website soon.
We look forward to hearing from you and hope that you’ll be able to join us at the summit.
The Citizen Cyberscience Summit Organising Committee