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 (25th) #CitSciChat too!
This project is run by a graduate student who needs your help! Now through the end of February, she’s looking for people to provide information on snowflakes, cloud patterns, and more. Get Started!
Study Adélie Penguin breeding
Through Penguin Science, students have access to photos, videos, and field data of Antarctic penguins. The project provides materials and activities to help your class and family study penguins. Get Started!
Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey
Calling all New Yorkers! The Department of Environmental Conservation is monitoring the health of the turkey population and wants you to report sightings of winter turkey flocks. Get Started!
The NOVA Cloud Lab
This is a great project to do when you want to stay inside and keep warm. Classify clouds and investigate storms from the comfort of your own home. Get Started!
Do you live in Canada? Do you have an outdoor ice rink? If you do, this project is perfect for you! Report the conditions on your rink throughout the winter and compare them to rinks throughout the country. Get Started!
Have a body of water near year? Volunteers are needed to track weather and wildlife conditions on water bodies throughout the winter. Get Started!
Are you in San Jose/CA, Philadelphia/PA, Boston/MA, or Atlanta/GA? Would you like to help us organize events there? Email email@example.com! If you’d like your citizen science project featured on SciStarter, email Jenna@scistarter.com.
Going to the Citizen Science Association’s Conference in San Jose, CA? Suggest or join a project for our hackfest.
Editor’s Note: This guest post by Chandra Clarke originally appeared on the author’s Citizen Science Center blog. Projects mentioned in this post including Loss of the Night, EteRNA and Sound Around You are all part of SciStarter’s ever growing project database. Find a citizen science project that tickles your fancy using the project finder!
I’ve been covering the citizen science movement for a very long time now; indeed, I’ve been writing about citizen science in one form or another since before it was really a movement.
Recently, I sat down and had a think about what I had seen in the past, as well as some of trends that I’ve been noticing. Today, I’m going to review some of those and also go out on a limb with some predictions as to where I see citizen science heading.
It’s Definitely a Thing, Now
In the last three or so years, I’ve noticed a sharp increase in the amount of mainstream interest in citizen science. Where it was once just the province of a smaller group of hardcore geeks (think: early adopters of the SETI@Home client), it now seems like everyone is talking about citizen science. Anecdotally, I’ve been interviewed by a fairly wide range of media outlets — everything from CBC Radio to Woman’s World. On the hard data side, this screen shot of the Google Trends entry on citizen science bears this out:
Citizen Science is Converging with Other Movements
Open source, participatory civics, activism, maker spaces, crowdfunding: citizen science is part of an even broader shift across many segments of society, and in some cases it’s increasingly hard to see where one movement begins and another ends.
There are an increasing number of citizen science games, some with the data processing and manipulation right out front like EteRNA, and some not quite so much, like Reverse the Odds. This not to be confused with the gamification of citizen science projects: that is, the addition of game elements like leaderboards, badges, scoring, etc., to an otherwise non-game-based project. (The jury is still out as to how effective gamification is at improving user retention.)
Point and Click Projects Are Here to Stay… For a While
Zooniverse has pretty much perfected the model of citizen science projects wherein users are presented with a bit of data (most often an image) and are asked to perform a simple task (usually identify and locate a specific feature). As more and more people get interested in citizen science in general, the platform (and others like it) will likely continue to register new users faster than it ‘loses’ them. This is a good thing, because the participation dropoff curves appear to be pretty steep. Eventually, however, as more interesting ways to do citizen science continue to proliferate, and if we ever see a ‘peak citizen science’ (i.e., the most number of people likely to do citizen science are already doing it), this will no longer be the case.
On the flip side, I think that image processing technology will replace the need for human participation here sooner, rather than later, in part because mega-companies like Google and Baidu are throwing boatloads of money at the problem, and because technology improvement curves are much steeper than we realize.
But Apps are Where It’s At
The number of citizen science apps — and by this I mean the programs that run on tablets or smartphones — is going up, and that has opened up a whole new frontier in citizen science. Whereas before, most citizen science has been about data processing, apps allow for more datacollection. Apps like Sound Around You or Loss of the Night are good examples.
However, I think we’ve only just barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with current mobile technology. The average smart phone now comes with an accelerometer, a camera, a video camera, a magnetometer, an ambient light detector, GPS, and obviously, a speaker and a microphone, all as standard equipment. Considering how creative people are getting with simple GoPro cameras and their special mounts, or cameras attached to drones just for fun, there’s clearly a lot of scope for some much more interesting citizen science apps than what we’re currently doing.
That Internet of Things We Keep Hearing About
As sensors become cheaper and cheaper, and the Internet becomes even more ubiquitous, the average citizen, with or without connection to an official citizen science project, will soon be able to measure and track pretty much anything. (Seriously, check out those links to see what’s coming, especially if you’re looking for ideas.) Anyone will be able to deploy sensors, and this will in turn generate huge amounts of highly granular data. Indeed, most of us will deploy sensors, even if not entirely deliberately, because they’re going to be embedded in the products we use.
In some ways, we’re just beginning to build a massive nervous system for ourselves and our planet, and it’s going to teach us all sorts of amazing things. We don’t yet know what we don’t know.
But it’s going to be very interesting. Stay tuned.
ChandraClarke is an award-winning business woman, prolific writer, and a passionate advocate of learning and knowledge. You can see her citizen science blog at CitizenScienceCenter.com and her personal blog at ChandraKClarke.com.
Propose or join a project or activity for the SciStarter Hackfest at the Citizen Science Association Conference!
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!
Here’s the running list of proposed projects! Just click on the image to learn more about the proposed project.
1. 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. Clickto learn more.
2. 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.
We want to help biologists subscribe to fresh data alerts for their species and regions of interest from many (wildlife observation) citizen science platforms, and enable observers on those platforms to be notified if their observation was sent to someone. Click to learn more.
5. Hackfest for the world’s biggest fish!
6. Citizen Science Web Platform Needs Activity
Help those who develop citizen science web platforms / websites design and create better solutions for your needs. Come to this brainstorm session to offer your insights into what is needed to better support online data management for citizen science projects. Click to learn more.
Starting this month, you can tune in and take part in monthly discussion sessions about citizen science. The discussions take place on Twitter and anyone is welcome to join with questions, answers, comments, and ideas. You can follow the discussion at the hashtag #CitSciChat.
The monthly #CitSciChat are sponsored by SciStarter and The Counter Culture, which is my new research lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. These Twitter chats are designed to bring citizen scientists, project managers, students, and scientists together to share ideas, knowledge, and resources. We’ll discuss news, policies, discoveries, papers, and projects. The chats are opportunities for people around the world to meet and share their experiences with citizen science.
Whether you are experienced with Twitter or not, I hope you will find it easy to take part. Here’s how it works. I’m the moderator (@CoopSciScoop) and for each session I will invite a few guests with varied expertise and who enjoy lively discussions. I’ll pose question (Q1, Q2, etc.) and guest panelists and others will answer (prefaced with A1, A2, etc). Others can answer too, and pose related questions (label them, e.g., Q1a, Q1b, etc). There are no expectations that everyone will agree, but there are expectations that everyone will be courteous, polite, and respectful. Know that it’s okay to simply follow along, but I hope you will join the conversation. If you do, be sure to remember 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 follows in the footsteps of many other Twitter chats. For example, there are Twitter journal clubs, such as #microtwjc for discussions of microbiology papers (initiated by @_zoonotica_). There are chat sessions like #StuSciChat that connects high school students and scientists (moderated by Adam Taylor @2footgiraffe) and #STEMchat that connects parents, educators, and STEM professionals (moderated by Kim Moldofsky @MakerMom). A very popular #Edchat, founded by Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell), hosts conversations among educators.
Citizen science chats take place on Twitter at #CitSciChat the last Wednesday (Thursday in Australia) of every month, unless otherwise noted. The first will be January 28 (29th in Australia). We’ll increase in their frequency if interest levels are high. 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!
Building A Community of Practice: Organizing the Organizers in Citizen Science