Archive for the ‘Citizen Science’ tag

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

By February 24th, 2015 at 9:29 am | Comment

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.

screensaver of Rosetta@home

screensaver of 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!

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

By January 31st, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Comment

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 (25th) #CitSciChat too!

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

 

Hash Out Citizen Science in Twitter Chat Sessions

By January 19th, 2015 at 10:12 am | Comment

citscichat_logo#CitSciChat

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!

January theme:

Building A Community of Practice: Organizing the Organizers in Citizen Science

I’ve invited guests among the leadership of the Citizen Science Association, the European Citizen Science Association, and Citizen Science Network Australia. These panelists will discuss how these organizations are helping coordinate practitioners across the many disciplines that engage the public in research.

Panelists to follow:

From US:

  • Darlene Cavalier @Scicheer – CSA
  • Mary Ford @maryeford – CSA
  • Jennifer Shirk @ShirkSci – CSA (tentative)
  • Martin Storksdieck @Storksdieck – CSA

From Europe:

  • Muki Haklay @mhaklay – CSA & ESCA
  • Fermin Serrano @Ibercivis – ECSA
  • Joseph Perello @OpenSystemsUB – ECSA

From Australia:

  • @CitSciOz – CSNA
  • Michelle Neil @Michelle_Neil – CSNA

What is killing California’s trees, and what can you do about it?

By January 12th, 2015 at 9:00 am | Comment

(Eskalen Lab. UC-Riverside, Reproduced with permission)

Trees infested by the polyphagus shothole borer in California (Eskalen Lab. UC-Riverside, Reproduced with permission)

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the author’s blog. Project SCARAB is one of more than 800 great citizen science projects on SciStarter. Use our project finder to find one that you can participate in!

The great thing about living in a major port city such as Los Angeles is having access to ideas and goods from the around the world. However, the port of LA, and by extension every trade conduit branching off from there, takes the chance on cargo containers carrying an invasive species. In 2003 one such species, the polyphagus shothole borer (PSHB), was spotted in Whittier, a suburb of Los Angeles. In the intervening decade it has quickly spread to many of the trees in southern California. Read the rest of this entry »

Halloween Citizen Science in the Classroom: Answer the Bat Call!

By October 31st, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Comment 1

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Citizen Science in the Classroom Series where we explore the use of citizen science projects to teach science in the classroom by aligning them with Common Core and Next Generation STEM standards . For more such projects check out the resources page for educators on SciStarter!

 

Mexican Free Tailed Bats in Texas exit their ‘bat cave’ to hunt for flying insects

Mexican Free Tailed Bats in Texas exit their ‘bat cave’ to hunt for flying insects (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service CC BY 2.0)

Did you know? This week is Bat Week! There are many exciting online resources and activities for Bat Week. Visit Bat Week’s virtual host, BatsLive Project Edubat for additional Bat Week information and resources on how you can help bats!

Bat Detective

Grades: 4th-12th

Description:

Have you ever wondered about the secret lives of bats? Their adaptations, what and when they eat, where they sleep, how they communicate, their migration and hibernation patterns, and more? As a mostly nocturnal mammal species, we don’t often see them. Read the rest of this entry »