Citizen Cyberlab Summit (day 2)

DSCN1165The second day of the Citizen Cyberlab Summit followed the same pattern of the first day: Two half day sessions, in each one short presentations from guest speakers from outside the project consortium, followed by two demonstrations of specific platform, tool, pilot or learning, and ending with discussion in groups, which were then shared back.

The first session started with History of Citizen Sciences – Bruno Strasser (Uni Geneva) – looking at both practical citizen science and the way it is integrated into the history of science. The Bioscope is a place in Geneva that allowing different public facing activities in the medical and life science: biodiversity, genetic research etc. They are developing new ways of doing microscopy – a microscope which is sharing the imagery with the whole room so it is seen on devices and on turning the microscope from solitary experience to shared one. They are involved in biodiversity research that is aimed to bar-coding DNA of different insects and animals. People collect data, extract DNA and sequence it, and then share it in a national database. Another device that they are using is a simple add-on that turns a smartphone can be turned into powerful macro camera, so children can share images on instagram with bioscope hashtag. They also do ‘Sushi night’ where they tell people what fish you ate if at all…
This link to a European Research Council (ERC) project  – the rise of citizen sciences – on the history of the movement. Is there something like ‘citizen sciences’? From history of science perspective, in the early 20c the amateur scientist is passing and professionals are replacing it. He use a definition of citizen science as amateurs producing scientific knowledge – he is not interested in doing science without the production of knowledge. He noted that there are a lot of names that are used in citizen science research. In particular, the project focus is on experimental sciences – and that because of the laboratory revolution of the 1930s which dominated the 20th century. The lab science created the divide between the sciences and the public (Frankenstein as a pivotal imagery is relevant here). Science popularisation was trying to bridge the gap to the public, but the rise in experimental sciences was coupled with decline of public participation. His classification looks at DIYbio to volunteer computing – identifying observers, analysers etc. and how they become authors of scientific papers. Citizen science is taken by the shift in science policy to science with and for society. Interest in the promises that are attached to it: scientific, educational (learning more about science) and political (more democratic). It’s interesting because it’s an answer to ‘big data’, to the contract of science and society, expertise, participation and democratisation. The difference is demonstrated in the French response following Chernobyl in 1986, with presentation by a leading scientists in France that the particle will stop at the border of France, compared that to Deep Horizon in 2010 with participatory mapping through public lab activities that ‘tell a different story’. In the project, there are 4 core research question: how citizen science transform the relationship between science and society? who are the participants in the ‘citizen sciences’ – we have some demographic data, but no big picture – collective biography of people who are involved in it. Next, what is the ‘moral economies’ that sustain the citizen sciences? such as the give and take that people get out of project and what they want. Motivations and rewards. Finally, how do citizen sciences impact the production of knowledge? What is possible and what is not. He plan to use approaches from digital humanities process. He will build up the database about the area of citizen science, and look at Europe, US and Asia. He is considering how to run it as participatory project. Issues of moral economies are demonstrated in the BOINC use in commercial project. 

Lifelong learning & DIY AFM – En-Te Hwu (Edwin) from Academia Sinica, Taiwan). There are different ways of doing microscopy at different scales – in the past 100 years, we have the concept of seeing is believing, but what about things that we can’t see because of the focused light of the microscope – e.g. under 1 micron. This is possible with scanning electron microscope which costs 500K to 2M USD, and can use only conductive samples, which require manipulation of the sample. The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) is more affordable 50K to 500K USD but still out of reach to many. This can be used to examine nanofeatures – e.g. carbon nanotubes – we are starting to have higher time and spatial resolution with the more advanced systems. Since 2013, the LEGO2NANO project started – using the DVD head to monitor the prob and other parts to make the AFM affordable. They put an instructable prototype that was mentioned by the press and they called it DIY AFM. They created an augmented reality tool to guide people how to put the device together, and it can be assembled by early high school students – moving from the clean room to the class room.  The tool is being used to look at leafs, CDs – area of 8×8 microns and more. The AFM data can be used with 3D printing – they run a summer school in 2015 and now they have a link to LEGO foundation. They are going through a process of reinventing the DIY AFM, because of patenting and intellectual property rights (IPR) – there is a need to rethink how to do it. They started to rethink the scanner, the control and other parts. They share the development process (using building process platform of MIT media lab). There is a specific application of using the AFM for measuring air pollution at PM2.5. using a DVD – exposing the DVD by removing the protection layer, exposing it for a period of time and then bringing it and measuring the results. They combined the measurements to crowdcrafting for analysis. The concept behind the AFM is done by using LEGO parts, and scanning the Lego points as a demonstration, so students can understand the process. 

wpid-wp-1442566370890.jpgThe morning session included two demonstrations. First, Creativity in Citizen Cyberscience – Charlene Jennett  (UCLIC, UCL) – Charlene is interested in psychological aspects of HCI. Creativity is a challenge in the field of psychology. Different ideas of what is creativity – one view is that it’s about eureka moment as demonstrated in Foldit breakthrough. However, an alternative is to notice everyday creativity of doing thing that are different, or not thought off original. In cyberlab, we are looking at different projects that use technologies and different context. In the first year, the team run interviews with BOINC, Eyewire, transcribe Bentham, Bat Detective, Zooniverse and Mapping for Change – a wide range of citizen science projects. They found many examples  – volunteers drawing pictures of the ships that they were transcribing in Old Weather, or identifying the Green Peas in Galaxy zoo which was a new type of galaxy. There are also creation of chatbots about their work -e.g. in EyeWire to answer questions, visualisation of information, creating dictionaries and further information. The finding showed that the link was about motivation leading to creativity to help the community or the project. They created the model of linking motivation, learning through participation, and volunteer identity that lead to creativity. The tips for projects include: feedback on project progress at individual and project level, having regular communication – forum and social media, community events – e.g. competitions in BOINC, and role management – if you can see someone is doing well, then encourage them to take more responsibility. The looked at the different pilots of Cyberlab – GeoTag-X, Virtual Atom Smasher, Synthetic Biology through iGEM and Extreme Citizen Science. They interview 100 volunteers. Preliminary results – in GeoTag-X, the design of the app is seen as the creative part, while for the analysts there are some of the harder tasks – e.g. the georeferencing of images and sharing techniques which lead to creative solutions. In the iGEM case they’ve seen people develop games and video. in the ExCiteS cases, there is DIY and writing of blog posts and participants being expressive about their own work. There are examples of people creating t-Shirt, or creating maps that are appropriate for their needs.They are asking questions about other projects and how to design for creativity. It is interesting to compare the results of the project to the definition of creativity in the original call for the project. The cyberlab project is opening up questions about creativity more than answering them. 

wpid-wp-1442679548581.jpgPreliminary Results from creativity and learning survey – Laure Kloetzer (university of Geneva). One of the aims of Citizen Cyberlab was to look at different aspects of creativity. The project provided a lot of information from a questionnaire about learning and creativity in citizen science. The general design of the questionnaire was to learn the learning outcomes. Need to remember that out of the whole population, small group participate in citizen science – and within each project, there is a tiny group of people that do most of the work (down to 16 in Transcribed Bentham) and the question of how people turn from the majority, who do very little work to highly active participants is unknown, yet. In Citizen Cyberlab we carried out interviews with participants in citizen science projects, which led to a typology of learning outcomes – which are lot wider than those that are usually expected or discussed in the literature – but they didn’t understand what people actually learn. The hypothesis is that people who engage with the community can learn more than those that doesn’t – the final questionnaire of the project try to quantify learning outcomes (informal learning in citizen science – ILICS survey). The questionnaire was tested in partial pilot. Sent to people in volunteer computing, volunteer thinking and others types. They had about 700 responses, and the analysis only started. Results – age group of participants is diverse from 20-70, but need to analyse it further according to projects. Gender – 2/3 male, third female, and 20% of people just have high school level of education, with 40% with master degree or more – large minority of people have university degree. They got people from 64 countries – US, UK, Germany and France are the main ones (the survey was translated to French). Science is important to most, and a passion for half, and integrated in their profession (25% of participants). Time per week – third of people spend less than 1 hour, and 70% spend 1-5 hours – so the questionnaire captured mostly active people. Results on learning – explore feeling, what people learn, how they learn and confidence (based on the typology from previous stages of the project). The results show that – people who say that they learn something to a lot, and most people accept that they learn on-topic knowledge (about the domain itself – 88%), scientific skills (80%), technological skills (61%), technical skills (58%), with political, collaboration skills and communication skills in about 50% of the cases. The how question – people learn most from project documentation (75%) but also by external resources (70%). Regarding social engagement, about 11% take part in the community, and for 61% it’s the first time in their life that they took such a role. There are different roles – translation, moderating forums with other things in the community that were not recognised in the questionnaire. 25% said that they met people online to share scientific interests – opportunity to share and meet new people. Learning dimensions and types of learners – some people feel that they learn quite a lot about various things, while others focus on specific types of learning. wpid-wp-1442679528037.jpgPrincipal Component Analysis show that learner types correlate with different forms of engagement – more time spent correlate to specific type of learner. There are different dimensions of learning that are not necessarily correlate. The cluster analysis show about 10 groups – people who learn a lot on-topic and about science with increase self-confidence. Second group learn on topic but not much confidence. Group 3, like 2 but less perception of learning. Group 4 don’t seem to learn much but prefer looking at resources. 5 learn somewhat esp about computers. 6 learn through other means. 7 learn by writing and communicating, collaborating and some science. 8 learn only about tools, but have general feeling of learning. 9 learn on topic but not transferable and 10 learn a lot on collaboration and communication – need to work more on this, but these are showing the results and the raw data will be shared in December. 

DSCN1160Following the presentation, the group discussion first explored examples of creativity from a range of projects. In crowdcrafting, when people are not active for a month, they get email with telling them that they will be deleted – one participant created activities that link to the project – e.g. tweeting from a transcriptions from WW I exactly 100 years after it happen. In Cornell Lab of Ornithology, volunteers suggest new protocols and tasks about the project – new ways of modifying things. In the games of ScienceatHome are targeted specifically to explore when problem solving become creative – using the tools and explaining to the researchers how they solve issues. In WCG one volunteered that create graphics from the API that other volunteers use and expect now to see it as part of the project. There is a challenge to project coordinators what to do with such volunteers – should they be part of the core project?
Next, there are questions about roles – giving the end users enough possibilities is one option, while another way is to construct modularising choices, to allow people to combine them in different ways. In ScienceatHome they have decided to put people into specific modes so consciously changing activities. There is wide variety of participants – some want to be fairly passive and low involvement, while other might want to do much more. Also creativity can express itself in different forms, which are not always seem linked to the project. The learning from Citizen Cyberlab is that there isn’t simple way of linking creativity and capture it in computer software, but that you need organisational structure and most importantly, awareness to look out for it and foster it to help it develop. Having complementarity – e.g. bringing game people and science people to interact together is important to creativity. Another point is to consider is to what degree people progress across citizen science projects and type of activities – the example of that without the hackspace it was not possible to make things happen. So it’s volunteers + infrastructure and support that allow for creativity to happen. There are also risks – creating something that you didn’t know before – ignorance – in music there isn’t much risk, but in medical or synthetic biology there can be risks and need to ask if people are stopping their creativity when they see perceived risks.

wpid-wp-1442679513070.jpgThe final session of the summit was dedicated to Evaluation and Sustainability. Starting with The DEVISE project – Tina Philips (Cornell Lab of Ornithology). Tina is involved in the public engagement part of Cornell Lab of Ornithology . Starting from the work on the 2009 of the Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) report – the finding from the CAISE project that scarcity of evaluations, higher engagement suggested deeper learning, and need for a more sensitive measures and lack of overall finding that relate to many projects. The DEVISE project (Developing, Validating, and Implementing Situated Evaluation Instruments) focused on evaluation in citizen science overall – identifying goals and outcomes, building professional opportunities for people in the field of informal learning, and creating a community of practice around this area. Evaluation is about improving the overall effectiveness of programmes and projects. Evaluation is different from research as it is trying to understand strengths and weaknesses of the specific case and is less about universal rules – it’s the localised learning that matter. In DEVISE, they particularly focused on individual learning outcomes. The project used literature review, interviews  with participants, project leaders and practitioners to understand their experience. They looked at a set of different theories of learning. This led to a framework for evaluating PPSR learning outcomes. The framework includes aspects such as interest in science & the environment, self efficacy, motivation, knowledge of the nature of science, skills of science inquiry, and behaviour & stewardship. They also develop scales – short surveys that allow to examine specific tools – e.g. survey about interest in science and nature or survey about self-efficacy for science. There is a user guide for project evaluators that allow to have plan, implement and share guidance. There is a logic model for evaluation that includes Inputs, activities, outputs, short-term and long-term impacts. It is important to note that out of these, usually short and long terms outcomes are not being evaluated. Tina’s research looked at citizen science engagement, and understand how they construct science identity. Together with Heidi Ballard, they looked at contributory, collaborative and co-created projects – including Nestwatch, CoCoRaHS, and Global Community Monitor. They had 83 interviews from low , medium and high contributors and information from project leaders. The data analysis is using qualitative analysis methods and tools (e.g. Nvivo). The interview asked about engagement and what keep participants involved and asking about memorable aspects of their research involvement. There are all sort of extra activities that people bring into interviews – in GCM people say ‘it completely changes the way that they respond to us and actually how much time they even give us because previously without that data, without something tangible’ – powerful experiences through science. The interviews that were coded show that data collection, communicating with others and learning protocols are very common learning outcomes. About two-third of interviewees are also involved in exploring the data, but smaller group analyse and interpret it. Majority of people came with high interest in science, apart of the people who are focused on local environmental issues of water or air quality. Lower engagers tend to feel less connected to the project – and some crave more social outlets. The participants have a strong understanding of citizen science and their role in it. Data transparency is both a barrier and facilitator – participants want to know what is done with their data. QA/QC is important personally and organisationally important. Participants are engaged in wide range of activities beyond the project itself. Group projects may have more impact than individual projects.
Following the presentation, the discussion explore the issue of data – people are concerned about how the data is used, and what is done with it even if they won’t analyse it themselves. In eBird, you can get your raw data, and checking the people that used the data there is the issue of the level in which those who download the data understand how to use it in an appropriate way. 

wpid-wp-1442679499689.jpgThe final guest presentation was Agroecology as citizen science – Peter Hanappe (Sony Computer Science Lab, Paris).  Peter is interested in sustainability, and in previous projects he was involved in working on accessibility issues for people who use wheelchair, the development of NoiseTube, or porting ClimatePrediction BOINC framework to PlayStation, and reducing energy consumption in volunteer computing. In his current work he looks at sustainability in food systems. Agroecology is the science of sustainable agriculture, through reducing reliance on external inputs – trying to design productive ecosystems that produce food. Core issues include soil health and biodiversity, with different ways of implementing systems that will keep them productive. The standard methods of agriculture don’t apply, and need to understand local conditions and the practice of agroecology is very knowledge intensive. Best practices are not always studied scientifically – with many farms in the world that are small (below 2 hectares, 475 millions farms across the world). There are more than 100M households around the world that grow food.  This provide the opportunity for citizen science – each season can be seen as an experiment, with engaging more people and asking them to share information so the knowledge slowly develops to provide all the needed details. Part of his aim is to develop new, free tools and instruments to facilitate the study of agroecology. This can be a basic set with information about temperature and humidity or more complex. The idea to have local community and remote community that share information on a wiki to learn how to improve. Together with a group of enthusiasts that he recruited in Paris, they run CitizenSeeds where they tried different seeds in a systematic way – for example, with a fixed calendar of planting and capturing information People took images and shared information online. The information included how much sunlight plants get and how much humidity the soil have. on they can see information in a calendar form. They had 80 participants this year. Opportunity for citizen science – challenges include community building, figuring out how much of it is documentation of what worked, compared to experimentation – what are the right way to carry out simple, relevant, reproducible experiments. Also if there is focus on soil health, we need multi-year experiments.  

I opened the last two Demonstrations of the session with a description of the 
Extreme Citizen Science pilots – starting similarly to the first presentation of the day, it is useful to notice the three major period in science (with regard to public participation). First, the early period of science when you needed to be wealthy to participate – although there are examples like Mary Anning, who. for gender, religion and class reasons was not accepted within the emerging scientific establishment as an equal, and it is justified to describe her as citizen scientists, although in full time capacity. However, she’s the exception that point to the rule. More generally, not only science was understood by few, but also the general population had very limited literacy, so it was difficult to engage with them in joint projects. During the period of professional science, there are a whole host of examples for volunteer data collection – from phenology to meteorology and more. As science became more professional, the role of volunteered diminished, and scientists looked for automatic sensors as more reliable mean to collect information. At the same time, until the late 20th century, most of the population had limited education – up to high school mostly, so the tasks that they were asked to perform were limited to data collection. In the last ten years, there are many more people with higher education – especially in industrialised societies, and that is part of the opening of citizen science that we see now. They can participate much more deeply in projects.
Yet, with all these advances, citizen science is still mostly about data collection and basic analysis, and also targeted at the higher levels of education within the population. Therefore, Extreme Citizen Science is about the extremities of citizen science practice – engage people in the whole scientific process, allow them to shape data collection protocols, collect and analyse the data, and use it in ways that suit their goals. It is also important to engage people from all levels of literacy, and to extend it geographically across the world.
The Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) group is developing methodologies that are aimed at facilitating this vision. Tool like GeoKey, which is part of the Cyberlab project, facilitate community control over the data and decision what information is shared and with whom. Community Maps, which are based on GeoKey are way to allow community data collection and visualisation, although there is also a link to EpiCollect, so mobile data collection is possible and then GeoKey managed the information.
These tools can be used for community air quality monitoring, using affordable and accessible methods (diffusion tubes and borrowed black carbon monitors), but also the potential of creating a system that will be suitable for people with low level of literacy. Another pilot project that was carried out in Cyberlab included playshops and exploration of scientific concepts through engagement and play. This also include techniques from Public Lab such as kite and balloon mapping, with potential of linking the outputs to community maps through GeoKey. 

 Finally, CCL Tracker was presented by Jose Luis Fernandez-Marquez (CERN) – the motivations to create the CCL tracker is the need to understand more about participants in citizen cyberscience projects and what they learn. Usual web analytics  provide information about who is visiting the site, how they are visiting and what they are doing. Tools like Google analytics – are not measuring what people do on websites. We want to understand how the 20% of the users doing 80% of the work in citizen cyberscience projects and that require much more information. Using an example of Google Analytics from volunteer computing project, we can see about 16K sessions, 8000 users, from 108 countries and 400 sessions per day. Can see that most are males – we can tell which route they arrived to the website, etc. CCL tracker help to understand the actions performed in the site and measure participants contribution. Need to be able to make the analytics data public and create advanced data aggregation – clustering it so it is not disclosing unwanted details about participants. CCL tracker library work together with Google tag manager and Google analytics. There is also Google Super Proxy to share the information. 

Citizen Cyberlab Summit (day 1)

wpid-wp-1442503181050.jpgThe Citizen Cyberlab Summit is the final event of the Citizen Cyberlab project. The name might sound grand, but the event itself was fairly intimate and focused, with about 40 participants from across the world. The aim of the event was to share the learning from the project and compare them to similar activities around the world. It also provided an opportunity to consider, with experts from different areas, the directions that the project partners should progress beyond the specific ‘deliverables’ (outcomes and outputs) of the project. The meeting was held in the Confucius institute of the University of Geneva which has a mission to improve scientific diplomacy and international links between researchers, so it was a suitable venue for the such international scientific meeting.

 Introduction to Citizen Cyberlab was provided by Ariel Lindner (UPD) who is the main project leader. He noted that the starting point of citizen cyberlab is that we know that people learn better by doing, and that working with the public is also beneficial for scientists – both for becoming aware of public concerns as well as the moral obligation to share the results of research with those who fund it.  The citizen cyberlab project, which is in its final months, was based on 3 parts – platforms, pilots, and tools. Platforms that are aimed at lowering the barriers for participation for scientists and citizens (computation and participation platforms). The platforms are tested through pilot projects, which are then evaluated for creativity and learning – exploring learning behaviour, creativity and community engagement. We aim to share the successful experiences but also the challenges that emerged through the various activities. In the computation platforms, we developed CitizenGrid is aimed to allow running cloud-based projects; RedWire, a new way to consider game design – creating an open source game engine with open game analytics (the ability to measure what people do with the games). Example of this was in the development of science games; GeoKey is the final platform, and it allow people to share their concerns and control information. The project pilots included Virtual Atom Smasher which is about learning particle physics and helping scientists; GeoTag-X at UNITAR helping in disaster response; SynBio4All which open up synthetic biology to wider audience – with games such as Hero Coli and a MOOC on DIY synthetic biology (through iGEM) – with activities around ‘the smell of us’ about the odour that people emit and identifying the bacteria that influence it. L’Oréal is interested in developing this research further; There are several Extreme Citizen Science pilots, too. The tools that were developed in the project included creativity tools such as to explore and develop ideas, monitoring learning (CCL-Tracker), and EpiCollect+ system to allow data collection for a wide range of projects.
Aspects of creativity and understanding what people learn are both complex tasks – understanding the learning had to be done on other communities in citizen science, finally there is specific effort on community engagement through social media and media outlets (YouTube and Audio).

The rest of the event was structured as follows: after two short presentations from guest speakers from outside the project consortium, two demonstrations of specific platform, tool, pilot or learning was followed, and the session ended with discussion in groups, which were then shared back. In all, the summit had 4 such sessions.

wpid-wp-1442502888908.jpgFollowing this introduction, two guests gave Short Talks, first about World Community Grid (WCG) – Juan Hindo (IBM). Juan provided details of WCG which is part of IBM corporate citizenship group. WCG is philanthropic programme that support participation in science through distributed computing to allow scientists to access large scale computing by using unused processing in computers and mobile devices. The projects can be ‘the biggest and most fundamentally important activities in labs’ according to researchers who participate in the programme. Examples of success include new solar materials from Harvard university researchers, with thousands of candidate materials. Other breakthroughs happened in childhood cancer research and computing for clean water that was led by Tshinghua University in China – exploring the use of nano-tubes for water filtration. WCG are promoting Open Science – ask researcher to make the data publicly available, focus on humanitarian research, real tangible science, with IBM support. Using the corporate ability, they get lots of attention in media. They try to engage volunteers as much as possible – they carried out an extensive volunteers study 2 years ago. Demographic – mostly man, technical background, 20-40, who usually volunteer for 5 years, and people join because they want to help science. Learning about the science is a reason to stay. People want to understand the impact of the computations that they perform – beyond just statics and asking information to be understandable. WCG are trying now to build a more diverse volunteer base, more approachable scientific content and articulating the value of contribution. They see opportunity to reach out to young people, women and they try to engage people through the story about the science, and ensuring people that the process is safe – evaluating experience and design to take a short time. They also want to leverage existing volunteers – they set up a recruitment competition for existing volunteers – that led to very few new people joined. They also do use of social media on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. There is growing engagement with social media, but not enough conversion to volunteering. They also deal with layering of information with researchers, ask for consistent and regular updating on the research and give volunteer control over communication that they receive. Articulating contribution value is to highlight research stories – not just computations and number of volunteers and celebrating and promote scientific success – they lean on networks in IBM to share the word out. The campaign helped in doubling the registration rate to the system. They want to reach more volunteers, and they follow conversion rate – they are missing stories from volunteers and have a volunteer voice, remove barriers to entry, recruitment drive didn’t create. They want to expand research portfolio and want other areas that it can support. 

In the discussion that followed the important of IP, treating volunteers as individuals came up as a topic that worth exploring with volunteer computing project.

wpid-wp-1442566393048.jpgThe next presentation was Science@home –  by Jacob Sherson (University of Aarhus, Denmark). Jacob noted that in citizen science there are different difficulty level and opportunity to user innovation. In Science@home they are trying to extend the range of citizen science involvement with students. They are talking about the creativity research – trying to evaluate creativity with a positivist empirical framework – controlling different variables and evaluating creativity of output according to it. They run – with 3000 people participating in projects, with experiments ranging from cognitive science, to quantum physics, and business administration – and they have an interdisciplinary team from different areas of research to support the development of the system. An example for the type of project that they deal with is quantum computing – manipulations of electrons – they are sloshing around between states when moving them with laser beams. Using analogies to high school curriculum was useful way to engage participants and make it relevant to their studies. They have discovered that students can understand quantum physics in a phenomenological way through a game interface. They discover that gamers find areas of good region for solutions. The players localised area of the big parameters space – faster than computer simulation. They also studying the formation of strategies in people mind – Quantum Minds. With this programme, they are studying the process of learning the project and mastering it. They looked at the way to people who learn how to solve problems – to see if early performance help to predict the ability to learn the topic. Other games include trying to understand innovations in the Alien Game. They also have behavioural economics game about forming of groups. The educational part is about creativity – thinking of motivations for curriculum and fun with different resources. Game based education is assumed to improve the curriculum and can increase the motivation to learn. The general approach is to provide personalised online learning trajectories – identify types of students and learners and then correlate them and create personalised learning experience. Also want to train researchers to help them explore. 

The next part of the morning session were the 2 Demonstrations starting with EpiCollect – David Aanensen (Imperial College). EpiCollect was created to deal with infectious disease – who, what, where and when – getting the information about genetic make-up of diseases. They realised that there is a generic issue of metadata gathering and the tool evolved into generic forms collection and visualisation tool. The current use of EpiCollect includes a lot of projects in veterinary as GPS monitoring of animals is easier in terms of ethics. It was also used by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to monitor the provision of food to communities in different parts of the world. Also used in education projects in Bath university in field courses (building on evolution megalab project to collect information about snails) with students building questionnaire based on the information sheets of the project. They are starting to build longitudinal data. There are projects that link EpiCollect to other systems – such as GeoKey and CartoDB for visualisation.  

Red Wire  was presented by Jesse Himmelstein (University Paris Descartes) -Red Wire is a platform that is aimed at reducing the barrier of creating games for citizen science through a mash-up approach – code and games are open access to encourage reuse. It use functional programming language approach – in a visual programming environment. They are taking metaphors from electronics. There are examples of games that student developed during recent summer schools and other activities. 

CitizenGrid was discussed by John Darlington (Imperial College, London). Citizen Grid is a platform that enables replicating projects on cloud computing, specifically for volunteer computing projects. It can allow unified support to volunteer computing – support for the scientists who are setting a project, but also to the volunteers who want to link to the project. The scientists can map their resources through creation of both client and server virtual machines and register the application. They demonstrated it with projects that also use games – allowing to install the application on local machines or cloud computing.   

wpid-wp-1442502824236.jpgIn the breakout groups, participants discussed the complexity of the platforms and what are the next steps to make them more accessible. For Epicollect, there are challenges of identifying who are the users – they the both the coordinators and the data collectors, and helping them in setting useful project is challenging, especially with the need for usability and user experience expertise. Dealing with usability and user experience is a challenge that is common to such projects. For RedWire, there is a need to help people who do not have any programming experience to develop games, so these are scientists and teachers. Maybe even gemify the game engine with credits to successful game designers who create components that can be remixed. For citizen grid, there is a need for examples of use cases, with currently Virtual Atom Smasher as the main demonstrator.

The afternoon session explored Pilot Projects. CERN@School – Becky Parker (Langton Star Centre) described how she developed, with her students and collaboration with scientists the ability to do science at school. The project is a demonstration how students and teachers can become part of the science community. The project started years ago with students contributing to astrophysics research. The school is involved in fundamental research, with a 17 years old student publishing scientific paper based on theoretical physics research problem that was presented to the students from professional scientists. Her students also put together to put an instrument to detect cosmic rays on the satellite TDS-1. They can see where is their experiment through visualisation over Google Maps that the students developed themselves. Students also created analysis tools for the data. Students can contribute to NASA research on the impact of cosmic rays on International Space Station staff. CERN@School also include experiment in collecting radiation reading which help to map background radiation in the UK (by students at 14-15). Through their work, they discovered that there aren’t many radiation reading in the ocean, and they will do that by mounting a radiation sensor to sea UAV. All this helps students to learn to be scientists. They created the monopole-quest project within the zooniverse projects. It is possible to get young people involved in large scale science projects. It also help to encourage science teachers and to ensure job satisfaction for teachers. The involvement of girls in the project also lead to more participation in science and engineering after school with the school having a disproportionate share of the number of young women who go to study such topics in the UK. – From Volunteers to Scientists – Michael Weber (Uni Marburg). Michael describe how volunteers turned to scientists in the area of volunteer computing. Rechenkraft started in 2005 with a forum dedicated to all distributed computing projects around the world, and sharing the information about them among German speaking volunteers. Projects are now being translated to other languages, too. This led to the creation of an organisation, which is now involved in many projects, including  volunteers also created monitoring programmes that indicate the process and provide statistics about contributions. They also have yearly face to face gathering of volunteers from across Germany and beyond, with results of creating their own data processing racks and other initiative. Started in electronic sports league but then realised that there are opportunities to assist scientists in developing new projects, and that led to Yoyo@home that will allow the community to help scientists in developing BOINC projects. They regularly participate in conferences and exhibitions to promote the opportunity to other people interested in technology, and they became part of Quake-catcher network. They receive significant press coverage – eventually the city of Marburg (Germany) offered the organisation physical pace that became the Hackspace of the city. Once there is a steady place, they created more sophisticated cluster computers. They also set up the WLAN in the local refugee camp. Finally, they also develop their own scientific project- RNA world which is completely internal project. They encountered problems with very large output files from simulations so they are learning about running distributed computing projects as scientists who use the results and not only as volunteers. They also starting to run different projects about tree health with data recording such as location, photo and plant material.   Similarly, they map protected flowers – all this on volunteer basis. They participate in the effort of developing citizen science strategy 2020 for Germany, and they would like funding to be available to average person so they can participate in projects. There is risk that citizen science will be co-opted by scientists – need to leave space for grass-roots initiatives. There are also barriers for publications. The need for lab results in addition to the simulation encouraged the creation of the wet lab. 

The last short guest talk came from Bernard Revaz who suggested to create Massive Multiplayer Online Science – using game environments like WoW (World of Warcraft) to do science. His aim is inject science into projects such as Eve online – at a given time there are 40,000 users, median age 35, with 50% with degree in science. In Eve online they design an element from the human protein atlas that the gamers will help to classify. The stakeholders in their discussion include scientists,  the gaming company and players and all are very positive about the prospect. In Eve online there are many communities – they are creating a new community of scientists so people join it voluntarily. Working on matching the science tasks to the game narrative and to the game reward system.

After these two guest talks, there were two Demos. 

wpid-wp-1442502761020.jpgFirst, Virtual Atom Smasher (VAS) – Ioannis Charalampidis (CERN) – the VAS is about the way CERN develop the science cycle -observe the situation, lead to theory by theoretical physicists and then carry out experiments to test them. The process includes computer simulations that are explored against experimental data. They are trying to adjust the models until the model reflect the results.VAS evolved from a project by  15 years old student in 2010, who managed to create the best fitting results of a simulation. The VAS is about real cutting edge science, but it is also very challenging and created a game (but don’t use the word game – it’s a simulation). The VAS use CitizenGrid and RedWire for the game and CCL tracker to understand the way people use the platform. The analytics show the impact of training to the desired flow of the game. The VAS combines exploration with opportunities for learning. 

Geotag-X – Eleanor Rusack (UNITAR). This is a platform to crowdsource the analysis of images in humanitarian crises. They usually use satellite imagery to deal with crises, but there are limitations to some images – roofs, clouds etc., and there is a need to know what is going on the ground. The idea is to harvest photos coming from disaster , then analyse them and share the knowledge. A lot of information in photos can be very useful – it’s possible to extract structural information and other details in the image. They got a workflow, who set projects, they then develop the structure of the processing and tutorials, and tools for photo collection tools (from Flickr, Twitter, EpiCollect and Chrome extension). The photos are added to the analysis pool. They have created a project to allow people deal with Yemeni Cultural Heritage at risk as  a result of the way that is happening there. The syste is mostly based on self learning. Geotagging photo is a challenging tasks. It’s a specially an area that need more work. The experts are professionals or academics in specific domain who can help people to design the process, while participants are coming from different backgrounds. They are recruiting people through SciStarter, Mozilla science etc. The keep in touch with online volunteer groups – people who come from SciStarter tend to stay. Digital volunteers also help a lot and they encourage volunteering through presentation, but most important are data sprints. They use evaluation of agreement between analysts – agreement show easy to agree. There is a range of responses to agreement across standard deviation: they identify 3 groups – easy (high  agreement, low standard deviation), mid (high std div and median agreement) and complex (low agreement, low std div). Analysis of images against these agreement level help to improve designs. The want to move the questions up the curve and how to train large number of analysts when project leaders have limited time? 

The follow up discussion explored improvements to VAS – such as integrating arts or linking a BOINC project that will contribute computing resources to the VAS. For Geotag-X, the discussion explored the issue of training – with ideas about involving volunteers in getting the training right, run virtual focus groups or exploring design aspects and collaborations between volunteers.

Making participation in citizen science interesting & useful – survey

The Citizen Cyberlab research project is asking for your help in understanding how citizen science projects can be designed to help you learn more about their scientific topic of the project, and making participation more interesting and useful for you. In addition to general understanding of why and how people take part in citizen sciences projects, we are especially interested in what you get out of the experience. To do that, we are conducting a large scale general survey.

To thank you for your participation in this 15 minute survey, you will be entered into a free prize draw: First price is either a 500€ gift voucher for or free participation and travel subsidies for the Citizen Cyberlab Summit this coming autumn (up to 800€ total). 20 other participants will receive a 32 GB USB3 key.

To participate, follow the link below:

This survey is being conducted by the Citizen Cyberlab research project. Participation is completely voluntary. All information provided will be treated confidentially, as specified by the Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection 1992 and the British Data Protection Act 1998.

COST ENERGIC meeting – Tallinn 21-22 May

TallinnThe COST Energic network is progressing in its 3rd year. The previous post showed one output from the action – a video that describe the links between volunteered geographic information and indigenous knowledge.

The people who came to the meeting represent the variety of interest in crwodsourced geographic information, from people with background in Geography, Urban planning, and many people with interest in computing – from semantic representation of information, cloud computing, data mining and similar issues where VGI represent an ‘interesting’ dataset.

Part of the meeting focused on the next output of the network, which is an Open Access book which is titled ‘European Handbook of Crowdsourced Geographic Information’. The book will be made from short chapters that are going through peer-review by people within the network. The chapters will cover topics such as theoretical and social aspects, quality – criteria and methodologies, data analysis and finally applied research and case studies. We are also creating a combined reference list that will be useful for researchers in the field. There will be about 25 chapters. Different authors gave a quick overview of their topics, with plenty to explore – from Smart Cities to concepts on the nature of information.

COST ‘actions’ (that’s how these projects are called), operate through working groups. In COST Energic, there are 3 working groups, focusing on human and societal issues,  Spatial data Quality and infrastructures, and Data mining, semantics and VGI.

Working Group 1 looked at an example of big data from Alg@line –  22 years of data of ferry data from the Baltic sea – with 17 millions observations a year. Data from  that can be used for visualisation and exploring the properties. Another case study that the working group consider is the engagement of schoolchildren and VGI – with activities in Portugal, Western Finland, and Italy. These activities are integrating citizen science and VGI, and using free and open source software and data. In the coming year, they are planning specific activities in big data and urban planning and crowd atlas on urban biodiversity.

Working Group 2 have been progressing in its activities linking VGI quality with citizen science, and how to produce reliable information from it. The working group collaborate with another COST action (TD1202) which called ‘Mapping and the Citizen Sensor‘. They carried out work on topics of quality of information – and especially with vernacular gazetteers. In their forthcoming activities, they contribute to ISSDQ 2015 (international symposium on spatial data quality) with a set of special sessions. Future work will focus on quality tools and quality visualisation.

Prof. Cristina Capineri opening the meeting
Prof. Cristina Capineri opening the meeting

Working Group 3 also highlighted the ISSDQ 2015 and will have a good presence in the conference. The group aims to plan a hackathon in which people will work on VGI, with a distributed event for people to work with data over time. Another plan is to focus on research around the repository. The data repository from the working group – contains way of getting of data and code. It’s mostly how to get at the data.

There is also a growing repository of bibliography on VGI in CiteULike. The repository is open to other researchers in the area of VGI, and WG3 aim to manage it as a curated resource. 

Spatial Conversation – #VGIday #COSTEnergic

The COST Energic network (see ) is running a 2 day geolocated twitter chat, titled ‘Volunteered Geographic Information Day’ so the hashtag is #VGIDay. The conversation will take place on 14th and 15th May 2015, and we are universalists – join from anywhere in the world!
Joining is easy – and require 3 steps:

  1. Follow the @COST_Energic profile
  2. Enable your phone to disclose your position – this will allow to geocode your tweets.
  3. To participate to the discussion, use at least one of the dedicated hashtags in tweets: #COSTEnergic, #VGIday

What are we trying to do?

Discussions will be started by @COST_Energic. Through this twitter handle, we will share resources, results and ideas about the topic of VGI and geographic crowdsourcing. You can join the discussions, bring your ideas and links, and involve your contacts, and this will spread this event through the Twittersphere (and beyond?).
At the end of the experiment, we will produce a report of the generated discussion for our ENERGIC repository, and the dataset of tweets can be then used by researchers who want to visaulise, analyse and try to do things with it. It might end up as teaching material, or in IronSheep

New paper: Footprints in the sky – using student track logs in Google Earth to enhance learning

screen shot for paperIn 2011-2012, together with Richard Treves, I was awarded a Google Faculty Research Award, and we were lucky to work with Paolo Battino for about a year, exploring how to use Google Earth tours for educational aims. The details of the projects and some reports from the project are available on Richard’s blog, who was leading on many aspects of the work. Now, over 2 years since the end of the project, we have a publication in the Journal of Geography in Higher Education. The paper, titled ‘Footprints in the sky: using student track logs from a “bird’s eye view” virtual field trip to enhance learning’, is now out and describes the methodology that we developed for tracking students’ actions.

The abstract of the paper is:

Research into virtual field trips (VFTs) started in the 1990s but, only recently, the maturing technology of devices and networks has made them viable options for educational settings. By considering an experiment, the learning benefits of logging the movement of students within a VFT are shown. The data are visualized by two techniques: “animated path maps” are dynamic animations of students’ movement in a VFT; “paint spray maps” show where students concentrated their visual attention and are static. A technique for producing these visualizations is described and the educational use of tracking data in VFTs is critically discussed.

The paper is available here, and special thanks to Ed Parsons who advised us during the project.

Crowdsourced Geographic Information in Government

Today marks the publication of the report ‘crowdsourced geographic information in government‘. ReportThe report is the result of a collaboration that started in the autumn of last year, when the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery(GFDRR)  requested to carry out a study of the way crowdsourced geographic information is used by governments. The identification of barriers and success factors were especially needed, since GFDRR invest in projects across the world that use crowdsourced geographic information to help in disaster preparedness, through activities such as the Open Data for Resilience Initiative. By providing an overview of factors that can help those that implement such projects, either in governments or in the World Bank, we can increase the chances of successful implementations. To develop the ideas of the project, Robert Soden (GFDRR) and I run a short workshop during State of the Map 2013 in Birmingham, which helped in shaping the details of project plan as well as some preliminary information gathering. The project team included myself, Vyron Antoniou, Sofia Basiouka, and Robert Soden (GFDRR). Later on, Peter Mooney (NUIM) and Jamal Jokar (Heidelberg) volunteered to help us – demonstrating the value in research networks such as COST ENERGIC which linked us.

The general methodology that we decided to use is the identification of case studies from across the world, at different scales of government (national, regional, local) and domains (emergency, environmental monitoring, education). We expected that with a large group of case studies, it will be possible to analyse common patterns and hopefully reach conclusions that can assist future projects. In addition, this will also be able to identify common barriers and challenges.

We have paid special attention to information flows between the public and the government, looking at cases where the government absorbed information that provided by the public, and also cases where two-way communication happened.

Originally, we were aiming to ‘crowdsource’  the collection of the case studies. We identified the information that is needed for the analysis by using  few case studies that we knew about, and constructing the way in which they will be represented in the final report. After constructing these ‘seed’ case study, we aimed to open the questionnaire to other people who will submit case studies. Unfortunately, the development of a case study proved to be too much effort, and we received only a small number of submissions through the website. However, throughout the study we continued to look out for cases and get all the information so we can compile them. By the end of April 2014 we have identified about 35 cases, but found clear and useful information only for 29 (which are all described in the report).  The cases range from basic mapping to citizen science. The analysis workshop was especially interesting, as it was carried out over a long Skype call, with members of the team in Germany, Greece, UK, Ireland and US (Colorado) while working together using Google Docs collaborative editing functionality. This approach proved successful and allowed us to complete the report.

You can download the full report from UCL Discovery repository

Or download a high resolution copy for printing and find much more information about the project on the Crowdsourcing and government website