Citizen Science 2017 – Day 2 (Afternoon) – online projects insights and final reception with The Crowd and the Cloud

The afternoon session started with Web development insights


Taking on the Challenges of Broadening Participation in Data Visualization and Analysis with FieldScope
Daniel Edelson – BSCS – cover fieldscope that allow people to collect data, design the form, and visualise and analyse it. He covered the Chesapeake Watershed Water Quality study. The area that influences the bay is a very large area. Information is being collected at times when school is doing things, so there are issues with the variability of data collection. Challenges to collect data – very few teachers and students get to the stage of analysing. All the time allocated was used to get people to the stage of data collection, and people used certain analysis tools to understand where to collect data. They want to have flexibility in data protocols, aimed at more reliable participation, and try to get people to analysis. The lesson is that effort should be paid to more active and structured process of engagement and involving schools in the process.

Patterns of Behaviour Across Online Citizen Science
Chris Lintott –; Helen Spiers* – University of Oxford; Grant Miller – University of Oxford / Zooniverse; Lucy Fortson – University of Minnesota; Laura Trouille – Adler Planetarium. Zoonivrse is now 10 years, with many projects, and pull data from 63 projects (ecology and astronomy) from 2012 to 2016 with 146,243,599 classification dataset. Looking at different classifications – in the first 100 days post launch, there is a range of classification. Projects have a peak after the launch and drop, apart from regular communication with the. High heterogeneity in the number of unique volunteers, with more volunteers in Astronomy. There is participation inequality across the projects. What they see from google analytics is that projects appeal across projects. in astronomy more male participation, closer participation by females in ecology. There are questions about what to do with over and under-represented groups. They are also analysing user movement between projects.

Validated Dynamic Consensus Approach for Citizen Science Projects Employing Crowd-based Detection Tasks
Pietro Michelucci – Human Computation Institute. Pietro runs with EyesonAlz and want to share problem and solutions. The goal is crowdsourced classification and wants to explore things. They had a problem with random responders with bots, also people who want to do other malicious things – so using lessons from psycho-physics – learning about separating sensitivity and bias – the operator need to decide if it is real object that requires alarm, in signal detection theory you can tease apart the sensitivity of the apparatus to the bias of the operator. When using an approach that measures the process of putting information in. Another problem is how you combine the results from the crowd. They carried out validation study and found that around 15 they get into the research threshold that they can use the data. They use 20 classifications to get high quality of data. Another problem is analytic efficiency – not to waste people time and they started assigning weights to a participant and stop when you have enough information – a paper from Willett et al. 2013 on Galaxy Zoo 2 that allow you to assess expertise. Marshall et al. 2015 Space Warps paper and extends this approach to measuring in a collective way. The number is between 2 and 10 and usually 5 so it is much better to use of people’s time.

Working Together: Developers and Project Leads
Robert Pastel – Michigan Technological University – app development is not done in a vacuum: participants, developers and project lead. For a successful application, all those core participants need to work together. The methodology includes participatory design and UCD principles, together with an Agile development. The participatory design is done with project leads. Aiming to have an MVP in the first three months and starting a new app development after it.



DSC_0349A ‘Night in the Cloud’  – Geoff described the background in TV programming and the noticing that there are plenty of definition of citizen science, but for the Crowd and the Cloud, they use “science for, and by, the people” – and they set the programme to turn viewers to doors. Waleed recalls his interest in science – and he pointed to “earth rising” and the “blue marble” as influential ways of viewing the earth. There is also the power of face to face the perspective of close and personal. There is impressive data – 2.3m volunteers in environmental conservation – $2.5b worth of effort. Rick Bonney pointed that for many years, there was a need to see involvement of television in making citizen science visible, and when Geoff called, and after quick google check which reveal the involvement in Cosmos, he contacted him back to support the process of the programme. The programme also helped with EyesOnAltz that address the analysis of vessels in a video. The visibility of the project on the Crowd and the Cloud has helped in increasing participation. Waleed was noticing the commitments and interest of participants and enthusiasm and connection to the environment. The best way for high-quality data is to care passionately about what they are measuring. Jennifer Shirk – used resources from the crowd and the cloud to create a programme for out of school activities. The link to SciStarter helped in converting viewers to active participants and Waleed was struck by the commitment and passion of participants and their commitment to producing real science of high quality. The close and personal perspective is important to understand the world and the potential of it.

Below are the clips that were prepared by the crown and the cloud – the second shows the late Gill Conquest



Diary of a a citizen scientist by Sharman Apt Russell

The academic literature on Citizen Science is expanding quickly, with hundreds of papers that are published in peer review publications every years about it. These papers are written by professional scientists and practitioners, mostly for an audience of other professional scientists and practitioners. A very common concern of researchers is to understand the motivations and incentives that get citizen scientists involved in projects. Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of research evaluating these aspects through questionnaires and interviews, but there is relatively little on how citizen science is experienced from the point of view of the participants (although it does come out in the research notes of Public Lab or Clare Griffiths’ account of community air quality study).

So what is it like to be a citizen scientist? 

Luckily, Sharman Apt Russell has decided to find out, and because she is a talented author with plenty of experience in creative writing of non-fiction books about science and nature, she is well placed to provide an engaging account of the experience. Covering a period of about year and a half,  her book ‘diary of citizen scientist: chasing tiger beetles and other new ways of engaging the world‘ is interesting, insightful and enjoyable read. 

Sharman didn’t took the easy route to citizen science, but decided to jump in and find out an unknown detail about the life of Tiger Beetles by studying them in the Gila river, near her home. The tasks that she took upon herself (and her family) include chasing beetles and capturing them, grow them in terrariums at home, dismember some and analyse them under microscope and so on. This quest is sparked by a statement from Dick Vane-Wright,  then the Keeper of Entomology at the Natural History Museum that ‘You could spend a week studying some obscure insect and you would know more than anyone else on the planet. Our ignorance is profound‘ (p. 15). This, of course, is not only true about insects, or animals, but also to the night sky, or our understanding of urban air pollution. I think that this can be a crucial statement for the potential of discovery in citizen science in general.

While the story about understanding the lives of the tiger beetles provide the core of the book, Sharman explores many other aspects of citizen science, from online activities, to observing the changes in nature over the seasons (phenology), and noticing the footprints in the sand. Her love of nature in her area is coming through in the descriptions of her scientific observations and also when she describes a coming storm or other aspects of her local environment.

Throughout the book, you can come across issues that citizen scientists experience – from difficulties in following instructions that seem obvious to scientists, to figuring out what the jargon mean, to the critical importance of supportive mentoring by professional scientists. All this make the book a very interesting source to understand the experience. If you want to read her short summary of Sharman’s experience, see her writing in Entomology Today.

One disclosure, though: Sharman has contacted me while working on the book, and she note the interview in her book so I was intrigued to read her description of Extreme Citizen Science, which is excellent.