Smorball tackles a major challenge for digital libraries: poor output from Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software significantly hampers full-text searching of digitized material. When first scanned, the pages of digitized books and journals are merely image files, making the pages unsearchable and virtually unusable. While OCR converts page images to searchable, machine encoded text, historic literature is difficult for OCR to accurately render because of its tendency to have varying fonts, typesetting and layouts.

This educational game enables citizen scientists to engage in “purposeful gaming” by playing Smorball, which asks players to correctly type the words they see on the screen—punctuation and all. Smorball presents players with phrases from scanned pages from cultural heritage institutions. After much verification, the words players type are sent to the libraries that store the corresponding pages, allowing those pages to be searched and data mined and ultimately making historic literature more usable for institutions, scholars, educators and the public.

Source: Smorball

Jellyfish abundance can inform what is happening in the oceans on a larger scale, and researchers are asking citizen scientists to post jellyfish observations on a special website.

“Citizen science … is valuable because it is multiplied with such large numbers. To tap into that pool of has huge advantages,” said Steven Haddock, a researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz who studies marine bioluminescence, zooplankton and deep-sea jellyfish.

Haddock wants to test hypotheses that contend a warmer climate has boosted jellyfish blooms. There is a misconception that jellyfish thrive in warmer waters, but any seagoing Alaskan knows that’s not necessarily the case.

Source: Healthy groundfish in Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska give trawlers a boost

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Waikato are seeking the assistance of everyday “citizen scientists” to help complete a huge new WWI history project called Measuring the ANZACs (

The researchers would like to see citizen scientists of all ages participate so that they can release the records of men who served in France before a September 2016 commemoration of the War in France that is to be held in Wellington.

Measuring the ANZACs will create a complete database of all New Zealanders who served in World War I to support research by family historians, students at all ages, and scholars. Many New Zealanders know of ancestors who served in World War I but not much about what they did. With the upcoming centenary of major Western Front battles in 2016 now is the time many New Zealanders will be discovering the stories of World War I soldiers. Measuring the ANZACs community transcription of the records will open up New Zealand soldiers’ stories to new and larger audiences.

Measuring the ANZACs is also supporting scientific research. The creation of the large database about 140,000 New Zealand soldiers is part of an international research project about health and mortality in New Zealand. Researchers on the project use the military records to study how Māori and Pākehā health differed in the past, how childhood diseases affected men’s health in later life, and how the war affected the health of survivors.

Source: Massive WWI history project seeks volunteers before September deadline

If you’ve lived in a city, you’ve probably encountered something like New York City’s Tenth Avenue after a rainstorm: a place that was so windy, the ground is littered with broken umbrellas. Why don’t we use that impressive windpower? The answer lies partially in technology–the turbines able to take shifting, multidirectional urban winds were only developed recently–but largely in knowledge. We just don’t have the scientific data to back up where wind turbines could be feasible.

Enter Breezefinder, a citizen science tool to help you find opportunities for wind energy. In this first iteration, I have packed all the sensors and goodies you need to power a windspeed-sensing anemometer and send your data to Twitter into a neat laser-cut box.

Source: Breezefinder: Citizen Science Windpower Tool

Thanks to technological advances in sensing technologies our urban environment is equipped with tiny but powerful sensors that generate a vast amount of data. This data is being used by companies, governments, and research institutions to monitor, analyze, and optimize our everyday life. Following the OpenData movement, this data is often available for the broader public. Even though “open”, the data and more precisely the insights hidden in the data are not “accessible” for most citizens, due to the data’s level of abstraction and complexity.

We therefore need to make data accessible and understandable for the public. In an attempt of fostering enablement and participation, we want to provide visualizations of urban data. In order to increase the engagement factor, we don’t want to use standard visualization methods which detach data from its origin, but take the data back to the field, where it comes from. By using methods of “Location based visual analytics” we want to help citizens understand their urban environment. Understand how the urban metabolism works and thereby enable an informed discussion for a better future.

Source: Citizen Science & Urban Planning


Citizen science has a long history in the ecological sciences and has made substantial contributions to science, education, and society. Developments in information technology during the last few decades have created new opportunities for citizen science to engage ever larger audiences of volunteers to help address some of ecology’s most pressing issues, such as global environmental change. Using online tools, volunteers can find projects that match their interests and learn the skills and protocols required to develop questions, collect data, submit data, and help process and analyze data online. Citizen science has become increasingly important for its ability to engage large numbers of volunteers to generate observations at scales or resolutions unattainable by individual researchers. As a coupled natural and human approach, citizen science can also help researchers access local knowledge and implement conservation projects that might be impossible otherwise. In Japan, however, the value of citizen science to science and society is still under-appreciated. Here we present case studies of citizen science in Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and describe how citizen science is used to tackle key questions in ecology and conservation, including spatial and macro-ecology, management of threatened and invasive species, and monitoring of biodiversity. We also discuss the importance of data quality, volunteer recruitment, program evaluation, and the integration of science and human systems in citizen science projects. Finally, we outline some of the primary challenges facing citizen science and its future.

Source: Citizen science: a new approach to advance ecology, education, and conservation

This is what I love about citizen science. Because of its distributed nature, the sorts of questions that can be tackled are as varied as the multitude of ways in which humans commonly interact with the world around them. So it shouldn’t be surprising that we can use citizen science to gather data on the behavior of dogs – after all, they’ve been a part of our lives for millennia. — LFF


Family dogs and dog owners offer a potentially powerful way to conduct citizen science to answer questions about animal behavior that are difficult to answer with more conventional approaches. Here we evaluate the quality of the first data on dog cognition collected by citizen scientists using the website. We conducted analyses to understand if data generated by over 500 citizen scientists replicates internally and in comparison to previously published findings. Half of participants participated for free while the other half paid for access. The website provided each participant a temperament questionnaire and instructions on how to conduct a series of ten cognitive tests. Participation required internet access, a dog and some common household items. Participants could record their responses on any PC, tablet or smartphone from anywhere in the world and data were retained on servers. Results from citizen scientists and their dogs replicated a number of previously described phenomena from conventional lab-based research. There was little evidence that citizen scientists manipulated their results. To illustrate the potential uses of relatively large samples of citizen science data, we then used factor analysis to examine individual differences across the cognitive tasks. The data were best explained by multiple factors in support of the hypothesis that nonhumans, including dogs, can evolve multiple cognitive domains that vary independently. This analysis suggests that in the future, citizen scientists will generate useful datasets that test hypotheses and answer questions as a complement to conventional laboratory techniques used to study dog psychology.

Photo Credit: An Awesome Girl Wiki (CC-BY)

Source: Citizen Science as a New Tool in Dog Cognition Research


Nature’s best kept secret is a wonder molecule called RNA. It is central to the origin of life, evolution, and the cellular machinery that keeps us alive.

In this Lab you’ll play the role of a molecular engineer by solving RNA folding puzzles. Then take your skills to Eterna, where you can design RNAs that could be at the heart of future life-saving therapies.

Source: The NOVA RNA Lab

The Practical Farmers of Iowa have released their latest study on the effects of apple cider vinegar supplementation in feeder pigs.

Apple cider vinegar is held to being a health tonic that promotes beneficial gut bacteria, improves digestion of feedstuffs, enhances performance, and helps decrease parasite load. PFI cooperator, Tom Frantzen, supplemented three groups of pigs with apple cider vinegar and measured feed intake, average daily gain, feed efficiency and return over feed costs compared to pigs not supplemented.

Key findings

  • Pigs supplemented with apple cider vinegar were observed to have a sleeker coat, improved vitality and looked healthier than those not receiving apple cider vinegar.
  • Pigs supplemented with apple cider vinegar tended towards increased feed intake and average daily gains, higher carcass yields, better feed efficiency, and higher profits.

Source: Good example of citizen science

In 2011, the New York Public Library (NYPL) released 9,000 digitized restaurant menus with “delicious data” that had been “frozen as pixels,” making the menus difficult to search, index, and discover online. Along with the menus, the NYPL launched an interface that asked the public to help transcribe the thousands of menus and the hundreds of thousands of dishes. In only three months, the menus (and dishes) were fully transcribed.

The success of NYPL’s crowdsourced What’s on the Menu? demonstrates how enthusiastically public audiences respond to a well-defined project to which they can contribute through an expertly designed interface. While crowdsourcing has been used in the corporate world as a way to outsource tasks to nonemployees, it is increasingly being used in cultural and academic institutions for projects that seek to harness the energy and brainpower of the masses to complete specific tasks more quickly and inexpensively than would otherwise be possible.

Source: Crowdsourcing and Community Engagement | EDUCAUSE