Abstract: In the last few years, contributions of the general public in scientific projects has increased due to the advancement of communication and computing technologies. Internet played an important role in connecting scientists and volunteers who are interested in participating in their scientific projects. However, despite potential benefits, only a limited number of crowdsourcing based large-scale science (citizen science) projects have been deployed due to the complexity involved in setting them up and running them. In this paper, we present CitizenGrid – an online middleware platform which addresses security and deployment complexity issues by making use of cloud computing and virtualisation technologies. CitizenGrid incentivises scientists to make their small-to-medium scale applications available as citizen science projects by: 1) providing a directory of projects through a web-based portal that makes applications easy to discover; 2) providing flexibility to participate in, monitor, and control multiple citizen science projects from a common interface; 3) supporting diverse categories of citizen science projects. The paper describes the design, development and evaluation of CitizenGrid and its use cases.

Source: Yadav, P., Cohen, J., Darlington, J., 2017. CitizenGrid: An Online Middleware for Crowdsourcing Scientific Research. Computers and Society. arXiv:1707.09489v1

Excerpt: Fred Isberner is a retired healthcare professor in Carbondale, Illinois. But on 21 August, the 69-year-old will be collecting data about the Sun’s superheated outer atmosphere during a total solar eclipse. Isberner is one of thousands of people across the United States who plan to gather data during the event. Their combined efforts will be one of the largest, one-off citizen-science efforts yet.

“It absolutely has the potential to be the biggest,” says Scott McIntosh, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado.

Total solar eclipses occur about once every 18 months, but they often pass over remote areas such as the ocean. The 21 August eclipse is rare because it will be visible over a heavily populated landmass — the continental United States. About 12 million people live in the path of totality, which stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. Scientists and volunteers plan to take advantage of the situation to gather data and encourage the public to participate in research.

Source: Lallensack, R., 2017. Citizen Scientists Chase Total Solar Eclipse, 9 August 2017. Available at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/citizen-scientists-chase-total-solar-eclipse/ [Last accessed 31 August 2017].

Excerpt: Saturday, citizen scientists throughout the U.S. gathered at watersheds to celebrate National Lakes Appreciation Month by conducting similar studies. Vincent Kaping, 10, of Felton, said he was surprised the disk wasn’t a more complex tool. He thought it would have some filter or other contraptions attached to it. “I was thinking that it would be a machine,” Kaping said. He took two readings; both were about 6 feet of visibility marked when the disk disappeared in the green water about midday.

Source: Todd, M., 2017. Loch Lomond’s algal bloom evident after citizen scientists test waters. Santa Cruz Sentinel, 29 July 2017.

Excerpt: The Cuyahoga Valley National Park will work to make students “citizen scientists,” with help from a $1 million donation to the National Park Foundation.

Starting with Woodridge High School, which sits on national park land in Peninsula, the park’s Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center will provide lesson plans and materials to classrooms, like a “national park in a box,” director Katie Wright said.

The focus is to educate students about water quality, particularly in the Cuyahoga Valley Watershed, Wright said. This will include “working with the Ohio EPA protocols to collect stream and river data,” according to a project overview.

Source: Morice, J., 2017. Donation boosts Cuyahoga Valley National Park educational programming with ‘Citizen Science’. Cleveland.com, 10 August.

Excerpt: At a lab inside the 2,650-acre Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, bones are stacked on shelves, centuries-old clay smoking pipes are reassembled and imported shells once used to make buttons are stashed in a drawer.

Outside the lab Wednesday, a half-dozen citizen scientists worked in the sweltering heat to uncover more artifacts and information. They’re examining how humans interacted with the environment in the past, a task that could be used to address problems we face today, according to the center.

Source: Pacella, R., 2017. At Smithsonian archaeology lab, citizen scientists work to unearth environmental history. Capital Gazette, 18 July.

Editor’s Choice: This paper attempts to disentangle the complex relationship between the folks that are “paid” to run the Zooniverse and the unpaid volunteers who provide the classifications. At what point does it become the responsibility of the paid professionals to move from a simple transactional relationship with the volunteers to a more democratized relationship where the volunteers have more say in the production of the science they are contributing to? This is indeed a difficult question.  –LFF–

Abstract: This paper explores the relationship between paid labour and unpaid users within the Zooniverse, a crowdsourced citizen science platform. The platform brings together a crowd of users to categorise data for use in scientific projects. It was initially established by a small group of academics for a single astronomy project, but has now grown into a multi-project platform that has engaged over 1.3 million users so far. The growth has introduced different dynamics to the platform as it has incorporated a greater number of scientists, developers, links with organisations, and funding arrangements—each bringing additional pressures and complications. The relationships between paid/professional and unpaid/citizen labour have become increasingly complicated with the rapid expansion of the Zooniverse. The paper draws on empirical data from an ongoing research project that has access to both users and paid professionals on the platform. There is the potential through growing peer-to-peer capacity that the boundaries between professional and citizen scientists can become significantly blurred. The findings of the paper, therefore, address important questions about the combinations of paid and unpaid labour, the involvement of a crowd in citizen science, and the contradictions this entails for an online platform. These are considered specifically from the viewpoint of the users and, therefore, form a new contribution to the theoretical understanding of crowdsourcing in practice.

Zooniverse. People-powered research

Source: Woodcock, J., et al., 2017. Crowdsourcing Citizen Science: Exploring the Tensions between Paid Professionals and Users. Peer Production and Work, Issue 10.

Editor’s Choice: For everyone who thinks they are a practitioner of Citizen Science, this article is a must read as it drives home the need for clear data management practices with Citizen Science projects especially as we see the dramatic proliferation of CS projects. Will your data obtained from volunteers be maximally useful in potentially combining with other projects or over time? –LFF–

Abstract: Powered by advances of technology, today’s Citizen Science projects cover a wide range of thematic areas and are carried out from local to global levels. This wealth of activities creates an abundance of data, for example, in the forms of observations submitted by mobile phones; readings of low-cost sensors; or more general information about peoples’ activities. The management and possible sharing of this data has become a research topic in its own right. We conducted a survey in the summer of 2015 in order to collectively analyze the state of play in Citizen Science. This paper summarizes our main findings related to data access, standardization and data preservation. We provide examples of good practices in each of these areas and outline actions to address identified challenges.

Sketch of methodology. Source: Schade and Tsinaraki (2016a).

Source: Schade, S., et al., 2017. Scientific data from and for the citizen. First Monday Vol. 22 No. 8.

At your own risk

Abstract: In this article, the author proposes that the emergence of digital, disease-tracking applications over the past ten years like HealthMap (healthmap.org) and Flu Near You (flunearyou.org) that allow non-experts to contribute information about emergent public health threats have facilitated a “do-it-yourself (DIY)” risk assessment ethic. Focusing in particular on Flu Near You (FNY), a crowdsourced, flutracking program, the author argues that some participants use the mapping feature to curate their own risk information experience in determining the preventative behaviors they may want to engage in (if any) to prevent fl u. As outbreaks of infectious diseases increase (Smith et al., 2014), mHealth technologies like disease-tracking apps are evolving as an important risk assessment tool for both public health experts as well as non-expert, public audiences. Better understanding how non-experts use such information can inform not only the design of these apps but visual risk communication strategies more generally speaking.

Source: Welhausen, C.A., 2017. At Your Own Risk: User-Contributed Flu Maps, Participatory Surveillance, and an Emergent DIY Risk Assessment Ethic. Communication Design Quarterly, Vol 5:2, 51–61. DOI: 10.1145/3131201.3131206

Excerpt: The National Environmental Monitoring Conference (NEMC) is the largest conference in North America focused on environmental measurements. NEMC 2017, held August 7th to 11th in Washington, DC, featured a half day citizen science session moderated by Jay Benforado, USEPA Office of Research and Development, and Leon Vinci, Drexel University. The session began with five talks from citizen science researchers and practitioners, which inspired a larger discussion about the limitations and possibilities for expanding the impact and scope of citizen science for environmental monitoring. This blog post summarizes and reflects on this session.

Source: Bowser, A., 2017. Citizen Science and Environmental Monitoring: Reflections on NEMC 2017, 11 August, 2017. Available at https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/citizen-science-and-environmental-monitoring-reflections-nemc-2017 [Last accessed 4 September 2017].

Editor’s Choice: What helps people connect with science on a personal level? Insights into this question may emerge in a new, compelling project coming out of Alaska. The investigators of “Winterberry” have designed this interdisciplinary project to integrate different ways of knowing and meaning-making into more familiar forms of participatory data collection. Their motivation? Making their work matter to Alaskan communities. The uncertainty of future berry harvests is not only the subject of scientific investigation, but it will also be the theme of storytelling workshops. –AWA–

Excerpt: Across Alaska, berry harvests have begun in earnest—and, this year, so has a project in which Alaskans will help track their berry patches scientifically. The new National Science Foundation project, dubbed “Winterberry,” aims not only to engage Alaskans in research on berry resources but also to find ways to make the findings more valuable to communities.
“Berries are an important resource for so many of us,” said principal investigator Katie Spellman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center. “This work is an attempt to empower participation in scientific research and make it more accessible and useful to Alaska and Arctic communities.”

Katie Spellman, who leads a new UAF effort to engage Alaskans in wild berry research, helps a student in Venetie cut rosehips during an earlier project. Credit: Katie Spellman

Source: Bauer, N., 2017. Berry research project seeks Alaskan volunteer citizen scientists, 17 August 2017. Available at https://phys.org/news/2017-08-berry-alaskan-volunteer-citizen-scientists.html [Last accessed 5 September 2017].