EVE Online players will help scientists look for other planets from the comfort of their computer desks later this year. The game’s developer, CCP Games, is teaming up with Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS), the University of Reykjavik and the University of Geneva to crowdsource space exploration within EVE’s virtual universe.

Players will hunt for planets outside of our solar system, called exoplanets, through a mini-game called Project Discovery. They’ll receive real-world astronomical data to study during space flights, which can take up to a few minutes depending on the distance between space stations. If enough players reach a comparative consensus on the data’s classification, it’ll be sent back to the University of Geneva to help refine its search. Michel Mayor, winner of the 2017 Wolf Prize for Physics and discoverer of the first exoplanet, will give a full presentation on the project during this year’s EVE Fanfest in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Source: ‘EVE Online’ is crowdsourcing the search for real exoplanets

This app is still in beta but this is the sort of project we all need to keep our eye on – how can personal data be used to benefit the people providing the data and not just the corporations who want that data? Let’s hope this project lives up to its promise. -LFF

[The Autoimmune Citizen Science app] allows patients to track their symptoms, treatments, lab tests and various other things. The hope is that by visualizing their health, and sharing their data, the system will be able to spot patterns and correlations to help individuals make better sense of their own health.

The anonymized and aggregated data will shed some light on what is working for others. For instance, if a user is interested in a specific treatment, they can explore the feedback from other users before making a decision. It places autoimmune disease inside a much bigger picture.

[T]he app has received considerable attention from the research community who are excited about the potential of it to shed much needed light onto chronic illness. There is considerable potential for such approaches not just to help individuals, but also the doctors and researchers that are helping to treat the diseases.

Image: Autoimmune Citizen Science logo, as it appears on SciStarter

Source: Citizen science and its growing role in medical research

Purpose: The establishment of databases for research in human microbiomics is dependent on the recruitment of sufficient numbers and diversity of participants. Factors that support or impede participant recruitment in studies of this type have not yet been studied.

Methods: We report the results of a survey aimed at establishing the motivations of participants in the British Gut Project, a research project that relies on volunteers to provide samples and to help fund the project.

Results: The two most frequently reported motivations for participation were altruism and solidarity. Low education levels appeared to be a recruitment obstacle. More than half of our 151 respondents said they would participate in further citizen-science projects; 38% said they would not participate in a similar project if it was for-profit or in a project that did not release data sets in repositories accessible to scientists (30%).

Conclusions: The desire to take part in research was reported as a key motivation for participation in the British Gut Project (BGP). Such prosocial motivations can be mobilized for the establishment of large data sets for research.

Source: http://www.nature.com/gim/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/gim2016208a.html

Abstract: New citizen science projects are emerging all the time as scientists, policy-makers, and non-governmental organisations see the value of conducting research in this way. Understanding what factors infuence people to take part in citizen science projects and why participants continue their involvement are important questions for the field. Here, we bring together key theories from the volunteering literature with examples from the environmental volunteering and citizen science literature to describe the factors that influence people to start and continue participating in citizen science projects. Good project organisation is key, and project organisers need to consider potential participants’ motivations; their personal attributes, circumstances and demographics; and how they will become aware of the opportunity. We discuss each of these factors with reference to both the academic and the grey (non-academic) literature, and based on this make general recommendations for those designing and running citizen science projects.

Source: Recruiting and Retaining Participants in Citizen Science: What Can Be Learned from the Volunteering Literature?

This is a fascinating article that tracks the change in attitudes towards science as well as content learning that occurred with a group of high school students who participated in the full cycle of a research project from asking the question to presenting results. I particularly liked one of the findings the authors recommend to incorporate in citizen science projects: interactions between scientists and participants must be transparent and trust-building. – LFF

Citizen science can raise people’s understanding of science while helping scientists conduct their research. Yet its potential for driving transformative learning is empirically underexplored. We present the results of a preliminary study with secondary school students engaged in a long-term citizen science project, from the formulation of the research questions to data analysis and discussion. Students learnt about and increased their interest in neuroscience. They were also able to reflect on the role of science for society and valued their involvement as active participants in the research. We discuss the opportunities and challenges of approaching citizen science for transformative learning.

Photo credit: Figure 1 from “Citizen Science: Toward Transformative Learning”.

Source: Citizen Science – Apr 13, 2016

Thin, blade-like walls, some as tall as a 16-story building, dominate a previously undocumented network of intersecting ridges on Mars, found in images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The simplest explanation for these impressive ridges is that lava flowed into pre-existing fractures in the ground and later resisted erosion better than material around them. A new survey of polygon-forming ridges on Mars examines this network in the Medusae Fossae region straddling the planet’s equator and similar-looking networks in other regions of the Red Planet.

“Finding these ridges in the Medusae Fossae region set me on a quest to find all the types of polygonal ridges on Mars,” said Laura Kerber of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, lead author of the survey report published this month in the journal Icarus.

Source: Pasadena Now » Similar-Looking Ridges on Mars Have Diverse Origins | Pasadena California, Hotels,CA Real Estate,Restaurants,City Guide… – Pasadena.com

Nairobi, 18 January 2016: Kenya faces diverse sustainability challenges such as climate change, degraded ecosystems, poor health, waterborne diseases, and poor waste management. Unsuitable consumption patterns and limited environmental awareness are compounding the problem. There is, therefore, an increased need for capacity development, environmental awareness, and information exchange to foster a generation of environmentally conscious citizens capable of positive action.

The World Student Community for Sustainable Development (WSCSD-Kenya) is one youth group that has taken up this challenge. Led by Nickson Otieno, an architect passionate about providing sustainable solutions in the man-made and natural environment, the group has embraced two ecosystem initiatives – Adopt-a-river and Adopt-a-forest. The idea is to mobilize and engage students to conserve and restore water and forest ecosystems within and around their universities, contributing to a clean and healthy environment, in line with Article 42 of the Kenyan Constitution.

The Adopt-a-River initiative seeks to empower young people and communities to participate in river monitoring and restoration. Using citizen science, students and youth collect and identify aquatic macro-invertebrates which act as bio-indicators, and score them on the miniSASS app. The mobile app then scores the general river health and water quality in that river. Already piloted at multiple points along the Nairobi River, the information gathered guides youth, communities, authorities and policymakers in identifying sources of pollution, and put in place appropriate interventions to restore and conserve rivers.

Source: Citizen science helps ecosystem renewal in Kenya | UNEP Stories

Citizen science involves a partnership between inexperienced volunteers and trained scientists engaging in research. In addition to its obvious benefit of accelerating data collection, citizen science has an unexplored role in the classroom, from K–12 schools to higher education. With recent studies showing a weakening in scientific competency of American students, incorporating citizen science initiatives in the curriculum provides a means to address deficiencies in a fragmented educational system. The integration of traditional and innovative pedagogical methods to reform our educational system is therefore imperative in order to provide practical experiences in scientific inquiry, critical thinking, and problem solving for school-age individuals. Citizen science can be used to emphasize the recognition and use of systematic approaches to solve problems affecting the community.

Source: Current Approaches in Implementing Citizen Science in the Classroom

Abstract: This brief article includes mention of several citizen science projects that will be part of the scientific studies carried out during the upcoming eclipse. – LFF –

Prof. Hugh Hudson and Laura Peticolas of the Space Science Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, are heading a Megamovie project to use thousands of images taken by members of the general public, so-called citizen scientists, to provide an animation of variations in images over the 90 minutes that the moon’s shadow will take to cross the continental United States. In a separate citizen-science plan, Dr. Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory is planning a Citizen Continental-America Telescope Eclipse Experiment (Citizen CATE), with 60 identical solar telescopes spaced across the path of totality to make an animation of highly calibrated identical images to show coronal dynamics.

Source: Scientists prepare for the great American eclipse of August 21

For the past seven years, citizen scientist volunteers with the Kaua’i chapter of the Surfrider Foundation Beach Watch Task Force have been testing the waters at 27 recreational sites along the Kaua’i coastline. This summer they achieved a victory when the Hawai’i Department of Health (HDOH) finally acknowledged the concerning levels of pollution in local streams and beaches.
Beach Watch Task Force (BWTF) is the all-volunteer branch of The Surfrider Foundation, an advocacy group committed to protecting water quality. BWTF chapters test the water quality of ocean and bay beaches, and freshwater sources not monitored by state or local government agencies. Water samples are tested against EPA and state standards for safe recreational water. Results are publicly available on their website.

Citizen scientists volunteering with BWTF Kaua’i have found consistently high levels of enterococcal bacteria in a number of streams and beaches, counts well above the cutoff for safety. Enterococci inhabit the gut of humans and other mammals, and can be an indicator of fecal matter. In their 2015 Annual Report, BWTF Kaua’i stated that seven of the streams tested “failed to meet the state bacteria standard over 90% of the time they were tested.”

Source: Citizen science pushes Hawai’i Department of Health to act on beach pollution