6369 Bridging Borders Through Online Initiatives in Citizen Science

Friday, February 17, 2012: 10:00 AM
Room 214 (VCC West Building)
Chris Lintott , Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL
Traditional modes of citizen involvement in science were inherently local; even when organized into national or international societies the role of the citizen was to primarily report on their local activities. The communications revolution driven by the internet now allows collaboration between distant groups, access to remote data (gathered by professionals and amateurs) and facilities (such as robotic telescopes). Working online allows for a much more fluid interaction across the border between professional and citizen scientists, and this talk will outline strategies being developed to encourage fruitful collaboration. 

Examples will be drawn from the highly successful Zooniverse suite of online projects, which has grown from the original Galaxy Zoo project (www.galaxyzoo.org) to encompass more than a dozen live projects, from the astronomical (planethunters.org) to rescuing old data (oldweather.org) through to papyrology (ancientlives.org). More than 400,000 accounts are registered with the site, and the team have build a variety of tools to encourage broader and deeper participation. In particular, the integration of discussion into the workflow of citizen scientists has proved effective in encouraging greater levels of participation, and in encouraging collaboration between experienced and novice volunteers. Such collaboration has been critical in, for example, independent discoveries of exotic planetary systems and the categorization of variable stars within the Kepler data.

As data sets continue to grow in volume, so the need for volunteers to take on more advanced tasks will increase. I will also review the efforts being made to provide advanced interfaces, retaining the guarantee of scientific credibility while allowing free exploration of the data.