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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Citizen science and digital platforms: folding it all the way to outer space

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Hello Julie!

I hope you are having a fun weekend. 

I’m still on a mind-whirling high from attending the ScienceRewired launch event on Thursday last week. ScienceRewired is a philanthropic initiative that aims to promote public engagement in science through digital and social technologies

Their mission is to aid non-technical science practitioners and the digital domain in working together, to look at science from new perspectives while helping educate and empower individuals to create significant positive change in the world. Their focus spreads across science education, science communication and citizen science initiatives – what’s not to love about that?!

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I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship to attend the day in Adelaide (730km / 450 miles away from home) by the Australian Science Communicators. The event was themed ‘Connect, Collaborate and Communicate for Change’ and intended to bring together science communicators, academics, media professionals and digital visionaries for a one day conference of debate, insight and education as a springboard for ongoing communication and action. We heard from a wide range of wonderful speakers about different digital/social media initiatives (most session content has been reported here), but what I wanted to share with you today were two really exciting and different projects that are underway using citizen science.
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What is Citizen Science anyway?

Citizen science has been gaining momentum since the mid-1990’s, but just in case you haven’t heard the term before, relax

You already know what it is even if you haven’t heard the label. 

Simply put, it’s when amateur scientists or non-professionally-scientific people (i.e. general public) collaborate and help contribute to science. The internet has made this super easy.


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theSkyNet

The "human spokesperson for theSkyNet", Kirsten Gottschalk, gave an engaging talk about the 'passive' (means you don't have to really do much at all to contribute to science = win for lazy people who still care) cit-sci project being used to process astronomical (literally!) amounts of data to understand our Universe and make awesome new discoveries.

This is done by participating citizens clicking a link that enables their computer to process small packets of data that provide small pieces of the huge puzzle that is the work of radio astronomers. 

In their first 24 hours, they had over 3,000 registered contributors! 

It's so cool. 
Watch the video to learn more!
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fold.it

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We also heard from David Baker who Skyped in from his office at the University of Washington. His enthusiasm for the foldit project was infectious and he had everyone in the audience marvelling at this clever project that has engaged gamers and other interested members of the public to help solve major molecular protein design problems related to human diseases and their cures.

The contributions generated through people playing this game have contributed to developments in the field and (this is my favourite bit!) has even resulted in foldit players being credited as authors on a published scientific manuscript. Not individually, no. But as Foldit Players aka Players, F. I love that!

Now my mind is spinning about how all this exciting new knowledge and improved understand of the role and forms that citizen science can play in research.  So what does this post have to do about canine science? Well, maybe not much. 
Yet. 
Hope to hear from you soon,

Mia
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Further reading:

Hand, E. (2010). Citizen science: People power, Nature, 466 (7307) 687. DOI: 10.1038/466685a

Khatib, F., Cooper, S., Tyka, M.D., Xu, K., Makedon, I., Popovic, Z., Baker, D. & Players, F. (2011). From the Cover: Algorithm discovery by protein folding game players, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108 (47) 18953. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1115898108

Wiggins, A. & Crowston, K. (2011). From Conservation to Crowdsourcing: A Typology of Citizen Science, System Sciences, 10. DOI: 10.1109/HICSS.2011.207 

Parsons, J., Lukyanenko, R. & Wiersma, Y. (2011). Easier citizen science is better, Nature, 471 (7336) 37. DOI: 10.1038/471037a 

Citizen science @ Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/citizen-science/

p.s. we cracked 1,000 likers on our facebook page - I LIKE THAT!
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© Mia Cobb 2012