Sunday, June 7, 2009

Citizen Science 2.0

Citizen Science is the ante litteram crowdsourcing activity. Individuals have collected scientific data for a bigger cause way before crowdsourcing became a widespread buzzword and a long time prior to the existence of Wikipedia and the World Wide Web. The Audubon's Christmas Bird count has been going on since 1900...
In the context of the NASA-funded Digital Earth Watch (DEW) project, we have an opportunity to explore the citizen science universe through the lenses of front line practitioners such as Kitty from the Cornell Ornithology Lab and Kirsten and Sandra from Budburst at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Our "models" and inspirations are evoked in the presentation I gave at the DEW workshop in April.

Our specific contributions to the project are:
  1. To investigate a “crowdsourcing” application to collect, organize, analyze and share PicturePost submissions.
  2. To explore ways in which users could “design” their own window into the DEW project, by composing their own web pages.
  3. To visualize PicturePost data in intriguing and sophisticated ways.
  4. To experiment with a set of social networking services that will foster interaction with the global data repository and with other users across the globe.
  5. To prototype a series of electronic alert and reminder systems to invite users to collect data at crucial times of the year.
  6. To experiment with alternative observation methods that do not require a physical picturepost (the “virtual” picturepost).
  7. To allow others to contribute new online analytical or visualization functions and share them with the community.
After the workshop, Steve and I had a chance to brainstorm all the way back to Santa Fe and we came up with a whole new approach to citizen science, centered on the "prosumer", i.e. the volunteer researcher who is willing to collect and submit scientific observations. We are framing our new approach around the 3 tenets I stumbled upon in my early synchronized crowdsourcing experience (make it simple, fun, and rewarding). During the current DEW project, we will experiment with the latest interactive online technologies, such as: tweets, sms, blogs, social networks, location-aware mobile applications and augmented 3D digital photography. It is clear that a full-fledged, self-organizing, emergent Citizen Science 2.0 framework would require a separate research effort with appropriate funding. Preparing an NSF grant proposal for this line of research is going to be the primary task Kyle Miller will tackle when he arrives in Venice later this week for his summer internship...

Look for a "CitizenPipe" entry later.
The best is yet to come...
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