Archive for the ‘Contest’ Category

Are You Up for an Innovation Challenge?

By August 17th, 2015 at 9:00 am | Comment


Guest post by Carrie Freeman

In the new world of Big Data, we’ve learned how to acquire great data, but we’re still struggling with accessing it, understanding it, and putting it to work. That’s especially true with environmental data, where the urgency of problems facing people right now is driving efforts to turn raw digital input into information leading to concrete solutions.

One global group, the Eye on Earth Alliance, is addressing that problem directly by convening the Eye on Earth Summit 2015 and organizing the related Data Innovation Showcase. As a competition intended to spark fresh thinking about how to use data, the Showcase is calling for entries from citizen scientists—professionals, too—and from artists who have a brilliant idea for applying publicly accessible data to solving environmental challenges. But time is running out—entries must be submitted online by August 20, 2015. Winners get a free trip to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to participate in the summit (October 6–8), which will focus on informed decision-making for sustainable development. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop, Collaborate and…Vote! Help solve climate change with MIT’s Climate CoLab Project

By August 28th, 2013 at 10:55 am | Comments (7)

Do you have an idea about how to approach climate change?  You’re not alone.  Thousands of other people around the world are coming up with potential solutions to one of the world’s most challenging problems, but until now they have not been able to easily connect. MIT’s Climate CoLab is attempting to change this by bringing together innovators from across the globe to collaborate and develop solutions to the problem of climate change.

The basic idea of the Climate CoLab is similar to Wikipedia or Linux in that it harnesses “micro-contributions from many people around the world,” as Laur Fisher the CoLab’s Community and Partnerships Manager describes.  To do this, the CoLab runs annual competitions, in which anyone can submit a proposal that addresses a climate change issue.  Members of the CoLab community, including general public and experts in the field, are then encouraged to provide feedback on the entries, and eventually expert judges select finalists. A second cycle of feedback then begins for the finalists to allow thorough development of the proposals, and in the end the public votes on the winners.  Fisher describes that the goal of the CoLab is to facilitate a “transparent contest.” She notes that “anyone can comment and everything is open.” This year’s competition is currently in its final round of judging, and all participants are encouraged to vote until the end of August on their favorite proposals.


Illustration of the competition process

This year, the Climate CoLab ran 18 different competitions that address different aspects of climate change – for example, there was a contest focused on hydraulic fracturing “fracking;” one was titled “urban adaptation: climate resilient cities;” and one addressed the efficiency of buildings. Proposals were submitted from around the world – from Asia, to Central and South America, and even Iceland – and the applicants came from all education levels and professions.  Fisher asserts that the CoLab needs this diversity of members “because the issue of climate change is such a global issue, but then it’s also complex – there’s no one solution.”

The winning proposals will be announced shortly after the voting ends, and the authors will be invited make presentations at the Climate CoLab’s yearly conference on November 6-7.  The conference is free for anyone to attend, and the theme this year is “Crowds and Climate,” focusing on the role crowds play in addressing climate change – an interesting topic for anyone involved in a citizen science project! At the conference, the next competitions will also be announced for those who are eager to submit a proposal.

Voting for this year’s proposals closes at midnight (EDT) on August 31. Get started!


Emily Lewis is a PhD candidate in chemistry at Tufts University, where she investigates industrially important catalysts on the nanoscale. She received her BS and MS degrees from Northeastern University, and her thesis work investigated fuel cell catalysts under real operating conditions. She loves learning about energy and the environment, exploring science communication, and investigating the intersection of these topics with the policy world. When she’s not writing or in the lab, you’ll probably spot Emily at the summit of one of the White Mountains in NH. Follow her: @lewisbase,

Final Four citizen science projects!

By April 5th, 2013 at 9:17 am | Comments (2)

This post originally appeared on the PLOS Blog Network.
We’re down to the Final Four in this year’s NCAA tournament, and chances are your bracket isn’t looking too good. Welcome to the club. Worry not! We’ve got four citizen science projects that will help you make the most of Final Four weekend.


Roadkill Survey

If your team gets pummeled this weekend, you’ll make a great Roadkill Observer or Splatter Spotter. Roadkill Survey for Road Bikers need your help to find out where wildlife live and how they move in relation to roads. Project Splatter collects UK wildlife road casualty data via Twitter and Facebook. Both projects hope to identify roadkill ‘hotspots’ for future mitigation projects and help preserve wildlife.


Cicada Tracker

You’re in the perfect spot to help track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York and the whole Northeast by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting your findings. Your observations will be put on a map and shared with the entire community. Everyone’s a winner…unless your team loses, of course.



If you’re too exhausted after the game to harvest wheat in nearby fields, you can still help plants by participating in Clumpy. Simply classify plant cell images by their “clumpiness”, and you can provide researchers with new insights into the progression of bacterial infection in plant cells.


Project Nighthawk

If your team doesn’t live up to the hype, you can always hide your shame in New Hampshire and help scientists study a bird of a different feather. The Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory is coordinating volunteer nighthawk surveys on warm evenings in Keene. Submit your observations of booming, peenting, or nighthawks diving.

And for fans of teams that didn’t make it this far…

Planet Four

Check out Planet Four, a citizen science project in which volunteers help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface, you can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate.

What would you do with this technology?

By February 4th, 2013 at 8:47 am | Comment

Marblar SciStarter

Scientific research aims to answer questions, progress disciplinary knowledge, and ultimately better society by providing new applications of technology and ideas toward common problems. But, over time, the products of our countless research projects, while potentially still useful, go unutilized, and can be forgotten in the basements of University libraries or the dusty archives of journal collections.

This perhaps all too common problem is exactly the motivation behind an new exciting project called Marblar.

The premise: Marblar provides you with the overlooked technologies and ideas, and you – the citizen scientist – provide the applications. Non-traditional, yes, but it’s challenging, engaging, and a fun game where citizen scientists can compete with other across the globe.

I recently spoke with co-founder Dan Antonio Perez to find out his hopes for the project and what he thought of Marblar’s role in citizen science.

“Collaboration is the focus,” Dan said.

The Marblar team spends a lot of time identifying the most interesting technology that can inspire Marblars and generate the most useful applications. Current technologies include a a microchip that can harness the power of motion, ‘Super Foams’ made from emulsions, and a brand new desalination device.

Marblars are given three weeks to post their ideas, discuss with other players, and even collaborate with the inventors to arrive at a final solution. While there are some small cash rewards and other small prizes for top entries, the real reward, Dan says, is that users have a chance to participate in meaningful science and help create ideas with potential.

Through the amazingly easy-to-use Marblar interface, I was also able to speak with several of the top Marblars who have been involved in this process.

Dave, a Biochemistry Ph.D. student studying at The University of Oxford, claimed that the prizes were not important to him. Rather, he was excited to collaborate with people from diverse scientific backgrounds.

After years out of the lab, a top Marblar user, Maria, was excited to get back into the thrill of scientific discussion.

Juan Carlos, a University researcher, was most interested in the fact that in discussing ideas, he was able to get feedback from users outside of his discipline.

This type of broad, multi-discipline collaboration is what makes Marblar such a unique citizen science activity. There is really something for everyone who is interested in science. And they are only getting started. Dan sees Marblar as having great potential for engaging the public and offering a fun way for citizens to engage with some really great minds in science.

It’s science. I’ts a game. And it’s fun. Marblar has some lofty goals, but from my first impressions, they have already achieved quite a bit. I can’t wait to see what’s next.


On this, National Squirrel Day, we feature Craig Newmark and squirrelly citizen science.

By January 20th, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Comment 1

western-gray-squirrel-citizen-science-scistarter SciStarter asked Craig Newmark (of Craigslist fame) why he likes squirrels. He told us that it all started with a simple desire to feed birds. But the suet palaces he was using to dispense the raw, fat-based bird food were constantly getting hacked by squirrels. He tried everything; he even upgraded to “squirrel-resistant” models, to no avail.

It was then that Newmark really began to appreciate the rascally rodents. “Squirrels are smart, tough and athletic, real survivors, and that’s very impressive,” he says. “They’re a candidate to replace humanity if we don’t work things out.”

Newmark, who regularly tweets about squirrels and is a religious observer of National Squirrel Appreciation Day (Jan. 21), has his house wired with “squirrel cams” and was even able to capture — on video — a female entering his house to explore.

But most squirrel observation is low-tech, involving a pair of binoculars and a notebook. These observations eventually work their way into peer-reviewed science., which I like to think of as the Craigslist of science, has a list of squirrel-related citizen science projects here. You can participate for free, and finding squirrels (especially the eastern grey) is about as easy as falling over. They dominate this area, and they’re not shy!

Our citizen science projects are not limited to the East Coast, or even the U.S. There’s the Black Squirrel Project in the UK and the Western Gray Squirrel Project out in the state of Washington.

If you think you’re sly enough to outsmart squirrels, we have a limited-time competition just for you! In partnership with instructables and Discover Magazine, SciStarter is looking for safe and effective ways to keep squirrels and other ravenous vegetarians and omnivores from eating sunflowers. Why? Because sunflowers play a crucial role in citizen science bee observation projects. No sunflowers, no bees. And that would… bee bad. But hurry! Not only is January 21 National Squirrel Day, it’s also the last day you can submit an entry to the Citizen Science Contest!

Some species of ground squirrels hibernate, but tree squirrels don’t. The eastern grey and other tree dwellers ride out the winter in tree hollows and holes, but you can still see them as fall turns to winter. So sign up for a squirrel project here at SciStarter, grab your coat and head out to the nearest deciduous forest, rooftop or really just about anywhere, and start observing!

Or just hang a birdfeeder outside your window.

This was originally published on Huffington Post.