Archive for the ‘national science foundation’ tag

Why “SciStarter is excellent for citizen science.”

By July 12th, 2017 at 9:00 am | Comment

Well thank you for the kind words, Pietro Michelucci (founder of EyesOnALZ, a crowdsourcing platform designed to accelerate Alzheimer’s research). Pietro is one of 15 project and platform partners we’ve been working with to test and deploy a suite of new citizen science tools.

For the past two years, thanks to support from the National Science Foundation, the SciStarter team has been hard at work building tools, partnerships, and methodologies to help connect millions of citizen scientists to thousands of projects in need of their help and, at the same time, break down barriers currently preventing participants from reaching their full potential.

SciStarter is a National Science Foundation-supported, project agnostic platform supporting recruitment and retention of volunteers into over 1,500 citizen science initiatives from hundreds of organizations. The platform also facilitates studies to improve our understanding of citizen science in partnership with Arizona State University, North Carolina State University, Colorado State University, Cornell and dozens of other collaborators, including the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science.

Last week, Dr. Caren Cooper and I had the pleasure of unveiling “SciStarter 2.0” at an event in Washington, D.C.  Attendees were from the National Science Foundation, USGS, Department of Energy, Institute for Museum and Library Services, EPA, NPR, National Parks Service, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, and other organizations.

We described some trends, opportunities, and challenges in citizen science (particularly related to recruiting, training, equipping and retaining participants) from the eye-of-the-storm perspective of SciStarter.

This event included:

– a brief overview of citizen science;

– a presentation and soft-launch of SciStarter 2.0, a smart collection of web components, including a dashboard and integrated login, designed to extend, enhance, and enrich participant experiences while at the same time supporting STEM research and enabling research on motivations and learning outcomes of participants;

– and a discussion on future directions for SciStarter 3.0, given the opportunities and challenges facing participants, project organizers/researchers, and supporting agencies and foundations.

You can watch a recording of the presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3or9U629wwE ) and view our slides by clicking on the image below or click here:SciStarter2.0_Federal-Agencies-Presentation.pptx-1 The slides provide details about the new tools we’ve deployed through a growing network of projects and platforms, as well as personal perspectives from the project owners using these tools (including quotes that made us blush, like the one from Pietro Michelucci).

We sincerely hope you enjoy the new SciStarter and we’d love to hear your ideas on how we can continue to empower people by providing better access to protocols, instruments, communities and ongoing support.  If you’re interested in working with SciStarter to advance your own research, we’d love to hear from you, too!  Please don’t hesitate to reach us at info@SciStarter.com .

Cheers!

Citizen Science Recruitment, Retention, Research & Evaluation Workshop at Citizen Science Association Conference

By April 13th, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Comment

The SciStarter 2.0 Research and Evaluation team will host a hands-on workshop on May 17, the first day of the Citizen Science Association conference.  (Note: there’s still time to register for the conference and workshop!)

When: Wednesday May 17, 2017 11:30am – 12:30pm Meeting Room 11

With an Advancing Informal STEM Learning (Pathways) grant from the National Science Foundation, SciStarter, Arizona State University and North Carolina State University (in collaboration with a dozen citizen science project owners and citizen scientists, a panel of advisors, and a team of evaluators)  developed a suite of new, free project-agnostic tools and functionality to better support volunteers and project owners. This workshop will showcase to practitioners the opportunities presented by the SciStarter 2.0 tools to deepen volunteer engagement, learning and growth by addressing cross-project skew, evolving motivations, seasonal gaps, untapped synergies across projects via movements of volunteers, and other unanticipated factors that can be addressed with intentional planning in the SciStarter network but cannot be addressed via management within project silos. One goal of this workshop is to solicit input from project owners and evaluation/researchers to further improve the tools and prepare for the expansion of SciStarter 2.0 across hundreds of projects. The workshop will include a brief review of the new tools and functionality,  hands-on demonstrations and test-drives of the tools, and discussions.

We hope to empower project owners to consider how they can make the most of these free tools, leverage synergies with other projects, and demonstrate to evaluator/researchers how they can expand their repertoire of techniques beyond surveys to include embedded tracking of volunteer activity across projects and embedded assessments. 

Sign up for this free workshop when you register for the conference.

This is part of a series of posts about the Citizen Science Association Conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Tell a Rock from a Penguin: It’s Harder Than It Sounds

By January 26th, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Comment

Adelie penguins. Credit: Jean Pennycook

By: Lishka Arata

Many things distinguish penguins from rocks. There’s color difference (usually), behavior (penguins waddle, rocks don’t), social structure (rocks don’t have one) — the list goes on. But why might someone need to distinguish between rocks and penguins?

It’s a skill central to a long-term project that relies on citizen scientists, working from the comfort of their homes, to identify penguins in photographs taken by remotely operated cameras in Antarctica. The project, focused on Adelie penguins, aims to determine how climate change affects living systems. Read the rest of this entry »

Thankful for the Holidays and Citizen Science

By December 1st, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Comment

Last week was Thanksgiving, and all of us at SciStarter contributed to a list of which citizen science projects we are most thankful for. Although a number of projects came to mind, one stood out for me because it actually pulled me into the field of citizen science. This was ten years ago, and at that time, if someone had asked me what citizen science was, I would not have had an answer. So, what happened to bring about this shift in my career interests?

I was working at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University, conducting research on invasive species, or species not native to an area and that harm ecosystems, the economy, or human health. At the time, our lab was trying to predict the potential spread of these species under present and future environmental conditions.

Read the rest of this entry »

My 10-year citizen science journey.

By December 23rd, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Comment

darlene bill nye

Earlier this month, I had the immense honor  of sharing the stage with Bill Nye and some fascinating thought leaders in space exploration from academia and industry, thanks to the leaders at Arizona State University’s New Space. We talked about colonizing Mars, mining asteroids, women in STEM and more. Amid all the exciting, forward-looking discussions, bolstered by the super-pumped-up audience of 3500 ASU students, I couldn’t help but think about the voice we needed to hear as we imagined YOUR place in space: YOUR voice. A decade ago, YOUR voice (and your tax dollars, your values, your informed opinions) would have been represented by your elected officials, or the noisiest advocacy groups, or industry.

I know this because exactly 10 years ago, I was wrapping up my master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania where I spent a lot of time learning about people like me, like us: people who are interested in science, who want to be part of science–of discovery, of shaping the future–but who don’t hold formal science degrees.
family graduation
The degree from Penn wasn’t what motivated me. I went back to school after a decade of working at Discover Magazine (and, believe or not, after a few years as an NBA cheerleader!) so I could learn more about my role in science and society. Where does someone without a formal science degree fit in? For all the investment in time and money we give to K-12 STEM education, what are we doing to support the majority of those kids who don’t go to college or, if they do, who choose non-STEM careers?

What are we doing to take seriously the fact that, while our nation’s students rank low on international STEM exams, year after year, our nation’s adults (US) fair exceptionally well when compared to our peers in other countries? This must seem impossible. How can that be when our country has resisted scientifically sound issues such as climate change, vaccines, GMOs and stem cell research? Because the resistance stems from all the factors that shape science and science policy: values, economics, personal benefits, etc. Teaching people more science via the all-too-common deficit approach does not work.

How do we start real conversations with–and tap the talents and interests of–adults who have demonstrated that they/we like science? Did you know that more Americans visit science museums, zoos and aquariums than sports events? I didn’t…read more about this here. What are we doing to support us and enable us to be part of these conversations we are absolutely every bit entitled to be part of, NOW?

Well, almost immediately upon starting graduate school, I learned about citizen science. This is often described as crowdsourcing, community science, or public participation in scientific research. It usually takes the form of a scientist asking the public to share observations or analyze data to help advance areas of research.

I couldn’t wait to jump in and participate in formal and informal research projects in need of my help! Back then, it was difficult to find these opportunities. This is how SciStarter emerged. It was a very simple, searchable database embedded in a blog called Science Cheerleader, created to help me organize projects I was going to write about in my Capstone paper. I invited people to add projects or find projects. Before too long, this database spawned its own start up, featuring 1100 projects and a community of more than 50,000 citizen scientists.

Today, SciStarter’s database is shared with Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, the National Science Teachers Association, the U.N., PBS, AllForGood, and many other partners. Thanks to support from the Simons Foundation, anyone can add citizen science to their website via simple to use, embeddable widgets. We are coPIs of research projects; universities and agencies hire us to organize and manage projects and participants; we have a syndicated blog network and a series on an NPR radio station. We’re really happy with developments at SciStarter.

BUT, most of these projects either invite people to share observations about the natural world or analyze big data. Very few offer people the opportunity to impart their local knowledge, values, insights, etc, directly to inform science policy.
Things are starting to change a bit thanks to the efforts of a LOT of people spanning many fields, motives, and generations.

Ten years ago, I started pushing to reopen the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which I thought had the most potential to bring together the public and scientists in shaping science policy. While interviewing experts to learn more about the rise and fall of the OTA, I found some soulmates-of-sorts and five years later our merry band of renegades officially organized.

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Dr. Richard Sclove (left of me, pictured here with the cofounders of ECAST) wrote in Issues in Science and Technology, why it was high-time to formalize a mechanism to invite non-experts to both learn about and weigh in on the societal implications of emerging technologies and their related policies. Check out his essay:Reinventing_Tech_Assessment_-_Sclove_in_Issues_in_S&T_-_Fall_2010-1 

Earlier that same year,  Dr. Sclove, the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Boston Museum of Science, Arizona State University, and I (as the Science Cheerleader and founder of what would become SciStarter), joined forces to launch the first-of-its-kind effort in the U.S. to realize this vision: ECAST, Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology. Read more on this, here. ECAST is taking the best of the defunct OTA and spicing things up by borrowing best practices from successful participatory technology assessment activities in the European Union.

Last year, ECAST worked with NASA to inform and then solicit input from people from all walks of life, to better understand what important questions were missing from science policy considerations. People involved in those deliberations sure had a lot to add to the conversations. I encourage you to read more about the effort and outcomes of Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative. You’ll see that space exploration-the future- is complex and absolutely needs your perspective. Thanks to forward-thinking Federal agencies, like NASA, NOAA and others with an authentic interest in soliciting informed input from YOU, ECAST is able to experiment with mechanisms to unite the public with policymakers and scientists.

Looking ahead, the SciStarter team wants to see more opportunities spanning a wider spectrum of engagement levels, like those we organize at ECAST. We want to help more people find and get involved in all of these opportunities. We want to help you keep track of your contributions and maybe even be rewarded for your efforts. Why not? Maybe you didn’t finish high school. Maybe you earned an advanced degree in business or the arts. You connected with science later in life (like me!). You had the courage to move from spectator to participant. Why shouldn’t your contributions be validated and rewarded with college credit or career advancements or a free cup of coffee from Starbucks? 🙂

These are the types of questions we will start to address thanks to support from the National Science Foundation. The NSF awarded a $300,000 Pathways grant to Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training in Science and Society (of which I am a proud Professor of Practice!) for the development of SciStarter 2.0. The grant will advance the growing field of citizen and community science and help us build the capacity to be able to start to test some theories while scaling up our ability to engage and support more citizen scientists.

SciStarter 2.0 team at our kick off meeting last week

SciStarter 2.0 team at our kick off meeting earlier this month

So, now that government and the scientific community have stepped up to the plate to welcome you with open arms and now that SciStarter (and others!) have made it very easy for you to get involved, the question is, will you accept the invitation? Make 2016 the year you accept the challenge. Do a citizen science project. Go to a science festival or science cafe. Get involved in an ECAST project.

You’ve got 300 Science Cheerleaders (including me) rooting for you and ready to support you!

Science Cheerleaders break Guinness World Record for largest cheer (cheered for science!).

Science Cheerleaders break Guinness World Record for largest cheer (cheered for science!).