Workshop on Citizen Science in Astronomy

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This weekend several members of the Zooniverse development team and many representatives from the science teams of Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, Space Warps, Moon Zoo, Radio Galaxy Zoo, Planet Four, and the Andromeda Project are traveling to Taipei, Taiwan for the workshop on Citizen Science in Astronomy. I wrote about this workshop last November when it was announced. The Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA)  in Taipei, Taiwan (with support from the National Science Council) along with the Zooniverse are organizing this workshop.

The aim is to bring together for a week  computer scientists, machine learning experts, and the scientists from astronomy and planetary science based citizen science projects with the goal of taking the first steps towards addressing the critical questions and issues that citizen science will need to solve in order to cope with the petabtye data deluge from the the next generation observatories and space missions like the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). I think it’s fair to say this is the largest gathering of Zooniverse astronomy and planetary science project teams assembled in one place. I’m looking forward to what new algorithms to better combine and assess your classifications will be developed during the week and to all the interesting results that will come out of this workshop.

In addition to the main workshop, there will be a teacher workshop held on March 2nd for local teachers in Taiwan co-organized by Lauren Huang (ASIAA), Mei-Yin Chou (ASIAA), Stuart Lynn (Adler Planetarium/Zooniverse), Kelly Borden (Adler Planetarium/Zooniverse), and myself . In preparation for the workshop, the ASIAA Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Office translated Planet Four into traditional character Chinese. You can find out more about the translation effort here. At the teacher workshop, we’ll be introducing citizen science and how it can be used in the classroom along with presenting the traditional character Chinese translations of Planet Four and Galaxy Zoo.

The first day of the main workshop will be a series of introductory talks aimed at getting everyone thinking for the working sessions later in the week. If you’re interested in watching the workshop talks,  we’re going to try webcasting the first day’s sessions on Google+ starting on March 3rd 9:30am in Taiwan (March 2nd at 8:30pm EST ). The schedule for Monday can be found here. You can find the links for the morning and afternoon video live streams here. If you can’t watch live, the video will be archived and available on youtube through the same link.

You can follow along for the rest of the week on Twitter with the hashtag #csatro.

Zooniverse Translations Update

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Last week I put out a request for translators and the response has been fantastic! There are now 9 different Zooniverse projects being worked on in more than 11 languages (more are being added every day). Specifically the response from Germany and Spain has been enthusiastic and a team of volunteer translators have now completed work, or nearly completed it, on several projects.

Planet Four is now available in Traditional Chinese. The Milky Way Project, Disk Detective, and Sunspotter are now available in German. Disk Detective and Sunspotter are also available in Spanish.

Sunspotter only launched today – and we’re super excited that it can go live in three languages at once! A big thank goes to volunteer translators Katharina Doll from Munich, Germany; Fernanda Piñeiro from Mar del Plata, Argentina; Eva Bunge from Germany; Maite Alonso from Talavera, Spain;  Jasmin Hau from Fulda, Germany; and user Hanibal94. Thank you so much everyone!

Translations are still underway in many more languages and projects. For example we will soon have Spanish and German Radio Galaxy Zoo, Hungarian Disk Detective and Farsi (Persian) Galaxy Zoo.

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To access different languages in projects – look for the globe icon in the top-right of the site – as shown above. On Galaxy Zoo, projects are listed in he ‘Languages’ menu – though we hope to convert this to the globe icon to bring it inline with other projects.

We hope that these new languages will widen participation in citizen science, and help light up new parts of the globe on our live.zooniverse.org map of classifications.

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If you’re interested in translating one of our projects, please email rob@zooniverse.org with your Zooniverse username, the language you want to translate into, and the project you’d like to translate.

Introducing VOLCROWE – Volunteer and Crowdsourcing Economics

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Hi everyone, I’d like to let you know about a cool new project we are involved with. VOLCROWE is a three year research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the UK, bringing together a team of researchers (some of which are already involved with the Zooniverse, like Karen Masters) from the Universities of Portsmouth, Oxford, Manchester and Leeds. The PI of the project Joe Cox says “Broadly speaking, the team wants to understand more about the economics of the Zooniverse, including how and why it works in the way that it does. Our goal is to demonstrate to the community of economics and management scholars the increasingly amazing things that groups of people can achieve when they work together with a little help from technology. We believe that Zooniverse projects represent a specialised form of volunteering, although the existing literature on the economics of altruism hasn’t yet taken into account these new ways in which people can give their time and energy towards not-for-profit endeavours. Working together with Zooniverse volunteers, we intend to demonstrate how the digital economy is making it possible for people from all over the world to come together in vast numbers and make a contribution towards tackling major scientific problems such as understanding the nature of the Universe, climate change and even cancer.

These new forms of volunteering exemplified by the Zooniverse fundamentally alter the voluntary process as it is currently understood. The most obvious change relates to the ways in which people are able to give their time more flexibly and conveniently; such as contributing during their daily commute using a smart phone! It also opens new possibilities for the social and community aspects of volunteering in terms of creating a digitally integrated worldwide network of contributors. It may also be the case that commonly held motivations and associations with volunteering don’t hold or work differently in this context. For example, religious affiliations and memberships may or may not be as prevalent as they are with more traditional or recognised forms of volunteering. With the help of Zooniverse volunteers, the VOLCROWE team are exploring all of these issues (and more) with the view to establishing new economic models of digital volunteering.

To achieve this aim, we are going to be interacting with the Zooniverse community in a number of ways. First, we’ll be conducting a large scale survey to find out more about its contributors (don’t worry – you do not have to take part in the survey or give any personal information if you do not want to!). The survey data will be used to test the extent to which assumptions made by existing models of volunteering apply and, if necessary, to formulate new ones. We’ll also be taking a detailed look at usage statistics from a variety of projects and will test for trends in the patterns of contributions across the million (and counting) registered Zooniverse volunteers. This larger-scale analysis will be supplemented with a number of smaller sessions with groups of volunteers to help develop a more nuanced understanding of people’s relationships with and within the Zooniverse. Finally, we’ll be using our expertise from the economic and management sciences to study the organisation of the Zooniverse team themselves and analyse the ways and channels they use to communicate and to make decisions. In short, with the help of its volunteers, we want to find out what makes the Zooniverse tick!

In the survey analysis, no information will be collected that could be used to identify you personally. The only thing we will ask for is a Zooniverse ID so that we can match up your responses to your actual participation data; this will help us address some of the project’s most important research questions. The smaller group and one-to-one sessions will be less anonymous by their very nature, but participation will be on an entirely voluntary basis and we will only ever use the information we gather in a way in which you’re comfortable. The team would really appreciate your support and cooperation in helping us to better understand the processes and relationships that drive the Zooniverse. If we can achieve our goals, we may even be able to help to make it even better!”

Keep an eye out for VOLCROWE over the coming weeks and months; they’d love you to visit their website and follow them on Twitter.

Grant and the Zooniverse Team

Two more jobs at the Zooniverse

As part of our ongoing expansion of the Oxford Zooniverse team, I’m delighted to announce that there are two new jobs available at Zooniverse HQ in Oxford. We’re looking for developers and scientists who are excited at the prospect of helping us find more planets, keep an eye on more animals and generally make the Zooniverse more awesome.

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We’re looking for the following kinds of people:

Data Scientist/Hadoopist to help us build up the processing power of the Zooniverse infrastructure

Postdoc in the statistics of citizen science – this might be a scientist with an interest or experience in citizen science, or someone with statistical expertise. In any case we’re looking to take a proper crack at the generic problem of combining classifications to produce consensus.

Both jobs are two year positions, and we’re really excited about expanding the team in Oxford. If you’d like to know more, you can contact me on cjl AT astro.ox.ac.uk or 07808 167288.

Chris

More Languages, More Science: Translating Zooniverse Projects

For a long time we’ve tried to translate Zooniverse projects and this has often worked out very well. When we have done it, we have definitely seen the benefits. For example, we know that Polish classifiers on Galaxy Zoo did more classifications per-person than their English-speaking counterparts in 2011. About 8% of all our classifications are completed by people using our websites in a language other than English. We think that number should be higher.

In the last year we’ve launched Galaxy Zoo in Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Mandarin, and Italian. Planet Four is also available in Traditional Mandarin. Plankton Portal is available in Polish and French. Planet Hunters is also available in Polish, and Snapshot Serengeti is in Polish and Finnish. Finally, Whale FM is available in Polish, German and Whale.

This has all been possible because of the hard work of colleagues and translators all around the world. We’re currently working on a place to credit them for their efforts so you know who’s been making this magic happen. Particular thanks should also go to Chris Snyder and Michael Parrish, at Zooniverse’s Chicago HQ, for their efforts in making our sites and infrastructure better at handing multiple languages.

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If you take a look at the Zooniverse Community Map we created to celebrate our millionth signup you’ll note the strong English-speaking dominance. Whilst this understandable, it’s still not ideal. We need to light up more of the world on that map. So recently several of our core team have been working to make more and more projects translatable. Currently the list stands at:

  • Galaxy Zoo
  • Disk Detective
  • Radio Galaxy Zoo
  • Plankton Portal
  • Planet Four
  • Milky Way Project
  • Worm Watch Lab

…and more are being added all the time. If you’re interested in helping out, please email me on rob@zooniverse.org and let me know your Zooniverse username and the language, and project(s) you’re interested in translating. We hope to bring you updates soon.

Come and Meet the Zooniverse at the Citizen Science Cafe

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As part of the Citizen Cyberscience Summit 2014, we’re taking part in the Citizen Science Cafe 6-8pm this coming Friday, 21st February. This is an event where citizen science projects from all over the world are gathering to let everyone see the plethora of citizen science that exists. Tickets are free and you can find them here: http://cybersciencesummit.org/register/.

You can talk to some of the people behind a huge variety of citizen science projects – including us of course. We’ll be showcasing Galaxy Zoo and the Milky Way Project – but happy to talk about any of our sites at all. Hope to see many of you in London!

One Million Volunteers

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The Zooniverse is now one million strong. That’s one million registered volunteers – so in fact many more people have taken part without logging in too.

The Zooniverse started less than 7 years ago with the launch of Galaxy Zoo. We have since created almost 30 citizen science projects from astronomy to zoology. Some of you have been with us from the very start, some have only joined this week. Either way, we are constantly amazed by the effort that the community puts into our projects.

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To celebrate this momentous occasion we prepared some cool stuff for you all. Firstly, check out this awesome global map showing where all Zooniverse volunteers are based.

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Also, we have created a new profile page for each of you where you can see some of your personal participation stats (such as what your user number is relative to the one million signups) and view your ‘ribbon’! The image above shows my own ribbon – have a look at www.zooniverse.org/me to see yours.

We continue to add new papers to our publications page all the time (we added one today in fact!) and we always strive to make full use of your classifications and discussions on Talk around our various projects. We also continue to build new citizen science projects – there are more coming up soon – so stay tuned. Meanwhile why not tell everyone you know who hasn’t taken part in a Zooniverse project to get online and register now! A great way to do this would be to share our page with your friends on Facebook. Together we’re speeding up science around the world.

Thanks for all your continued hard work – and here’s to the next million Zooniverse citizen scientists.

Disk Detective

Disk Detective

Today we’ve launched Disk Detective: a new project that asks you to help scour infrared data from NASA’s WISE spacecraft. WISE is a NASA mission surveying the whole sky in infrared. Disk Detective is backed by a team of astronomers that need your help to look at data of stars to try and find dusty debris disks – similar to our asteroid field. These disks suggest that these stars are in the early stages of forming planetary systems.

Learning more about these stars can tell researchers how our Solar System formed. Computers often confuse debris disks around stars with other astronomical objects. The Disk Detective team need your help to sort out what stars actually have these disks from galaxies and nebulae.

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To take part you have to look through flipbook-style sets of images made up of multiple wavelength data from each star. You watch the object change as you move from shorter, optical wavelengths to longer infrared wavelength data. For each star you’re looking at data from multiple surveys and missions taken over many years. Bring all this data together, on the web, is a really cool part of Disk Detective.

There’s lots of data to get through and the science promises to be really interesting. Follow along on the Disk Detective blog, on Twitter and on Facebook too. In the meantime jump on the new site and have a go at www.diskdetective.org.

Operation War Diary is a go!!!

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Great news everyone! The Zooniverse has teamed up with the Imperial War Museum and the National Archives to bring you an awesome new project called Operation War Diary. It involves the transcription of over one million battlefield notes produced from the western front during the World War I. This year marks the centenary of the start of the war and this project will bring to light information that had been all but lost over the last one hundred years. Get involved here http://www.operationwardiary.org/

You can read more about the project in this blog post, and you can follow it on Facebook and Twitter too!

Stargazing Live: The Results Are In

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The Lovell Telescope observing 9io9: a candidate lens spotted by volunteers on Space Warps.

BBC Stargazing Live 2014 has been asking people to visit the Zooniverse’s Space Warps site to identify gravitational lenses: extremely rare events caused by one galaxy passing in front of another (very distant) galaxy. Tens of thousands of you have taken part and classified more than 6.5 million images.

Your classifications have already led to the discovery of more than 50 potential gravitational lenses! Amongst them are several beautiful and interesting discoveries. You can see a few of our favourite candidates above. For Stargazing Live’s third and final show we have focussed on the spectacular red arc/ring shown below, it has been nicknamed 9io9 by the team right now, because of it’s Zooniverse ID. You can see more of what our volunteers are saying about it here on Talk.

Credit: Jim Geach / VICS82

Credit: Jim Geach / VICS82

The Space Warps team have produced a model of it and currently think the background (red) galaxy is at redshift of about 2, which means the light has taken more than 10 billion years to reach us! You can see the comparison of the model and the data below. There’s a chance it could be further away but we’ll keep you posted. The nearer object (white/yellow) is about 2 billion light years away and has a mass of 100 billion times that of our Sun – which makes it about the same size as our own galaxy.

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Comparison of the model (left) and real (right) data.

We know all this because we have spent the last 24 hours calling in every favour we have worldwide. The Space Warps science team, and various Zooniverse scientists from other projects, have been literally asking favours from people using the world’s biggest telescopes. We were even able to get some time on the massive Keck telescope in Hawai’i, where astronomers were having to break ice off the dome to get data. Astronomers love a good challenge!

Of course Stargazing Live is filmed at Jodrell Bank, home to one of the world’s largest radio dishes: the Lovell Telescope. This candidate lens is perfect for a radio observation – which can tell us more about its mass and position in space – and I’m excited to say that the giant dish is observing the target as I write!

Space Warps has been a huge success over the past three days and the project continues! Every classification on Space Warps helps our computers understand the whole data set, and so in a way all the objects discovered on Space Warps are the result of everybody’s combined work. You can keep up to date with news from Space Warp via the project’s blog, Twitter and Facebook sites.

A huge thank you to the BBC crew, the Jodrell Bank team, the Space Warps scientists, developers and moderators, and to everyone that took part this week. Keep clicking!

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