Become a Sunspotter and play Solar ‘Hot-or-Not’

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A few months ago we quietly placed a new project online. Called Sunspotter, it was essentially a game of hot-or-not for sunspot data – and since there were not many images available at the time, we thought it best to just let it be used by the people who noticed it, or who had tried it during the beta test. The results have since been validated, and the site works! In fact there are even preliminary results, which is all very exciting. Loads of new images have now been prepared, so today Sunspotter gets its proper debut. Try it at www.sunspotter.org.

On the site you are shown two images of sunspot groups and asked which is more complex. That might sound odd at first, but really it’s quite easy. The idea behind the science of Sunspotter is summed-up neatly on the Sunspotter blog:

I’m pretty sure you have an idea of which is the more complex: a graduate text on quantum mechanics, or an Italian cookbook? On the other hand, it would not be straight-forward for a computer to make that choice. The same is true with sunspot groups.

Or put another way: like many things in life, you’ll know complexity when you see it. Try it out now: it works on laptops, desktops, tablets and phones and you can keep up to date on Twitter, Facebook, G+, and the project’s own blog.

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Zooniverse job at the University of Portsmouth

As part of the increased involvement in the Zooniverse at the University of Portsmouth, we are offering a two-year research position to work closely with the main Zooinverse development team and help foster local Zooniverse projects within Portsmouth and beyond. This new position is part of the official buy-in of Portsmouth into the Citizen Science Alliance and builds on past and present Zooniverse interest at the university. For example, researchers at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation were involved in getting the original Zooniverse project Galaxy Zoo off the ground in 2007, and they have also explored the subsequent data-set from this ground-breaking citizen science project. ICG researchers such as Karen Masters, Bob Nichol and Tom Melvin remain heavily involved in Zooniverse projects related to Galaxy Zoo. Also at Portsmouth, Joe Cox is PI of a funded EPSRC project entitled VOLCROWE, looking at the economics of online volunteering with particular interest in crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding. This project plans to study the motivations of citizen scientists and explore ways to optimise the breadth and depth of user involvement. The new developer would join this diverse team and help build a growing interest in all things Zooniverse at the University of Portsmouth and beyond.

Details of the job, including how to apply, can be found at http://www.icg.port.ac.uk/2014/04/senior-research-associate-zooniverse/

Helping the California Condor with ‘Condor Watch’

Today we’re launching a new, and hugely important Zooniverse project: Condor Watch. The are only around 200 California Condors living in the wild and they are in serious danger from lead poisoning, which they get by eating carcasses shot with lead bullets. Getting a better idea of how they interact and socialise is crucial to ongoing conservation efforts.

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Using camera traps, ecologists in the US have been observing them in the wild. However the sheer volume of images is now overwhelming. Starting today we need your help to look through the first set of data: 264,000 images of condors eating, socialising, and nesting. Ecologists need everyone’s help to identify the individual birds from their numbered tags. Your efforts on this project will help preserve an endangered species – and we think that’s really special.

Try it now at www.condorwatch.org

The Heartbleed Bug and the Zooniverse

On Monday Internet security researches discovered a critical vulnerability in a piece of of software called OpenSSL. The so-called Heartbleed vulnerability affected numerous sites on the Internet that rely on OpenSSL to provide encrypted connections over HTTPS. This bug has been present in the library since March of 2012 and allows malicious users to gain direct access to the memory of a server terminating an HTTPS connection.

We want to let our users know that we were among almost 66% of sites on the Internet vulnerable to this bug, and your data (including your Zooniverse password) might have been compromised due to this exploit. As of now, all our infrastructure has been updated to secure against the Heartbleed vulnerability, and our SSL certificates have been changed.

Unfortunately given the nature of the vulnerability we cannot know what, if anything, may have been obtained, but as a precaution we are recommending that our users change their passwords on the Zooniverse just in case.

 

Wrap-Up from the Workshop on Citizen Science in Astronomy

Last week was a productive and busy week in Taipei for the attendees of the workshop on Citizen Science in Astronomy at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA).

In case you missed the live webcast, all the slides from the invited talks on the first day as well as video recordings are archived online at http://csiaworkshop.zooniverse.org/

At the workshop dinner, with the help of an iPhone and a Lazy Susan, Chris took a video of all the participants. You might spot some familiar faces from the Zooniverse and various project science teams:

Members of the Galaxy Zoo team also held a short hangout later in the week:

All and all, I think I can speak for everyone who attended by saying it was a successful workshop with the general consensus being, that funding permitting, in a few years everyone would like for a similar workshop to happen again.I look forward to hearing about the results and papers produced from the efforts to better combine classifications  started at the workshop over the coming months and year. Keep tuned to the Zooniverse blog and project blogs for updates.

This workshop was possible due to the support of the Zooniverse and the financial support from the Ministry of Science & Technology and ASIAA in Taiwan. Other co-organizers on the Science Organizing Committee were Chris, Rob, Stuart, and Arfon and on the Local Organizing Committee: Shiang-Yu Wang.

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.

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