Adler Members’ Night recap

We had a blast hanging out with Chicago-area volunteers and Adler Members at last month’s Adler Members’ Night! Visitors were able to try out potential new Zooniverse projects and Adler exhibits, including a constellation-themed project in collaboration with the Adler’s collections department, as well as U!Scientist, our NSF-supported touch table installation which features Galaxy Zoo.

Northwestern University researchers shook it up demonstrating why earthquakes behave in different ways based on plate friction, registered jumps on a seismograph and quizzed guests on seismograms from jumping second graders, storms and different earthquakes. Their Zooniverse project Earthquake Detective is currently in beta and is set to launch soon.

And we were delighted to watch volunteer @GlamasaurusRex complete her 15,000th classification LIVE IN PERSON. She made the classification on Higgs Hunters. Check out the video here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1jttO1w1OfPY9LEaS5SjmEzy36PiGnY4U

Beta for Mobile

One of the big efforts for the mobile app right now is to make the project building experience for mobile feel about the same as it does for web. For the most part, the experiences were very similar. In fact, they were almost identical besides the limitations we put on what workflows mobile projects can have. There was, however, a very large limiting factor for mobile project builders. There was no formal path from creating a project to getting that project to release on the app.

Introducing Beta Mode for mobile!

Now project builders who want their workflows to be enabled on mobile can have them reviewed on mobile as well. Here’s how it works:

When a project that has a mobile workflow is approved to go to beta, it will appear in the “Beta Review” section on the main page of the app.

Simulator Screen Shot - iPhone 8 - 2018-10-31 at 13.41.22

From there, users will be able to view and test all of the beta projects that are currently live.

We are launching this feature with (of course) Galaxy Zoo Mobile. It is available now for all our users, so go ahead and check it out!

Simulator Screen Shot - iPhone 8 - 2018-10-31 at 13.41.35

Like beta review on web-based projects, we will collect feedback from volunteer testers and give that back to project owners. This new process will lead to better, clearer mobile workflows in the future.

Stay tuned for more notes about upcoming mobile features!

Download our iOS and Android apps!

Who’s who in the Zoo – Syracuse University Zooniverse User Research Group

This week, meet the Syracuse University Zooniverse User Research Group – a team that works across multiple Zooniverse projects to study many aspects of citizen science, including what volunteers learn through participation and what motivates them to contribute. 

– Helen


group - Corey Jackson.png

 

Research Team: Syracuse University’s Zooniverse User Research Group

Location: School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York USA

 

What are your main research interests?

Our group studies user behaviors in Zooniverse. Our research is centered on (1) understanding the complex and emergent motivations of volunteers who contribute to Zooniverse projects and (2) investigating how amateurs learn via participation in projects. Our research covers users in Planet Hunters, Higgs Hunters, Asteroid Zoo, Seafloor Explorer, and Gravity Spy.

 

Who is in your project team? What are their roles?

Kevin Crowston, Professor

Carsten Osterlund, Associate Professor

Corey Jackson, Ph.D. Candidate

Mabi Harandi, Ph.D. Student

Amruta Bhat, Masters Student

Dhruv Kharwar, Masters Student

Isabella Valentine, Undergraduate Student (REU)

 

Tell us more about the data used in your research

Our data comes from system logs, Talk posts, surveys, focus groups, and interviews.

 

How do Zooniverse volunteers contribute to your research? 

Zooniverse volunteers are extremely valuable to our research and in turn, enhance our ability to suggest features that encourage motivation and support learning.

 

What are the biggest challenges in your research?

One of the biggest challenges is learning more about newcomers and dropouts in the projects. These volunteers are valuable contributors to many citizen science projects. However, because they do not stay with the project for very long, there’s not much opportunity to interact with them. Understanding why they leave and how we can encourage them to stay can help increase contribution to Zooniverse projects.

 

What discoveries, and other outputs, has your project led to so far?

We’ve published more than twenty full papers, posters, and other publications based on user research in Zooniverse. You can see the list here (https://citsci.syr.edu/papers).

 

Once you’ve finished collecting data, what research questions do you hope to be able to answer?

Our questions center on motivation and learning. For instance, when newcomers join a project, informative resources such as volunteer-created discussion threads might be hidden across the discussion forums. We’re trying to find methods to apply machine learning techniques to bring these to the fore.

 

What’s in store for your project in the future?

Currently, we’re collaborating with the Gravity Spy project to design more complex citizen science tasks. For example, in Gravity Spy volunteers come up with their own labels to name phenomenon in the spectrograms they classify.

 

What are your favourite other citizen research projects and why?

We’re most actively involved with Gravity Spy. We’re currently working with LIGO scientists to design advanced citizen science work. We hope this research leads to the inclusion of citizen science tasks covering more phases of the scientific research process.

 

What guidance would you give to other researchers considering creating a citizen research project?

One of the most crucial aspects of a successful citizen science projects is engagement by the science team. Answering volunteer question on the discussion boards, organizing Skype meetings, providing feedback and keeping volunteers abreast of progress has been shown to encourage volunteers to remain active.

 


If you’d like to learn more about Syracuse University’s Zooniverse User Research Group check out their publications here (https://citsci.syr.edu/papers).

Who’s who in the Zoo – Grant Miller

In this week’s edition of our Who’s who in the Zoo series meet Grant Miller, communications and projects manager here at the Zooniverse. 

– Helen


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Name: Grant Miller

Location: University of Oxford, UK

 

 

 

Tell us about your role within the team:

I don’t really have a solid job title. Sometimes I say communications lead. Occasionally it’s project manager. At points it has been community manager. I’ve been with the team for over 5 years and my role essentially involves talking to everyone (volunteers, project builders, the development team, and external researchers).

 

What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?

I completed a PhD at the University of St Andrews in the search for, and characterisation of, exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy).

 

What does your typical working day involve?

Quite a few emails. A lot of working with people to help them build and run their project in the best way possible. Fantastic discussions with the other Zooniverse team members about how we can improve the platform.

 

How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?

The Zooniverse breaks down barriers, leading to open research that wouldn’t be possible without the help of millions of volunteers worldwide.

 

Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with

I was a masters student doing a summer internship when Galaxy Zoo launched. I fell in love with it and did thousands of classifications one week instead of the work I was supposed to be doing.

 

Of all the discoveries made possible by the Zooniverse, which for you has been the most notable and why?

People all around the world, of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds will help you with your research if you just ask, and they’ll do it for no more than their desire to see progress.

 

What’s been your most memorable Zooniverse experience?

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks on an expedition to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica with the Penguin Watch research team, helping them maintain their cameras and monitor the penguin colonies. That’s hard to beat, but there have been many many other highlights over the last 5 years.

 

What are your top three citizen science projects? 

Plankton Portal (It was the first one I helped launch, and it is awesome. The images of the tiny sea creature are fantastic.)

Snapshot Serengeti (…and all other camera trap projects that followed. It was the original camera trap project on the Zooniverse and my first experience of the amazing and candid shots you could get of wildlife when they don’t think they’re being watched.)

Planet Hunters (it was the first exoplanet project we launched. On it the volunteers showed us just how awesome they could be when allowed to talk to each other. They discovered the first ever planet with 4 stars! I wish I had been smart enough to create a project like this to help with my PhD…)

 

What advice would you give to a researcher considering creating a Zooniverse project?

You’re entering a huge collaboration with lots of wonderful volunteers. Treat them with respect and communicate with them as often as you would a professional collaborator. They will reward you with awesome discoveries and unrivaled effort.

 

How can someone who’s never contributed to a citizen science project get started?

Just click ‘Get Started’ on any Zooniverse project. they are designed to minimise the barrier to entry. All of the tasks are pretty easy to do, and most projects come with a short tutorial to help you.

 

Where do you hope citizen science and the Zooniverse will be in 10 years time?

In every household and classroom. But seriously, just more present in people’s thoughts when they consider research methods. We also need to get humans working with machines to go through even larger datasets.

 

Is there anything in the Zooniverse pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?

I’m really excited to see what happens when we get humans and machines working together on the same datasets. This will allow us to do research that isn’t even possible with a large crowd.

 

When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

Either exploring somewhere I’ve not been before, on the golf course, on the real tennis court, listening to music, watching football (‘mon Scotland!), or in the pub with friends. Preferably all of the above on the same day.

 

Do you have any party tricks or hidden talents?

I play guitar, but never do it in public anymore. I can also name all 50 US state capitals, which is pretty much useless. I’m above average at balancing objects (my record is 4 golf balls, or 5 pint glasses before being asked to leave the pub.)


 

Zooniverse Data Aggregation

Hi all, I am Coleman Krawczyk and for the past year I have been working on tools to help Zooniverse research teams work with their data exports.  The current version of the code (v1.3.0) supports data aggregation for nearly all the project builder task types, and support will be added for the remaining task types in the coming months.

What does this code do?

This code provides tools to allow research teams to process and aggregate classifications made on their project, or in other words, this code calculates the consensus answer for a given subject based on the volunteer classifications.  

The code is written in python, but it can be run completely using three command line scripts (no python knowledge needed) and a project’s data exports.

Configuration

The first script is the uses a project’s workflow data export to auto-configure what extractors and reducers (see below) should be run for each task in the workflow.  This produces a series of `yaml` configuration files with reasonable default values selected.

Extraction

Next the extraction script takes the classification data export and flattens it into a series of `csv` files, one for each unique task type, that only contain the data needed for the reduction process.  Although the code tries its best to produce completely “flat” data tables, this is not always possible, so more complex tasks (e.g. drawing tasks) have structured data for some columns.

Reduction

The final script takes the results of the data extraction and combine them into a single consensus result for each subject and each task (e.g. vote counts, clustered shapes, etc…).  For more complex tasks (e.g. drawing tasks) the reducer’s configuration file accepts parameters to help tune the aggregation algorithms to best work with the data at hand.

A full example using these scripts can be found in the documentation.

Future for this code

At the moment this code is provided in its “offline” form, but we testing ways for this aggregation to be run “live” on a Zooniverse project.  When that system is finished a research team will be able to enter their configuration parameters directly in the project builder, a server will run the aggregation code, and the extracted or reduced `csv` files will be made available for download.

You’re invited!

Once again, we’re hosting a meetup for our Chicago-area Zooniverse volunteers during Adler’s Members’ Night.

Visit us at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago where you’ll be able to:

  • Meet Zooniverse team members
  • Talk to researchers from Northwestern University about an upcoming project
  • Preview new projects
  • Help us beta test a new exhibit for the Adler

The event is free for all Zooniverse volunteers – at the door, just show your Zooniverse profile either on a mobile device or printed out. You’ll be able to participate in all of the Adler’s Members’ Night activities and tour the planetarium after hours.

Adler Planetarium Members’ Night
Friday, October 26
6:00-10:00 pm
Free!

Who’s who in the Zoo – Sarah Allen

In this week’s edition of Who’s who in the Zoo, meet Sarah Allen, a front-end web developer in the Zooniverse team. 

– Helen


SarahAllen - Sarah Allen

Name: Sarah Allen

Location: Adler Planetarium, Chicago

 

 

Tell us about your role within the team:

I’m a front-end web developer and have been with the team for three and a half years. I’ve worked on a variety of projects including Chimp & See, Wildcam Gorongosa, Zooniverse Classrooms’ educational tools, Gravity Spy, and day to day maintenance of zooniverse.org.

 

What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?

I originally did IT for a couple of medical schools involving Windows server management, Google domain management, application management, and general help desk. I eventually decided to learn to code and went to a code bootcamp when those first started getting popular. Then continued to self-teach as well as freelance before I joined the Zooniverse team.

 

What does your typical working day involve?

Usually first checking slack, email, and the Zooniverse talk board for any bug reports. Then I prioritize code reviews, following up to any pull requests I’ve submitted, then new feature development or learning about something new in the afternoon

 

How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?

We empower researchers and the public to find answers to questions in real data.

 

Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with

Cyclone Center! My first project was implementing the project redesign and classification challenge.

 

Of all the discoveries made possible by the Zooniverse, which for you has been the most notable and why?

Tabby’s star on Planet Hunters. It’s been one of my go to examples when explaining what it is that we do.

 

What’s been your most memorable Zooniverse experience?

Building and launching Chimp & See. It was a mostly solo project for me and although there was a learning curve and frustrating times with it, I felt very accomplished when it launched. I learned a lot from the process

 

What are your top three citizen science projects? 

Chimp & See, Planet Hunters, and Gravity Spy.

 

What advice would you give to a researcher considering creating a Zooniverse project?

Do lots of prototyping and beta testing with the project builder before you launch so you have a solid idea of the data format going in and what the resulting classification data will look like. Have a timely plan on how to process the data and get that results back to the volunteers.

 

When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

Seeing live music, dining out, playing video or board games, or cooking at home.

Who’s who in the Zoo – Becky Rother

In this week’s edition of our Who’s who in the Zoo series meet Becky Rother, who is visual design lead here at the Zooniverse.

– Helen


becky-2 - Becky Rother

Name: Becky Rother

Location: Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL

 

 

 

Tell us about your role within the team: 

I’ve been the Zooniverse designer for a little over a year. In this role, I design custom projects like Scribes of the Cairo Geniza in addition to general Zooniverse.org and public-facing design needs. I also help organize public Zooniverse events here at the Adler Planetarium.

 

What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?

I actually have a degree in Journalism, and have worked in various roles from newspaper page designer to mobile app designer.

 

What does your typical working day involve?

Being on the US team, there’s usually some catch up to be done from our UK colleagues involving reviewing an implemented design or answering questions on our Slack channel. Besides that, every day is different! I may design a giant banner one day, then the next work on wireframes for a new project we’re just getting started.

 

How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?

Zooniverse is an exceptional group of people working together to positively effect science and the humanities.

 

Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with

The first custom project I worked on was the Anti-Slavery Manuscripts, a collaborative transcription project in partnership with the Boston Public Library. It’s a really special project for a number of reasons, and a great introduction to the Zooniverse community.

 

What are your top three citizen science projects?

I’m obsessed with our camera trap projects – Chicago Wildlife Watch in particular. It’s SO COOL to get to see actual animals in their native habitats. I also really enjoy Gravity Spy – as a non-astronomer, it’s neat to be able to help scientists study gravitational waves. Lastly, I may be biased but I really enjoy Anti-Slavery Manuscripts. Reading these first-hand accounts from people actually involved in the abolitionist movement during the Civil War really brings history to life.

 

When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

Chicago has so many great music venues, so I love taking advantage of that and going to indie rock shows. I also love travel and will take any opportunity to explore somewhere new.


 

Focussing effort where it is needed: picking out the Bugs that are harder to Bash

Below is a guest post from Dr Philip Fowler, who leads our award-winning bug-squishing project BashTheBug. This project aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, which remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

This project has a huge amount of data to get through, so Phil is working hard to make sure this is being done in the most efficient way possible. Read on to find out more. 

– Helen

 


Focussing effort where it is needed: picking out the Bugs that are harder to Bash

 

BashTheBug has been running for a little over a year now and in that time 11,303 volunteers have classified 834,032 images of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis growing on 14 antibiotics at different strengths. These images correspond to a bit less than 4,000 different samples of M. tuberculosis since each image is shown, by default, to different 15 volunteers to generate a consensus.

The goal of the larger CRyPTIC project that BashTheBug belongs to is to match all this data with the genomes of each and every sample and thereby produce the most comprehensive and accurate catalogue of what genetic variants confer resistance to specific antibiotics. This is important because there is a shift towards using genomic methods to diagnose which antibiotics would be best to treat individual patient infections because genomics can be faster, cheaper and probably more accurate as well.

 

Too many new images?

The CRyPTIC project has produced a new dataset of 4,286 samples. These have been collected from people with tuberculosis from all over the world.

This dataset alone would need 900,060 classifications if we were to simply require each antibiotic lane to be seen by 15 different volunteers and, unless a lot more people joined the project, would take at least a year. Our problem is the project is producing around 1,000 samples a month, which would require 210,000 classifications a month, which our volunteers at present could not keep up with!

Ultimately the CRyPTIC project will collect at least 30,000 samples over the next few years, so we are only at the beginning!

 

Some images are easy…

What might help is we’ve found that some of the images of bacterial growth are easy to classify. For example, all 15 volunteers identify well number 2 as the first well in which there is growth.

Unknown

If the volunteers find this easy, a computer might also, so we wrote some computer software (called AMyGDA) that tries to measure the growth in each of the wells on the 96-well plate. It does a good job on these simple cases, but is confused by cases where this is little growth, or there are artefacts on the image, like air bubbles, contamination or shadows.

We can identify the “easier” images based on how much growth there is, and whether the computer software agrees with the single reading we have of each plate done by a laboratory scientist. On our new dataset of 4,286 samples, this approach identifies 84% of the antibiotic lanes as easy to classify.

If we only send the remaining 16% of images to the volunteers, that reduces the number of classifications we need to complete this dataset down to 144,000 with a monthly growth rate of 34,000 which is much more achievable!

 

…and some are hard.

But this means you will all be seeing images that are harder to interpret and classify and therefore should be more of a challenge.

This is an example of an image that is harder to classify.

Unknown-1

In our existing dataset, these images have typically elicited a range of answers. Some volunteers might say they cannot classify the image, whilst others would identify a range of wells as being the first with no growth. We can, of course, still form a consensus (I’d say well 5), but the variation is itself telling us something about how and why the image is hard to classify, which is potentially useful (for example, for training a machine learning classifier).

 

A few things to think about

Because the images should be, on average, more challenging now, you will have to make more frequent judgment calls about whether that blob in well 5 is an artefact or whether it “looks like” growth, and if you think it is, whether or not it is big enough to be relevant. Personally, I’d say for something to be growth it has to look like the growth in the positive control wells. If it is a lot smaller (like a dot) then I personally tend to ignore it. Don’t spend too long on individual images – rely on the collective power of the volunteers to allow us to extract a consensus from all your answers!

 

Focussing your efforts

In summary

– there are a lot of new images available to classify on our Zooniverse project page and
– they should be, on average, a lot more interesting and challenging

 

To get more frequent project updates,

– check for banners on the Zooniverse project page
– follow BashTheBug on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
– check out our blog

 


Philip W Fowler
6 August 2018

The Zooniverse at the Royal Society

Pano Royal

On the 3rd of July the Zooniverse team headed to London to take part in the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition. Several Zooniverse projects were featured, including Galaxy Zoo, Penguin Watch and The Plastic Tide:

Zooniverse

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Zooniverse at the Royal Society

For those of you new to the Zoo, the Zooniverse is an online platform for Citizen Science research. It relies on volunteers to analyse data which then contributes to real research. This often results in new discoveries, publications and data sets useful to the wider research community. At the Royal Society, Zooniverse team members; Adam McMaster, Grant Miller, Cam Allen, Jim O’Donnell and Helen Spiers gave visitors a whistle stop tour of the Zooniverse and answered any questions people had about what we do. Visitors were surprised at the plethora of projects on the platform that they can contribute to, and got to ‘listen to the Zooniverse’ via a web page that plays a note for every classification made! You can listen to it here, it’s not the easiest thing to dance to but I think it makes nice background music.

Galaxy Zoo

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Galaxy Zoo

Members of the Galaxy Zoo team, Coleman Krawczyk and Jen Gupta, shared the ‘Tactile Universe’ with visitors. The Tactile Universe is a project aimed at making astronomy more accessible to those with visual impairments. The team behind it has developed a way to 3D print galaxy images so that the brighter parts of the picture stick out more. This allows you to feel the shape of the galaxy rather than see it. People really seemed to enjoy trying to match up pictures of the galaxies with what they could feel on the ‘Tactile Universe’ tiles. Also on show was the Galaxy Zoo project, which asks volunteers to identify the type of galaxy in an image.

Penguin Watch

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Penguin Watch

Do you want to count some penguins? If yes then Penguin Watch is the project for you! Fiona Jones, a member of the Penguin Watch team, and myself showed this project off to visitors at the exhibition. Visitors were interested to learn how something as simple as clicking on the penguins in an image can make a big difference to not only scientists but also the penguins themselves. This is because scientists can use the information they get from Penguin Watch to monitor and protect the penguin populations. We also had some cold weather gear and a ration pack which the team need to set up the Penguin Watch cameras in the cold arctic climate. (I still tried the gear on despite the 25 degree temperatures in sunny London!).

The Plastic Tide

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Plastic Tide

Showing visitors the big problem of plastic pollution in our oceans was The Plastic Tide team; Peter Kohler, Stefan Leutenegger, Karl-Mattias Tepp, and Arturo Castillo. The Plastic Tide project asks volunteers to look at photos of beaches taken by their drone and tag plastic and other rubbish. Visitors to the exhibition were very interested to learn that they could help with this project even from the comfort of their own homes! The team also gave a live demonstration of how they are using the data they get from the Zooniverse to train a computer to identify rubbish on beaches!

 

Visit Zooniverse: www.zooniverse.org

Visit Galaxy Zoo: www.galaxy-zoo.org

Visit Penguin Watch: www.penguinwatch.org

Visit Plastic Tide: www.the-plastic-tide.org