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.

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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

Thoughts From the Classroom: Riley & Harrison

This fourth post in our Thoughts From the Classroom series comes from Riley and Harrision.  Riley and Harrison are 8th grade students at Gate Academy and are both Galaxy Zoo volunteers.

Riley:

Galaxy Zoo is a great program. It was brought to my attention when we began using Galaxy Zoo in class. It was extremely interesting because I had never seen pictures of our universe like the ones I am able to see on Galaxy Zoo. On one picture, we found an amazing spiral galaxy with such a huge level of clarity, you could even see individual stars. It just blew me away.

Galaxy Zoo is enlightening about the true scale and beauty of our universe. In the background of these immense galaxies you can see dozens of smaller galaxies, which are really just as huge as the one you’re getting a close up of. How cool is that? The structures are so massive but detailed down to the tiniest level, as demonstrated on Earth. I think that everyone should give themselves a chance to appreciate our Universe.

Galaxy Zoo really provided me with food for thought, and I recommend it strongly to anyone with the vaguest curiosity about what’s up there.

Harrison

I’m Harrison, and I used Galaxy Zoo in my middle school class. We instantly loved it because, it’s the perfect combination of learning about the different types of galaxies and having fun while doing it.  Using Galaxy Zoo also gives you a feeling of helping scientific research, by helping progress our scientific understanding of the Universe. The website is user friendly allowing you to classify galaxies, check your personal account, and see other information with a click of a button. The website is interactive and awesome showing you breath-taking pictures that you get to classify. There is so much to do and you can easily be lost for hours. I would recommend Galaxy Zoo to anyone.

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

Snapshot Serengeti Brings Authentic Research into Undergraduate Courses

Today’s post comes from Annika Moe. Annika is a post-doctoral fellow in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota and has a background in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. She is currently working to incorporate authentic research experiences into courses for non-biology majors and incorporate learning technologies into the classroom.

 ‘What is that?” My officemate crossed the room and squinted at the image on my computer.

“Tawny-colored herbivore?” I tilted my head and considered a new angle of the extreme close-up photo before me. “Lion?”

“Mmm… wishful thinking…”

“I’m calling it a Hartebeest. They seem to always be standing around under trees.  This camera’s probably fixed to a tree” and I clicked on the “Next capture” button.

“Trotsky!” we both sang out as we watched a lone warthog plod half-ways across the screen.  We had decided it was an appropriate name for the jolly looking animal that kept appearing at a number of different camera sites. Next capture.

This went on for a couple hours as I familiarized myself with Zooniverse’s Snapshot Serengeti project.  I couldn’t stop pressing that button… Next captureNext capture…  It was addicting.  Something about this experience was transporting me across the world and tapping into a child-like sense of wonder that I hadn’t felt in a long while.

Snapshot Serengeti was a perfect fit for what I wanted to accomplish.

“Incorporate an authentic research experience into a laboratory course for non-biology majors.”  This was the charge I was given when I arrived at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2012.  With funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the College of Biological Sciences had hired a group of post docs to tackle this challenge across a number of the “non-major” courses offered by the Biology Program.

With a degree in ecology and evolution, I made a beeline for BIOLOGY 1001: Ecological and Evolutionary Perspectives.  What fun! Working with my favorite student demographic (non-biology majors) on my favorite subjects!

It would be a great challenge.  This may be the only biology class these students take during their college education.  Many may believe that they have no interest in or talent for science. They could be future engineers, business leaders, teachers, politicians, computer scientists, comedians, or journalists. What do we want these students to take away from their one biology class? What is an authentic research experience, and can students authentically experience science in such a short time?

 I had recently read a paper by a group from Stanford University [1] that gave a number of suggestions for successfully integrating faculty research into undergraduate biology education. Snapshot Serengeti met some of the more challenging suggestions.

  1. Low barrier of technical expertise for students to collect data Check.  Snapshot Serengeti has an intuitive user-interface and tutorial tools. Students can learn to collect data with little to no instruction.
  2.  Established checks and balances for student-collected data Check. Snapshot Serengeti has a data quality control system of multiple identifications and ID confirmation through consensus.
  3. Diverse, but constrained set of variables for developing hypotheses Check.  The data collected by the Snapshot Serengeti project consists of a manageable number of variables and metadata associated with camera locations.  The nature of the data generally directs investigations toward asking questions about distribution patterns over time and space.
  4. Central database accessible to all students Check.  The researchers behind the Snapshot Serengeti project are led by Dr. Craig Packer, professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior and instructor of BIOL 1001 at the University of Minnesota.  The current quality-checked data set from Snapshot Serengeti is readily available to our students.

And so I prepared a six-week laboratory module in which students used the Snapshot Serengeti project to make observations and collect data, generate testable questions and investigate those questions using the combined data from all Snapshot Serengeti participants.  While it is impossible to experience all aspects of scientific research in six weeks, the module uses exploratory research and observational study to highlight a few key pieces of the process.

 The first two weeks are spent exploring, observing and wondering about Serengeti wildlife. Students read and discuss scientific papers on Serengeti ecology.  They learn about trophic dynamics and interactions through building a Serengeti food web.  Students spend time using the Snapshot Serengeti website and practice generating observations and questions from both individual photos and sets of photos across space and time.  From this pool of experiences, students draw on their own intellectual curiosity and understanding to form their research questions.

The third week introduces the students to the Snapshot Serengeti database.  Students are given instruction on how to use the data filter and graphing functions in the statistical program Jmp.  They are given time to explore the data and computer program to try and address a few testable questions given to them at the start of the lab session.  Students compare different data visualization methods and discuss their relative utility in displaying different types of data.

During the fourth and fifth weeks, students work in groups to investigate a set of their own questions, organized around a theme in Serengeti ecology.  Groups are let loose with the database and Jmp program to investigate their questions and prepare a presentation of their findings. During these two weeks, Students experience the challenge that researchers face in identifying the data that truly addresses their questions and organizing the data to test their ideas.

In the final week, groups present their research to the class and reflect on what they’ve learned about the nature of science and the research process.

During Fall of 2013, we piloted this module in 3 lab sections involving 59 students. I had no idea what the students would take away from the six weeks of working with the Snapshot Serengeti project.  The assignments were open-ended and students largely left to figure out how to address their questions without explicit instruction. I expected that they would be confused, frustrated and perhaps even angry.  I was afraid that working with a giant spreadsheet of numbers would bore them.  I was hoping for something great, but prepared for a disaster.

I was shocked by what I saw during the pilot of the module. Students were huddled over their computers for the entire two hours of each lab period, working furiously to find patterns in their data.  They were on task, engaged and asking questions.

I was even more amazed when I asked what they had learned from their experience.

They recognized the creative nature of science:

“Being a design student, art has always been a stronger subject than science [for me]. With this lab I realized the two are very similar.  The process of discovery is the same and even science takes creativity.”

-Architecture

“I did not realize how much trial and error [is involved] because the usual labs… had instructions for how to do them properly.  This time I was creating the process.”

-English

 They recognized the difference between logical thought and empirical evidence:

 “I learned that most of the time your common sense thoughts are not backed up strongly by research.”

-Political Science and Philosophy

 “[I learned] that failing to find what you were looking for is still a result and happens often in science. “

-Finance

They experienced the scientific method as more than a blind march through a series of steps:

“I learned it’s not as linear a process as I thought it was.  Hypotheses and conclusions change alongside the discovery of new data; it’s a fluid process.”

 -Journalism

They recognized that the direction of research is driven by questions:

“I knew that it was really important to continually ask questions but I did not realize how integrated it was to the process or how naturally more questions appear.”

-Undeclared

Reflecting back on some of my initial questions about what makes a research experience “authentic”, the answer really isn’t that complicated.  Scientists have the freedom pursue the questions that interest them and the freedom to follow where those questions lead. Give students the tools to ask and investigate questions, then give them the freedom to be a scientist.

Zooniverse and Snapshot Serengeti offer an amazing exploratory platform from which to awaken curiosity and dive into the scientific process.

 “Try to find out something interesting. Interest is the best motivation.”

-Actuarial math and accounting student

[1] Kloser, M.J. et al. 2011. Integrating Teaching and Research in Undergraduate Biology Laboratory Education. PLoS Biology. Vol 9:11. e1001174.

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.

Educator Opinions Needed on Planet Hunters Educational Resources

The prospect of discovering a whole new planet in Planet Hunters is super amazing and awesome.  I sometimes refer to it as the “sexiest” outcome of any Zooniverse project (sorry lions and plankton). Here at the Zooniverse we’ve found that young people get pretty jazzed about the prospect of discovering a new world too. We want to deepen that excitement by helping students to understand the science behind the project.

Over the past year educators have been developing the Planet Hunters Educators Guide.  Specifically targeted at middle school students (11-14 year olds), this nine-lesson unit aims to help students gain an in-depth understanding of the science behind Planet Hunters. Topics addressed include the transit method of detecting exoplanets, habitable zones, working with Kepler data to determine features of the different exoplanets, and much more. Last spring we conducted a first round of teacher review of the initial set of lessons. Since then they’ve been updated and improved based on the incredibly valuable feedback provided by teachers from around the world.

We’re carrying out a second round of teacher evaluation on these the revised lessons. Care to lend us your opinion?  We need teachers to tell us what they think about these lessons and how to make them better!

The Details

  • If you’d like to help us create this educational resource please fill in this Google Form.  
  • We’ll email you directly with instructions on accessing the lessons and evaluation forms by Friday February 14th.
  • US-based teachers who complete either of the following options by 5pm CST on Wednesday March 10th will receive a $25 Amazon gift card via email. 

1.)  Pilot at least two lessons with students and complete a short feedback form for each lesson.

OR

2.)  Read at least four lessons and complete a short feedback form for each lesson.

We welcome the opinions from educators from any country, but are only able to offer the Amazon gift card to US-based teachers due to grant restrictions.  If you have any questions please comment below or email education@zooniverse.org.  

Thoughts From the Classroom: Ellen

In our third Thoughts From the Classroom post, Ellen explains what citizen science is and how she liked using it during Ms. V time.

My name is Ellen, I’m 12 years old, and I just moved up to Phoenix class. I read about Citizen Science in a magazine article and thought it sounded really interesting.

With Citizen Science, you can help sort important data that scientists will use to help them study things like the ocean floor and space, find out what animals are living in Africa and where, or even by doing something as simple as taking pictures as lady bugs or taking a video of you playing with your dog, help them discover rare ladybug species and understand how humans and animals interact. Computers can’t do these things, so scientists need your help!

I was really excited to learn we would be working at a Citizen Science website for Ms.V time.  (That’s what we call our teacher’s class.)  So far I really like it, and I’m looking forward to learning more about Zooniverse. In Radio Galaxy Zoo, you help scientists find black holes (by looking for their jets) and their sources by looking at pictures of different radiation levels. My class has seen incredible shapes that makes it seem like the Universe is talking, such as a smiley face and bee made out of bright blobs of infra-red light. You’ll see huge pieces of light that look like you’re staring right into a star and streaks of infra-red radiation across space. So what are you waiting for? Check it out!