Category Archives: CitizenScience

Workshop on Citizen Science in Astronomy


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.

Introducing VOLCROWE – Volunteer and Crowdsourcing Economics


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

Operation War Diary is a go!!!


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

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

Announcing the Citizen Science in Astronomy Workshop


As astronomical surveys and observations have continued to grow towards the petabyte scale, online citizen science projects have proven quite successful in enlisting the general public to mine these rich datasets from searching for exoplanets to identifying gravitational lenses. With new instruments and observatories currently being planned and built such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), the next decade will see astronomy officially enter the petabyte age. When complete in 2022, LSST, an 8.4-meter optical telescope, will generate 15 terabytes worth of images each night, creating the largest public dataset in the world. LSST will provide images of billions (yes billions!) of new galaxies. The SKA will be the largest radio telescope ever built when it is scheduled to come online in 2024, generating roughly 11 terabytes of raw data per second. In a single day, the SKA will  produce more information than all of the present day Internet combined! Citizen science will need to evolve to be able to handle the coming data deluge.

The Zooniverse and the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA) are organizing a workshop on Citizen Science in Astronomy. The goal of this workshop is to take the first steps towards addressing the critical questions and issues that citizen science will need to solve in order to cope with these never-before-seen data volumes in the age of LSST and SKA. We aim to bring together machine learning experts, computer scientists, astronomers, and scientists from astronomy-based citizen science projects to test current techniques used to assess the capabilities of individual classifiers and combine their results, create techniques for better directing volunteer efforts to improve efficiency of current and future citizen science projects, and develop new methods for analyzing citizen science data combined with machine learning algorithms.

This 5-day workshop from March 3-7, 2014 will be held at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Academia Sinica (ASIAA) located in Taipei, Taiwan. For more information you can check out the workshop website. Pre-registration is now available until December 1st.  If you have any questions about the signup process, please get in touch. We’ll be sending out acceptances around December 15th.

See you in Taipei!

The Elise Andrew Effect – What a post on IFLS does to your numbers


Recenty the Andromeda Project was the feature of one of the posts on the ‘I fucking Love Science’ Facebook page. The page, which was started by Elise Andrew in March 2012, currently has 8 million likes, so some form of noticeable impact was to be expected! Here are some of the interesting numbers the post is responsible for:

I’ll start with the Facebook post itself. As of writing (16 hours after original posting), it has been shard 1,842 times, liked by 6,494 people and has 218 comments. These numbers are actually relatively low for an IFLS post, some of which can reach over 70,000 shares!

The ‘IFLS spike’ in the Andromeda Project classifications and active users

Let’s now have a look at what it did for the Andromeda Project. The project, which was launched two days previous and was already pretty popular, had settled down to around 100 active users per hour. This number shot up to almost 600 immediately following the post. In the space of 5 minutes the number of visitors on the site went from 13 to 1,300! After a few hours it settled down again, but now the steady rate looks to be about 25% higher than before. The number of classifications per hour follows the same pattern. The amazing figure here is that almost 100,000 classifications were made in the 4 hours following the post. This number corresponds to around 1/6th of the total needed to complete the project!

The number of visitors per day to the Planet Hunters site over the last two weeks. Visits increased by a factor of ten on the day of the IFLS post, and three days later the numbers are still greater than before.

Two days after her post about the Andromeda Project, Elise put up a post about the discovery of a seventh planet around the dwarf star KIC 11442793, which was found by citizen scientist on the Planet Hunters project. This post proved even more popular than the previous one with more than 3,000 shares, and led to a similar spike of the same magnitude in the number of visitors to the site (as can be seen in the plot above).

Finally, what did it do for the Zooniverse as a whole? Well there have been over 4,000 new Zooniverse accounts registered within the last four days and the Facebook page, which was linked in the AP article, got a healthy boost of around 1,000 new likes. So all things considered, it seems that an IFLS post can be very useful for promoting your project indeed!

Thanks Elise, the Andromeda Project, Planet Hunters and  Zooniverse teams love you!

Galaxy Zoo Quench: A New Kind of Citizen Science

A new ‘mini’ project went live yesterday called Galaxy Zoo Quench. This project involves new images of 6,004 galaxies drawn from the original Galaxy Zoo. As usual, everyone is invited to come and classify these galaxies, but this project has a twist that makes it special! We hope to take citizen science to the next level by providing the opportunity to take part in the entire scientific process – everything from classifying galaxies to analyzing results to collaborating with astronomers to writing a scientific article!

Galaxy Zoo Quench

Galaxy Zoo Quench is examining a sample of galaxies that have recently and abruptly quenched their star formation. These galaxies are aptly named Post-Quenched Galaxies. They provide an ideal laboratory for studying galaxy evolution. So that’s exactly what we want to do: with the help of the Zooniverse community. We hope you’ll join us as we try out a new kind of citizen science project. Visit to learn more.

The entire process of classifying, analyzing, discussing, and writing the article will take place over an ~8-12 week period. After classifying the galaxies, Quench volunteers can use to plot the data and look for trends. We also have a special Quench Talk forum to discuss and identify key results to include in the paper – above you can see examples of some of the cool objects people have already found and discussed.

Have questions about the project? Leave a comment here or ask us on Twitter (@galaxyzoo) or on the Galaxy Zoo Facebook page. In case you’re worried: the regular Galaxy Zoo will continue as normal.

Now go visit and start classifying!