Tag Archives: citizen science

Introducing VOLCROWE – Volunteer and Crowdsourcing Economics

volcrowe

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

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.

Screenshot 2014-02-19 19.50.34

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.

One Million Volunteers

zoohome-1-million

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.

zooniverse_map

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.

Screenshot 2014-02-14 19.10.20

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.

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!

Operation War Diary is a go!!!

avatar_wardiaries

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!

Google confirms that the Zooniverse is awesome!

The Zooniverse is extremely pleased to announce that it has been named as one of six Google Global Impact Awardees announced in December 2013. The awards are given by Google to projects that show three key elements:
  • technology or innovative approach that can deliver transformational impact
  • a specific project that tests a big game-changing idea
  • a brilliant team with a healthy disregard for the impossible

The grant we have received from Google as part of their Global Impact Award program will allow us to build a platform that can support hundreds or maybe even thousands of new and exciting citizen science projects. A list of the awardees can be seen at the Google Global Impact Award site here http://www.google.com/giving/global-impact-awards/

It means a lot to us at the Zooniverse to have been given this award and we could not have managed it without you, our volunteers. The time and effort you dedicate to our projects shows the world how important citizen science can be, and we’re looking forward to the next few years.

So thanks to you, and thanks to Google!

The Zooniverse team

PS: Just to be clear, this is a philanthropic act from Google – we’ll continue to be an academic project run by the team at Oxford, Adler Planetarium and elsewhere and all your data remains with the Zooniverse as before. Nothing changes, except our ability to scale!

P-Project Updates and New Translations

The Zooniverse has passed a few notable milestones recently. Planet Four passed 4 million classifications, Planet Hunters passed 20 million, and Plankton Portal passed 250,000. All represent a lot of work done by all of you and we thank you for the effort you put in to these and all our projects. Should we be worried that they all begin with ‘P’?
Polish Plankton
To help more people access our projects we’ve been stepping up our efforts to translate the websites. You can now participate in Plankton Portal in both French and Polish (as well as English), and there are more languages on the way for this and other projects. We’re excited about this chance to spread word of the Zooniverse around the world.
Finally, don’t forget that you can follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+. (or all three!) to keep up with news and updates from the Zooniverse.
Happy November!

New Project: Plankton Portal

It’s always great to launch a new project! Plankton Portal allows you to explore the open ocean from the comfort of your own home. You can dive hundreds of feet deep, and observe the unperturbed ocean and the myriad animals that inhabit the earth’s last frontier.

Plankton Portal Screenshot

The goal of the site is to classify underwater images in order to study plankton. We’ve teamed up with researchers at the University of Miami and Oregon State University who want to understand the distribution and behaviour of plankton in the open ocean.

The site shows you one of millions of plankton images taken by the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS), a unique underwater robot engineered at the University of Miami. ISIIS operates as an ocean scanner that casts the shadow of tiny and transparent oceanic creatures onto a very high resolution digital sensor at very high frequency. So far, ISIIS has been used in several oceans around the world to detect the presence of larval fish, small crustaceans and jellyfish in ways never before possible. This new technology can help answer important questions ranging from how do plankton disperse, interact and survive in the marine environment, to predicting the physical and biological factors could influence the plankton community.

The dataset used for Plankton Portal comes a period of just three days in Fall 2010. In three days, they collected so much data that would take more than three years to analyze it themselves. That’s why they need your help! A computer will probably be able to tell the difference between major classes of organisms, such as a shrimp versus a jellyfish, but to distinguish different species within an order or family, that is still best done by the human eye.

If you want to help, you can visit http://www.planktonportal.org. A field guide is provided, and there is a simple tutorial. The science team will be on Plankton Portal Talk to answer any questions, and the project is also on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Zooniverse: Live

Yesterday we pushed Zooniverse Live to be… er… live. Zooniverse Live is a constantly updated screen, showing live updates from most of our projects. You’ll see a map displaying the location of recent Zooniverse volunteer’s classifications and a fast-moving list of recently classified images. Zooniverse Live is on display in our Chicago and Oxford offices, but we thought it would be cool to share it with everyone.

At the time this screenshot was taken, the USA was very active and Snapshot Serengeti was busy.
At the time this screenshot was taken, the USA was very active and Snapshot Serengeti was busy.

The Zooniverse is a very busy place these days and we’ve been looking for ways to visualize activity across all the projects. Zooniverse Live is a fairly simple web application. Its backend is written in Clojure (pronounced Closure) and the front end is written in JavaScript using a library for data visualization called D3. The Zooniverse Live server listens to a stream of classification information provided by the Zooniverse projects – via a database technology called Redis. Zooniverse Live then updates its own internal database of classifications on the backend, with the front end periodically asking for updates.

The secret sauce is figuring out where users are classifying from. Zooniverse Live does that using IP Addresses. Everyone connected to the internet is assigned an IP Address by their Internet Service Provider (ISP). While the IP address assigned may change each time a computer connects to the internet, each address is unique and can be tied to a rough geographical area. When Zooniverse projects send their classifications to Zooniverse Live, they include the IP Address the user was classifying from, letting Zooniverse Live do a lookup for the user’s location to plot on the map. The locations obtained in this way are approximate, and in most cases represent your local Internet exchange.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy having a look at Zooniverse Live, and we’d love to hear ideas for other Zooniverse data visualizations you’d like to see.

Chasing Storms Online with the New Cyclone Center

Cyclone Center has recorded almost 250,000 classifications from volunteers around the world since its launch in September 2012. We’ve had lots of feedback on the project and have recently made significant changes that we think will make the experience of classifying storms more rewarding.

Patterns in storm imagery are best recognized by the human eye, so the scientists behind Cyclone Center are asking you to help look through 30 years of images of tropical storms. The end product will be a new global tropical cyclone dataset that could not be realistically obtained in any other fashion. We have already found that the pattern matching by our classifiers is doing better in many cases than a computer algorithm on the same images – this is very exciting!

The biggest change to the site is that we’re now targeting storms for classification. We’ve shifted to a system where the whole community will work on particular storms until they’re finished. This produces useful data very quickly – and means we can classify timely and scientifically useful storms as needed. These targeted storms will change frequently as you help us complete each one. You can check a box on the Cyclone Center home page that will mean you get alerted when new targeted storms appear: we hope to recruit a horde of enthusiastic online storm chasers this way.

Cyclone Centre Homepage

We’ve added much more inline classification guidance – gone are the days of clicking on question marks to get help.  For each step in the process, you will be shown information on how to best answer the question. We think this will give you more confidence in what you are doing and hopefully inspire you to do even more!

We’ve improved the tutorial and we’re providing more feedback as you go along – now instead of waiting for several images to see the “Storm Stats” page, you will immediately go there after your first image. We’ve also upgraded Cyclone Center Talk, which allows for better searching and highlights more of the interesting discussions going on between other citizen scientists.

All-in-all it’s a big change for an awesome project. Log in to Cyclone Center today and give the new version a try. Don’t forget to check the box to start getting alerted to new storms as they appear: this will be incredibly useful for the research behind the site, and means you can be the first to classify data on new storms.

[Visit http://www.cyclonecenter.org and see the blog at http://blog.cyclonecenter.org]