Tag Archives: Zooniverse

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

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

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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.

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.

Operation War Diary is a go!!!

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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!

Meet the Team – Kelly Sutphin-Borden

 

Kelly is one of the Zooniverse educators based at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Today is her birthday, so we decided to get her to do a special edition of ‘Meet the Team’ for the advent calendar. In the video she talks about Zoo Teach, which is an educational tool provided by the Zooniverse. Check it out here http://www.zooteach.org/

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!

Want to work with the Zooniverse?

As part of a large expansion of the Oxford Zooniverse team, I’m delighted to announce that there are four new jobs available at Zooniverse HQ in Oxford. We’re looking for developers 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:

Infrastructure Engineer
Senior Front-End Developer
Data Scientist/Hadoopist
Senior Application Developer

These jobs mark the start of the next stage in the Zooniverse’s evolution, 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

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

AP-IFLS

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!

AP-IFLS-2
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!

PH-IFLS-spike
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!

52 Years of Human Effort

At ZooCon last week I spoke about the scale of human attention that the Zooniverse receives. One of my favourite stats in this realm (from Clay Shirky’s book ‘Cognitive Surplus’) is that in the USA, adults cumulatively spend about 200 billion hours watching TV every year. By contrast it took 100 million hours of combined effort for Wikipedia to reach its status as the world’s encyclopaedia.

In the previous year people collectively spent just shy of half a million hours working on Zooniverse projects. Better put, the community invested about 52 years worth of effort[1]. That’s to say that if an individual sat down and did nothing but classify on Zooniverse sites for 52 years they’d only just have done the same amount of work as our community did between June 2012 and June 2013. The number is always rising too. Citizen science is amazing!

Another way of thinking about it is to convert this time into Full Time Equivalents (FTEs). One person working 40 hours per week, for 50 weeks a year works for 2000 hours a year – that’s 1 FTE. So our 460,000 hours of Zooniverse effort are equivalent to 230 FTEs. It’s as if we had a building with 230 people in who only came in every day to click on Zooniverse projects.

Zooniverse Effort Distribution to June 2013

This amazing investment by the community is not broken down evenly of course, as the above ‘snail’ chart shows. In fact Planet Hunters alone would occupy 62 of the people in our fictional building: the project took up 27% of the effort in the last year. Galaxy Zoo took 17%, which means it had almost 9 years of your effort all to itself. Planet Four had a meteoric launch on the BBC’s Stargazing Live less than six months ago and since that time it has gobbled up just over 5 years of human attention – 10% of the whole for the past year.

What’s wonderful is that our 230 metaphorical workers, and the 52 years they represent, are not confined to one building or one crazed click-worker. Our community is made of hundreds of thousands of individuals across the world – 850,000 of whom have signed up through zooniverse.org. Some of them have contributed a single classification, others have given our researchers far, far more of their time and attention. Through clicking on our sites, discussing ideas on Talk, or just spreading the word: Zooniverse volunteers are making a significant contribution to research in areas from astronomy to zoology.

Congratulations to everyone who’s taken part and let’s hope this number increases again by next year!

[1] In my ZooCon talk I incorrectly gave the figure of 35 years. This was wrong for two reasons; firstly, I had neglected Andromeda Project, Planet Four and Snapshot Serengeti for technical reasons. Secondly I had calculated the numbers incorrectly, in my rush to get my slides ready, and I underestimated them all by about 20%.

Oxford Meetup, August 20th

There have been several new starters at the Zooniverse in the past few months. Myself and Stuart were remarking the other day that we have still not met the Zooites in person. Although we have come to know several of you via email, we thought it was time to rectify the situation.

PUB

We have organised a Zooniverse meetup, two weeks today, on Friday August 20th. We’re meeting at 5pm at a pub in Oxford called ‘Far From the Madding Crowd‘. There is already a forum thread on the topic, started by Alice.

We’d like to invite everyone to come along and join us! Most of the Oxford team will be there as well as members of the Chicago team, who are visiting Zooniverse HQ that week. We’ll give a short talk about the state of the Zooniverse and after that we’ll generally just be mingling, chatting and getting to know you all.

We hope that many of you can make it. The location is near to both the train and bus stations, as well as to several B&Bs. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them here in the comments or on the forum thread.

We hope to see you in a couple of weeks.