Champions of Change: Citizen Science


>>Bess Evans:
First and foremost, thank you all
so much for coming, and welcome to
the White House. My name is Bess Evans. I am the public engagement
advisor in the Office of Science and Technology policy in the Office of
Public Engagement. We are thrilled that you have
joined us today for this amazing Champions of Change celebration. Just a reminder to everyone,
this event this morning is live-streamed. And so, as a courtesy to not
only the folks in the room but the thousands of folks that
are watching on the internet, if you could turn
off your cell phones, just so we can hear the
wonderful stories of our Champions this morning. Restrooms, as many of you
who have probably already discovered,
are right out this door. Take a left for
the gentlemen’s room and a right for
the ladies’ room. I’ll be sitting in the back
if you have any questions, and thank you all
so much for coming, and coming to the
White House to celebrate these amazing Champions with us. Without further ado, I’m going
to introduce you to someone who I’m sure you all know well, and
let’s give her a big round of applause for all of the effort
that she’s put into this event, Joan Frye, who is a senior
policy analyst in the Office of Science and
Technology Policy. [applause]>>Joan Frye:
Thank you, Bess. I want to welcome everyone
here to the White House, and I want to welcome
our Champions of Change, our audience members,
our federal representatives from the federal
funding agencies, and my colleagues at OSTP
and in the White House. Welcome. As Bess mentioned, this
event is live-streamed at www.WhiteHouse.gov/live. People, audience members, are
encouraged to Tweet during the event using hashtag
#WHchamps, and I guess hashtag, you can tell I’m giving my age
away, hashtag #OpenScience. And also, I encourage you and
audience members to check out WhiteHouse.gov/Champions
for more information on the Champions’ bios
and their blog posts. Bios, I believe, are already up. The blog posts will
be posted shortly. It is my — before I
introduce our opening speaker, I want to invite audience
members to submit questions. There will be a Q&A at the end
for about 10 or 15 minutes, depending on time. And there are cards in the foyer
to my left that you can write down your question. There will be — Ms. Rubin
will be collecting questions, distributing cards
throughout the program, and I will remind
you of that shortly. So please don’t be shy. It is my pleasure to
introduce Philip Rubin, who is the principal assistant
director for science in the Office of Science
and Technology Policy. He will be making
opening remarks. Phil. Thank you. [applause] Philip Rubin:
Good morning, everybody. Again, welcome to
the White House. It’s a pleasure and honor to
welcome you to the White House Champions of Change
event on citizen science. On behalf of President
Obama and Dr. John Holdren, the President’s science advisor,
I want to welcome everyone in this auditorium, and also all
of those who are watching this event remotely. And I especially want
to welcome our citizen science Champions of Change. Our Champions are being
recognized today because of the tremendous impact that they and
their organizations have had in engaging the non-expert
in the scientific enterprise. They’re involving fellow
citizens in monitoring air quality or the populations of
species such as butterflies, coastal birds and plants that
are especially vulnerable to climate change or pollution,
or even near-Earth asteroids. They’re inspiring kids to focus
on searching for fossils or introducing our citizens
to neuroscience. They’re increasing access to
instruments usually found only in high-end research labs. They’re engaged in the maker
movement and the do-it-yourself movement, and also new advances
in 3-D printing and fabrication. They include our veterans, our
youth who might not appreciate the natural world due to
lack of access to parks, and many others
who are not usually participating in science. They’re engaging our citizens
across the lifespan — pre-schoolers as well
as elders in their 90s. All of our Champions are
being honored this morning for significantly improving general
science literacy in our nation, which is critically important,
as many of the policy decisions of today require at least some
understanding of the underlying science and technology issues,
whether we’re talking about climate change,
genetically modified foods, antibiotic use in animals
raised for human consumption, cybersecurity, vaccinations,
other health-related issues, or even things like fracking. More and more, scientists today
are engaging the broader public in their research, not only
because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s
the only thing to do. They’re finding that they have
to involve the broader citizenry because the necessary data to be
collected are dispersed over too large a geographical
area or the time commitment would be overwhelming if only
experts were analyzing the data. The beauty of citizen science
is that it is so broad. Every discipline
can use extra hands, can figure out what kind of
training is needed to make sure people provide useful data,
can truth-check the data, can challenge the participants
to develop the hypothesis, experimental plan and design,
and can acknowledge and celebrate their contributions. The Champions of Change that
we’re recognizing today are doing exactly that. An increasing number of future
jobs will be based in science, technology, engineering, and
math, also known as STEM. A recent Brookings Institute
report indicates that as of 2011, twenty percent
of all jobs require a high level of knowledge in a STEM field. And those STEM jobs that do not
require a four-year degree pay 10 percent higher wages
than non-STEM jobs. We have to get the message out
that one does not have to be a genius or have
a Ph.D. to do science. As a country, we cannot afford
to propagate the myth that science is for the
elite top few percent, that it’s not for
the ordinary person. The Champions of Change that
we’re celebrating today are the standard bearers
for that message. Involving average citizens in
science is important for at least one
other reason: continuing
U.S. leadership in STEM. Today, in many STEM fields,
domestic graduate students are in the minority, and
the number of undergraduates choosing STEM
majors is declining. Despite some improvements,
U.S. performance in the trans and international
mathematics and science study continue to lag relative to many
European and Asian countries. The President’s Council
of Advisors on Science and Technology, which
we refer to as PCAST, reported in February 2012
that fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college
intending to major in a STEM field
complete a STEM degree. If we could increase the
retention of STEM majors from just 40 percent to 50 percent,
three-quarters of a million additional STEM degrees would
be awarded over the next decade. Economic projections
indicate that the U.S. needs approximately 1 million
additional STEM professionals in the next decade to maintain
our leadership in STEM. So retention is key. To achieve that goal, we must
encourage our youth to discover the wonders of science and
to sustain that interest and excitement so that they — so
that they take the challenging courses in middle and high
school that prepare them to excel when they get to college. As you’ll hear from
the Champions today, they are providing exactly the
kinds of opportunities that turn our youth on to science and
capture their imagination. In closing, I want to
recognize the federal agency representatives
who are here today. Many of them manage programs
that support citizen science efforts and are very eager
to hear what the wonderful Champions have been up to. After our formal Champions
of Change event concludes, there’ll be a short break, and
then we’ll reconvene upstairs in the Indian Treaty Room on the
fourth floor to hear about new federal initiatives
in citizen science. Champions, their guests, and
audience members are all welcome to participate in
the discussion. Thank you very much. [applause]>>Joan Frye:
Thank you, Phil. It is my pleasure to introduce
the moderator for today’s event, Joe Palca. Joe Palca is an award-winning
science correspondent with NPR. He’s reported on a
wide variety of topics. In fact, his young
children once asked, “What have you reported on?” And he replied, “Mars,
SARS, and stars.” And that about covers it, as well as pretty much everything in between. He’s also known
for his work as backup host for “Science Friday.” So we would like to welcome
and applaud Joe Palca. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Okay, thank you very much. Can I ask the first panel
of Champions to come up? I hope you know who you
are, but if you don’t, I can say your names. Julia Parrish, Eri Gentry,
Michael Cohn, Dolores Hill, Sandra Henderson,
and Greg Gage — Gregory Gage. We don’t have a lot of time. I’ve been asked to be
brief, so brief I shall be. I’d first like to introduce
and ask to come to the podium Julia Parrish to
talk about COASST, the Coastal Observation
and Seabird Survey Team. [applause]>>Julia Parrish:
COASST started in
1998 with 12 volunteers in Ocean Shores, Washington. And those 12 people were going
out on the beach monthly to literally pick up dead birds
and figure out what species they were and report that back to me
at the University of Washington. Now, 15 years later, COASST has
850 people walking the beaches from Eureka, California,
north to Kotzebue, Alaska, and west to the
Commander Islands, which are in Russia
right at the end of the Aleutian Island chain. COASST has identified
160 species, has found over 30,000 carcasses, identified the species —
pretty geeky, I realize — and we’ve used that data to
figure out what’s going on with fishery bycatch, to
document harmful algal blooms, to look at avian influenza, to
look at the effects of climate warming, and to look at
historic use of seabirds by Native Americans
as food sources. COASST is Kathleen Wolgameth,
an 80-year-old from Ocean Shores now battling cancer, still out
on the beach every month with her daughter Beth. COASST is Robert “Ollie”
Olikeinen from Tillamook, Oregon, who, an avid Huskies fan
— and I hope he’s watching — has literally scooped up the
whole town to volunteer with him, and actually made
a dead bird float in the Fourth of July parade. COASST is Olivia Vitali,
age 15, started at age 12, surveys with her dad Don
on Bainbridge Island, and put her first
bird find on YouTube. COASST is Daniel Ravenal
from Taholah, Washington, who works for the
Quinault Tribal Nation, Department of Natural Resources,
surveys with his dog Denali, when he’s not in the
Coast Guard Reserves, coming from a military family. And what brings those
people together? It’s not their age or their
race or their ethnicity. It’s not their politics
or their education level. It’s not their job
or their gender. It’s that they have a very,
very strong sense of place. They love their place. They want to know about
it; they worry about it. And by participating
in citizen science, and rigorous
citizen science, they know they can
gather the data. They can work with scientists,
and together we can make a difference, because only
with that very broad-extent, fine-grain data can we solve
the environmental problems that face us today. So science is important, but
people are important too, and the world is
changing very fast, and there are just too many
issues and problems for scientists to
deal with alone. So we need an army,
and we need a village. Last century was the century
of ivory tower science, where you had to have a Ph.D.
to be a scientist. But this century — this century
is the century of citizen science, where everybody
— everybody in this room, everybody who’s watching,
everybody in the country, everybody in the world —
can be part of a science team and make a difference. Thank you. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thank you, Julia. I wonder if anybody
else had trouble parsing that dead bird float. [laughter] I was thinking of an ice
cream drink all of a sudden. [laughter] Next, I’d like to ask
Eri Gentry from BioCurious to come to the podium.>>Eri Gentry:
Hi, everybody. Good morning. My name is Eri Gentry,
and I’m the founder and president of BioCurious. It’s the world’s largest,
and first, hacker space devoted to biology. And I’m not a scientist,
nor do I play one on TV, and I don’t want to say
necessarily that I am, because, like Julia mentioned, you don’t
have to convince people that you’re a scientist
to do good work. And I thank you so much for
having me here to say that what we’re doing is working. I’m here in large part because
when I wanted — when I finally realized that
I wanted to do science, I found it really,
really, really hard. And a lot of my
challenges led to empathy, helping other
people get involved. Knowing what it’s like to be a
young person, a non-scientist, a non-academic, kind of a
strange person altogether, and sometimes even a girl, you
face challenges that don’t let people accept you when you
say you want to do something. With BioCurious itself, I ended
up asking a lot of people to try to do this project
on their own, and then I asked
people for advice. In every case, it ended up being
a no — “It doesn’t make enough money” — or we have
to turn it into something that the world has seen before. It was hard to think of doing
a completely volunteer-run lab like we have today. So let me go back and tell you about some of
my challenges first, and then how BioCurious is rocking the
world of science today. So I grew up in a little town
in Arizona wanting to be a stock broker, but a scientist and
inventor and everything. And being a dream didn’t really
cause a lot of problems until I got to college and
somebody says, “Well, you’ve got to be practical and
make decisions for your life.” So I did, and I was practical,
and I decided I wanted to be an investment banker, and that I
was going to be a really great student and go on to make a
lot of money in finance and hopefully funnel that
into helping the world somehow down the road. Being a pretty impatient person
and having the not-too-uncommon ability to see when people
aren’t happy with what they’re working on, I was quickly
disillusioned with finance, did some soul-searching, and
found that my true interests were in science,
research, and medicine. I remembered looking
— staying up many, many nights looking
for information about my dad’s condition. He didn’t know
what was going on. He’d had multiple
surgeries and seen doctors, spent so much money trying to
figure out what was causing him pain and suffering. And I found so many of the
answers in online patient forums where the individual is the
expert of their own condition. They work within the system,
but they know that they’ve got to do it on their own. And that was the first glimpse
that I had into the power of the individual to take control
of science, medicine, and, in this case, their own lives. This story
isn’t about medicine, although that’s a
big part of my life. That’s just a thread that runs
through the rest of my work: power of the individual. And I realized that I
needed to do something. Eventually —
do I have a second? Okay. I didn’t realize that I
was going to be so long. I apologize. So I wanted to say that
I met scientists, people, and wannabe scientists like
myself who didn’t have a way to get involved, and they had some
common needs for space, people, and low-cost equipment. We decided that a hacker space
was the perfect model for it, and when nobody
else would do it, some friends and I
decided to open up a 2,600 square foot space in
Sunnyvale where membership is just $100 a month, compared
to the $3,000 to $6,000 average for other
biotech labs in the area. We have 6-year-olds working
alongside their parents, working on genetic modification,
making bacteria glow. We have entrepreneurs
working there, post-docs finally finding
a place to get teaching experience, and we have requests
from around the world to open labs in their neighborhood too. Thank you. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Next, I’d like to ask
Michael Cohn to come up and talk about the
American Kestrel project Soldiers 2 Scientists. [applause]>>Michael Cohn:
It’s tough to know
where to start, and I want to keep brief. But I think there are several
important points that we’ll probably all bring up
in a different way, and a lot of it surrounding
citizen science. My work, personally, is with
the American Kestrel project, and a great deal of programs
with Cornell Ornithology Lab. And I started it at a
business park in Centerville. But the real thrust of probably
why I’m here today is because citizen science and the
activities that surround it, the accessibility, the ability
for, whether you like fish, whether you like birds, whether
you like bugs, or the outdoors, there’s an app for that. And you can do it on the
road, and you can instantly communicate with other
like-minded individuals. And I think we’re not yet fully
aware of the psychological and sociological benefits
of just time outdoors, and then adding meaning to that
and adding some purpose and adding something outside of
yourself which you get to feel, you know, that you’re
contributing to. And so I saw that as being a
perfect opportunity or a vehicle for returning veterans to use
it as an opportunity to kind of transition back
from deployment without having to kind of hit the ground
running into regular life, because it’s certainly not
regular when you first get back. And I think that, and I
hope that, potentially, maybe just from
this opportunity, that the vision is where the
National Park and the Department of Interior and the DoD, and
then Cornell or Bass Pro Shops or, you know,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife, all work together to, one,
identify research needs, and I’m sure there’s
places in all different nooks and crannies
or our country that could use a couple extra hands, collecting
specimens or just surveying, as you said, observation. And, you know, I think
it’s a perfect fit. And, like you said,
the accessibility and the mobility is awesome. And we do need an army, and
that’s why Soldiers 2 Scientists is there to kind of fill
that gap a little bit. And what I think is
really interesting is the democratization of science,
the full scope of that, and putting the power of
scientific process and inquiry into, you know,
a community sense. You know, we’re just
yet fleshing that out. So I’m just really thankful
to be a part of it. Thanks a lot for having me. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thanks very much, Michael. Next, I’d like to
call on Dolores Hill from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission Target Asteroids. Do you think we’re
safe for today? [laughter]>>Dolores Hill:
Thank you very much. It’s such an honor to be here. First of all, I would like
to give a shout out to my colleagues and co-lead, Carl
Hergenrother and Dr. Anna Spitz. Ten years from now, NASA’s
OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will return a precious payload
to the Utah desert. Its arrival will
herald the U.S.’s first asteroid sample return. And citizen scientists can be
a part of that program today. Target Asteroids is an exciting
program to enlist amateur astronomers to track near-Earth
asteroids and support spacecraft missions with
their observations. Building on the foundations
of amateur astronomy, it expands the role of citizen
scientists in cutting-edge asteroid research and puts them
at the forefront in the efforts to learn more about asteroids
and protect our planet. They provide valuable data to
help scientists characterize near-Earth asteroids and
understand the process by which main belt asteroids may
become near-Earth asteroids, essential steps to ascertaining
the risk of impact with Earth that affects the
world’s inhabitants. Carl Hergenrother selects
near-Earth asteroids that are easily accessible by sample
return spacecraft or are analogs to our target, Bennu. Observers acquire asteroid
images and make precise measurements of positions and
brightnesses whenever they are able and submit those
via the internet. Many observations are combined
over a wide range of orbital positions, and every
observation is important. One of the biggest challenges to
our program is that some of the asteroids on our list are dark
and faint like our target. Our observers rise to the
challenge to capture images. Some don’t own telescopes but
use remote telescopes in other parts of the world. Those with small telescopes
concentrate on bright objects on our list. We’ve had a very successful
program in only our first year with 138 participants. We have nine program partners
that help us bring expertise to support the program and leverage
NASA and private resources. We look forward to
expanding our program, and the benefits of Target
Asteroids extends to all of humanity
now and into the future. Thank you. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thanks, Dolores. Next, Sandra Henderson will talk
about the NEON Project BudBurst. Sandra.>>Sandra Henderson: Thank you. [applause] I’m here today because
every plant tells a story, and in Project BudBurst
participants capture those stories and share
them with others. What I’d really like to do right
now is gather all of you up, go outside onto the
White House gardens, and let’s find out
the stories that those plants can make and tell us. But I’m guessing, Joan,
that would greatly exceed my allotted time. So we’re going to have to come
inside and think about how we would make phenological
observations of plants. You with me? We can do it inside, can’t we?>>Joe Palca:
Let’s do it.>>Sandra Henderson:
Oh, but wait, I do see a
puzzled look or two out there. Maybe not everyone knows what
a phenological observation is, so let’s think about
this for a minute. Okay, those of you in D.C.,
have you ever noticed the cherry trees in the spring when they start to flower? Anyone ever notice those? [laughter] How about other
parts of the country? Lilacs, when they first
come into bloom and flower, leaves come out, yes. If you have noticed plants
leafing, flowering, or fruiting, you have just made a
phenological observation and you are fully qualified to become
part of Project BudBurst. [laughter] And that’s what
Project BudBurst is all about. We’re an online community
engaging people from all walks of life, all 50 states, in
making phenological observations of plants, because
plants do have a lot of stories to tell us. Why? Why are plants important? Well, it turns out plants are
everywhere pretty much that we are,
and plants also respond in pretty predictable ways to changes in their environment — day length, for example, or changes in precipitation
and temperature. And these are things that
climate scientists are extremely interested in knowing. So just think of the power
if we could get people from all over the country,
every one of us here, occupants at 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue, everyone just making
plant observations, joining Project BudBurst
and adopting a plant. You want to talk about flower
power, I think we’d be there. [laughter] But the real power —
and it was mentioned earlier, villages and armies. The real power in Project
BudBurst, we need villages; we need villagers;
we need armies of villagers and villages and villagers. Whoa, let’s stop there
right now, Sandra. Because we need this to paint
that more complete picture of how plants are responding
to climate change, and that gives us insight. We better understand
our natural world. So the real power
of Project BudBurst is working with partners. We work with partners
in Wildlife Refuges. We work with
partners in museums, certainly in Chicago
Botanic Gardens — Chicago Botantic Garden
being our primary partner. And I’m delighted
being in D.C. to announce our
newest botanical partner, and that’s the
U.S. Botanic Gardens, so it’s pretty exciting. Go to our website, check us out. Better yet, join us. And what we’re really hoping,
that in coming years we’re going to see your observations,
observations from people all across the country. They are making a difference. We are getting scientific
publications out of these. And let’s just
hope maybe we’ll even see some from the White
House before too long. Thank you. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thank you, Sandra. I’m stunned. I mean, I want to go out
and look at a plant now. My wife will find
this hilarious. Next, I’d like
to ask Gregory Gage to talk about Backyard Brains. [applause]>>Greg Gage:
Thank you, Joe. First of all, I want to start
off by saying that I am here to accept this award but I’m
accepting it on behalf of my co-founder Tim Marzullo and the
rest of the hardworking people at Backyard Brains who
couldn’t be here today. And the idea
of citizen scientists is very personal to me. I was an engineer and I worked
for many years after I got my electrical engineering degree
at Michigan State just doing circuits and doing this stuff. I always liked science, but I
always thought science was just a collection of facts, and
there’s stuff that you read. And I always like to
read about those facts, but I never really
thought, you know, I could have a career
where I actually gathered and created those facts myself. It just never dawned on me. I was living in Europe and I saw
a flyer on the wall that said there was a public lecture for
astronomers to come out and they would talk
about their research. That was the first time — it
was many years after I graduated from university — that I
realized I could become a scientist, because I talked
to these people afterwards, and I thought what they
were doing was super cool. So I instantly changed careers. I quit my job. I went back to graduate school. It was a big shock for my
family, who’s out there. And then — and so one of the
things I did with my labmates is we’d go out to schools
and we’d, you know, tell them what we’re
doing as scientists. I’d always try to, like,
press that, you know, you can do this as a career. If you like doing Sudoku
and all this type of stuff, you might be interested in
doing this type of stuff. And so, but one of the
challenges we had is — we’re doing really awesome stuff in the neuroscience lab — I chose neuroscience
as a career — but we couldn’t do
that in a classroom. And so we came up with a
self-imposed engineering challenge to sort
of replace $40,000 worth of lab equipment and
make it cheap enough and easy enough that you can use it
down to the 5th grade level. And so, for the past four
years, we’ve been developing neuroscience experiments and
tools and technologies that allow kids to actually record
the living brains of insects. And so, just to be really
brief about what it is we do, we have 100 billion cells
in our brain called neurons. These neurons communicate with
each other using electricity and a varied pulse called a spike. And this spike travels down from
one cell to the other and you can actually listen to that. That’s electricity that you can
actually plug into so you can amplify that and you can start
to do like university-level experiments down into
the 5th grade classroom. You can learn about semanetope,
you know, like rate coding, like neuropharmacology,
all these types of stuff, that you normally have to
go to graduate school for, but now you can start doing it
early because one out of five of us is going to have a
neurologic disorder. It’s a bit of a shame that we’re
not like teaching these tools a bit earlier in life. And that’s what Backyard
Brains is here to do. So, thank you very much. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Well, brief, you
guys are amazing. Thank you so much. We’re going to now turn the
panel — the program back over to Joan, and I’d like to
ask this panel to grab your nametags, go back to your seats,
and we’ll do a transition in just a moment. Thanks, number one panel. [applause]>>Joan Frye:
Thank you. This is frustrating. It makes me want to clone myself
into 12 entities and volunteer on each project. It’s very frustrating,
very exciting. It’s my pleasure — so, thank you
very much Champions, and I want to thank Joe for
moderating the first panel. And I also, before I forget,
want to remind audience members again, you’ll have an
opportunity to ask questions. So, if you don’t have a card, Amanda Ruben over
there has some cards. If you have some blank cards
that you — she’ll distribute if you raise your hand. And if you have some questions
already written on the cards that you do have,
please raise your hand and hand them down to her. We really want to
have a lively Q&A, a give and take at the
end of the program today. Our next speaker
is Ellen McCallie. It’s a pleasure to
introduce Ellen. She’s a program director for
the Advancing Informal Science Learning Program at the
National Science Foundation. Originally trained as
a tropical ecologist, Ellen has worked across the
field of informal science education in botanical gardens,
natural history museums, science, television,
museum administration, and at a National Centers
— at National Centers. Ellen has participated
in and published on citizen science extensively. And I encourage you to Google
her and read some of her papers. She now manages many of the
National Science Foundation’s investments in citizen science. So, Ellen, if you
want to come on up. [applause] Ellen McCallie:
Good morning,
and thank you Joan. Thank you to the White House
and the Office of Science and Technology Policy for calling
attention to the far-reaching contributions of citizen science
to our nation’s understanding of STEM — science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics — and to
lifelong science learning. I am particularly delighted to
speak at this event as I have the pleasure of serving as the
National Science Foundation program officer for three of
today’s honorees, Julia Parrish, Karen Oberhauser, and
Lee Ann Rodriguez. Sandra Henderson’s work,
as you’ve already heard, is also receiving National
Science Foundation funding. Thus, on behalf of the
National Science Foundation, I add my congratulations to all
12 of you Champions of Change. You are individuals here who
are honored because of your innovation and exemplary
contributions to science, technology, engineering,
and mathematics, and to the STEM — science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics
learning in this nation. I was asked to speak briefly
about citizen science and why our collective efforts to engage
and support volunteers in public participation and scientific
research is so critical. Briefly, citizen science
involved the public, people of all ages,
from all walks of life, most of whom have not had
formal science training or even experience. And they directly participate
in authentic research in order to investigate scientific questions and generate new
scientific knowledge. The efforts of the Champions
of Change honorees here today, as well as those of their
colleagues near and far, represent hundreds of citizen
science programs and tens of thousands of
citizen science participants. As such, they illustrate that
citizen science projects include a great diversity of science
content from asteroids and the chemistry of space to invasive
plants and the folding of DNA, from rain, hail, and snow, to
water quality and human health, from erosion on beaches
to bird migration. Yes, citizen science is
burgeoning right now and we better catch up and hold on. And this is true that citizen
science is burgeoning because of the dedication of the
scientists and the volunteers. And we’re supported by the cyber
technology and its applications that are specifically designed
to facilitate data collection and management, as well as the
social media that connects the scientists and volunteers
and promote timely, effective communication. So I have two messages about
citizen science to offer today and they can be summed
up in one sentence. Citizen science programs
are integral to the national scientific endeavor because they
result in both new scientific knowledge generation and
participants learning science. First, let me speak a moment
about citizen science leading to scientific
knowledge generation. Many of our questions about
nature, the environment, health, and space require rigorous data
to be collected from across the vastness of our planet and the
skies and to collect that data over extended periods of time,
years if not decades or more. Without public participation
and scientific research, it would be nearly impossible
for scientists to amass this data due to geographic
and temporal constraints. We need public participation
in scientific data collection and contributing data. To date, hundreds of
peer-reviewed publications, scientific publications, as well
as countless science-informed decisions have been based
on citizen science efforts. Second, because of NSF-funded
research and the research of others, we now know that
participating in citizen science leads to people
learning science. Okay, so, that isn’t
surprising to you and me, but we have the data
to document that now. And what better way to learn
science than to participate in actual scientific research? Depending on the project,
volunteers can participate in up to every step of the scientific knowledge
generation process from asking questions
to designing studies, to collecting,
analyzing, interpreting, and visualizing data. And most importantly, people are
now sharing and publishing what they’ve learned in scientific
publications as well as using that information to make
decisions for their lives and their community. Whether it is understanding the
impacts of massive storms and on the beaches of Manatee, Puerto
Rico to alerting authorities that there are birds washing up
on the shores of the west coast in unusual numbers, to
monitoring monarch butterfly larvae in order to understand
population dynamics and migration as these tiny creates
travel from Mexico to Minnesota. Citizen science invites
people to participate in doing authentic research,
scientific research, and to connect with others,
scientists and volunteers as they learn science. So, what’s the future look like? It’s exciting and we’re all
going to be a part of it. Cutting edge research and
practice in informal science education focuses on increasing
opportunities for more diverse publics to participate
in citizen science. It also challenges researchers
and practitioners to better understand how to increase the
impacts of these experiences, the positive impacts
of these experiences, on the participants, as well
as the scientific knowledge generation process. And, the other challenge is
to leverage cutting edge cyber technology to interpret big data
resulting from citizen science. So, with citizen science
programs in school and out of school, for old people and young
people and everyone in between, I am confident in the continued
leadership of this country in the success of science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics. Thank you to the White House
and the Office of Science and Technology Policy for calling
attention to the far-reaching contributions and the continued
promise of citizen science to the well-being of our nation. And today, congratulations to
today’s 12 Champions of Change. Thank you. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thank you, Ellen, for that. There is — it’s amazing what
happens when you participate in a science project. My own career before I
started in journalism, began in science
and just briefly, I was visiting — a freshman in
college and visiting a friend at Stanford and I needed
a place to stay. And so, what do you do when you
need a place to stay and you’re visiting a friend in college? You stay in the sleep lab that
the college dorm resident had in the basement — [laughter] — and I was a sleep
research subject my first night
at Stanford — [laughter] — and that got me
interested in sleep research, which I then pursued
as a Ph.D. career. [laughter] So, you never know, right? Can I invite the second panel
to come up and we’ll continue on with the program? [applause] I am — I just want
to encourage the second panel to do as good a job at sticking
to time as the first panel, because they were awesome. And your challenge
has been thrown down. And Margaret Gordon,
since you’re nearby, I’d like you to be first at
the West Oakland Environment Indicators Project. Thank you.>>Margaret Gordon:
Good morning, everyone. [applause] My name is
Margaret Gordon. I’m from west Oakland,
from Oakland, California. I got involved in environmental
justice as a second career in dealing with the issues
from my community called the Port of Oakland. And we have trucks,
trains, ships, cargo-handling equipment
in this neighborhood 24/7. And when I moved in the
neighborhood 21 years ago, I was going to my son’s
elementary school and I saw a basket of inhalers in the
nurses’ office and I wanted to know why there were
so many inhalers. And she was telling me,
“All these kids have asthma, ” and nobody was really talking
about the issue of quality of life of health issues
within the neighborhood. So, moving forward, the Pacific
Institute is a think tank within Oakland, came to the
neighborhood and started doing a series of neighborhood
meetings called indicators. And I learned a lot
about measuring stuff. And I never thought that
understanding how to measure stuff, measure quality of life
issues, such as air quality, truck traffic, understanding
where trucks were going, coming from, going,
having parking, all these different things was
about how our community was being impacted or overburdened
with this industry. So, part of my — so, as I
learned all these things, I also learned the health
impacts of the community. We had high asthma,
cancers, lung disease, and nobody was really
talking about these things. So, what — so, a group of us
came together and we developed our own organization called
the West Oakland Environment Indicators Project, and we
started off with 250 things that were impacted in
the neighborhood, drilled it down by
prioritization of 17 things. And those 17 things we have used
as a campaign or advocacy tool to identify these quality
of live issues within the community. And up — and then
three years ago, Intel had a prototype lab in
Berkeley and somebody had heard that the work that we were doing
and they brought a dust tracker to the neighborhood. So, when we got the
dust tracker, really, I had no idea what the power
of this dust tracker would do. We were able to start measuring
our own air quality and analyzing it, to an industry
who has total disregard of a community called the
shipping businesses. So, we were able to work to
show them the impacts of this business on our community. And so, that’s how —
I didn’t know by having my own lab equipment,
having my own instruments, and then training
other residents. This was called citizen science. Thank you very much. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thank you, Margaret. Now, can I ask Karen Oberhauser
of the Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project to come on up? [applause]>>Karen Oberhauser:
Thank you, Joe. I would like to start by
thanking all of the monarch citizen scientists who
nominated me for this award, many of whom are in
the audience today. I run a project
called, like Joe said, the Monarch Larvae
Monitoring Project, but really there are about a
dozen citizen science projects focused on monarch butterflies. So, this talk is
really for the entire monarch citizen science community. It’s not just about my project. When I think of citizen science,
I think of points spreading out over a map, filling that
map with new knowledge. And my talk today is going to
think about the things that really interest me when I think
of citizen science and that’s the scientific, the educational,
and the conservation value of citizen science. From an educational perspective,
as we’ve heard today, citizen science allows us to
address questions at spatial and temporal scales that would
be completely impossible if scientists were just
going out and collecting data on their own. Citizen scientists provide
data on these huge scales and their data are being used. My colleague, Lesley Reese from
the University of Maryland, is doing an analysis of
all of the scientific papers published on monarch
butterflies since 1990, and there are a lot
of papers on monarchs. Over half of the papers in the
scientific literature that focus on monarch migration
and movement, monarch population dynamics,
and monarch natural enemies, use data that have been
collected by citizen scientists, which is pretty
amazing to think about. One of the natural enemies
papers is based on questions asked by a monarch citizen
science Ilse Gebhard, who’s in the audience today, who
raised thousands and thousands of monarch caterpillars,
and along with her Citizens Scientist colleagues, Charlie
Cameron from North Carolina and Sandy Oberhauser from Wisconsin,
published a paper documenting rates of parasitism
by a descended fly called lispiziaarchapovora. Now that is the power
of citizen science. [applause] As an example of the
educational benefits, I’d like to describe a student
named Josh Prawl, who was a 5th grader
in New London, Minnesota. And Josh took part
in a project that we run at the University of Minnesota that’s called
Driven to Discovery, in which we use citizen science
projects that are based either on monarch butterflies or birds,
I know a little bit about other things,
not just monarchs. We used these a springboards for
independent research for youth that engage with adult leaders. Josh studied a monarch
disease called ophryocystis elektroscirrha, or you could
say that 10 times fast tonight before you go to sleep, or OE,
you can also say OE for short. Josh, the next summer, attended
a meeting of scientists and Citizens Scientists, when
he met Dr. Sonya Altizer, who’s the world’s
authority on OE. Josh and Sonya talked as
colleagues and Josh — so Josh had the opportunity to
communicate with a scientist and he continued to study OE. That’s the power
of citizen science. And I’d like to end just by
saying that Citizens Scientists, as we’ve heard, can become
an army for conservation. But it’s important that citizen
science isn’t just a tool for documenting declines
in butterfly or bird or native plant populations. Aldo Leopold once said, “One of
the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives
alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted
on land is quite invisible to laymen,” end quote. Citizen science not only makes
these wounds visible to many more people, but it
can help to heal them. That is the power
of citizen science. Thank you. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
The only thing that
makes me nervous is actually saying those Latin
names that you managed. [laughter] I’m glad — well, I don’t
think it’s a requirement that if you want to join the
project you have to be able to say those things. [laughter] Next, I’d like to
call on John Rowden from the National
Audubon Society. John. [applause]>>John Rowden:
Thanks. I have to savor the moment. It’s not often you get
invited to say a few words at the White House. [laughter] I work for the National
Audubon Society, which you may not know
actually coordinates one of the longest-running citizen
science projects in the world, which is the
Christmas Bird Count. It started in 1900
and it’s basically worldwide in scope now. And one of the interesting
things is that Audubon scientists have actually been
able to investigate those data to look at how bird populations are responding
to climate change. So, there are datasets. Julia’s dataset is starting
to show this sort of stuff, but this is 113 years of data
that we’ve actually been able to look at how bird populations are
responding to climate change. And I think that, especially in
light of the President’s remarks today, I think we’re, you know,
obviously climate change is coming up in a lot of the
citizen science talks. I don’t specifically work
in the Christmas Bird Count. I actually have — most of my
citizen science work has been focused in New York City, where
I’ve worked to get inhabitants of all five boroughs involved in
scientific research so that we can better understand how the
urban environment affects bird populations as they’re
transiting that environment. And I, you know, it’s — Karen’s
a tough act to follow and she hit so many of the points that
are really important in this discussion, but I just wanted
to focus a little bit on the stories of some of the people
that have participated in the work that I’ve done because we
have learned a lot through their participation in what’s going
on with birds in the city, but I think that some of the
most powerful effects for the program have been on the
people that have participated. So, we’ve reached out to
the deaf and hard-of-hearing community as an audience that we
don’t typically include in all of the trainings that I have and
all of the monitoring that we do is interpreted for the deaf. And that has had a real positive
impact on getting new people involved in the efforts. I also did a project that was
focused on a second chance in the Bronx called The
Satellite Academy, and getting kids from that
school involved in our monitoring of shore birds
in the Bronx River Estuary. And, in fact, there
are plenty of shore birds in the Bronx River Estuary. And just one quick story
about a student named Josh, another Josh, who actually came
into the program not knowing, not caring anything about birds. And we trained him in how
to collect scientific data rigorously and he would go
out with me and collect data on the shore birds. And one day he brought in
his phone and he said, “John, I was hanging out with some
friends the other day and we — there was a bird. We saw a bird and we had
no idea what it was.” And he said, “I know that
John will know what it is.” He took a picture of it and he
brought it in and showed it to me, and it was a gray
catbird, you know, a beautiful, little migratory song bird. And so, I told him what it was,
we went over and looked it up on the computer. He entered his
observation in e-Bird, which is an online data portal
which is another great citizen science tool, and it was very
few observations in the Bronx of that, and actually texted all
his friends what he had seen. So, it’s just an example of
a kid that had no interest in this, but he actually started
paying attention and it started peaking his curiosity
about the natural world, and I think that that’s
really important. Citizen science, as Karen
said, has the power to do that. Thanks. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thanks, John. Next, I’d like to call on
Lee Ann Rodriguez of the Conservation Trust
of Puerto Rico. [applause]>>Lee Ann Rodriguez:
Good morning. My name is Lee Ann Rodriguez. I work at the Conversation
Trust of Puerto Rico at a newly-created unit
called Para la Naturaleza, and our mission is to secure
land of great ecological value. And we have a very ambitious
goal of protecting 33 percent of our land by the year 2033. We know that to achieve
that goal we have to create alliances, collaborations,
but most of all, we have to engage the public. And that’s where citizen
science comes in for us. Around five years ago, we were
granted an award by the National Science Foundation and we had
a great team represented here today by our Champion, Sandra
Faria and Astrid Maldonado, who recruited more than 2,500
individuals of all walks of life, all ages, to come in
and participate in over 600 hands-on, STEM and
nature-related activities. And they gave us more than
25,000 hours of their time. And we had a great
retention rate. We had more than 1,000 people
come in time over time to contribute to our project and
our Champion Citizens Scientist is sitting here in the back row. His name is Willie Burgos, and
he contributed to our project something that we
had not planned, that we had not foreseen. He created and designed the
first field guide on land crabs for Puerto Rico
with the researcher. And on his own, he went
and created a guidebook, an illustrated guidebook
of all the crabs that we have in Puerto Rico. That was not even in our
outcomes or deliverables in our planned things. So, we were like, wow
that’s really cool. How can we continue to create
citizen science like Willie? So now, we are purposely
assessing our process, the experience the researchers
and the participants go through, to see if we can build a model that we can replicate
that experience. In my opinion,
there are certain factors that come into play for that. For instance, citizen science
has given our organization the opportunity to be inclusive,
to be open-minded and flexible and to be synergistic. And to us it’s a no-brainer. Now we’re applying citizen
science across the board in all of our programs. For instance, we are using
it in a project for the re-introduction
of an endangered species, which is funded by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We are using it for a Champion
of Tree Competition funded by the Forest Service. We are using it for e-Bird. Thank you, John. We are also using it
for our community outreach and beach clean-up projects
funded by NIFWIF. And, we have the private
sector also supporting us. We have Pfizer Pharmaceuticals
and AT&T helping us in our program, Map of Life
Landscape Inventory Program. So, we’ve been able to apply
citizen science across the board. And to us, citizen
science means connections. It has helped us to connect
people to one another, people to science, most
of all, people to nature. Thank you so much. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thank you, Lee Ann. And next Ariel
Waldman will tell us about Science Hack Day, right? [applause]>>Ariel Waldman:
Thank you. I often really enjoy
looking at pictures of Earth as seen from space. Space exploration often changes
our view of ourselves and our place in the universe. But similarly, I think we should
change how we view science in space exploration. The relationship that
most of us have with science in space exploration
is one of observation. We’re often observing astronauts
or government agencies exploring on behalf of us, but
we ourselves aren’t doing much exploring. And this sort of relates
to my own personal story, because back in 2008, I was
watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel called
“When We Left Earth,” and it was this great
documentary about NASA during the early days. And I became so inspired by this
documentary that I decided to send someone at NASA an email on
a whim saying that I was a huge fan of everything they were
doing and if they ever needed someone like me, someone without
a formal science background, my degree was in graphic
design, that I was here. It was totally a fan girl moment
and I never really expected to hear back from them. [laughter] But, serendipitously I was
able to get a job at NASA from this email and it
completely changed my life and I got to learn so
many things at NASA. But one of the most important
things I ended up learning was that I actually didn’t even
need to work at NASA to explore space. And so, I left. [laughter] But shortly after,
I created spacehack.org, which is a directory of ways for
anyone to participate in space exploration, anything from
discovering galaxies to building robots and so on. And when I built this, I became
frustrated that there was actually a lot of open science
stuff out there but no one was doing anything
interesting with it. And so, born out of this
frustration came an event called Science Hack Day. And Science Hack
Day is a 48-hour event in which scientists,
designers, developers, and all different types of
people get into the same physical space to see what
they can rapidly prototype with science in 24 consecutive hours. This is really just around the
mission of getting excited and making things with science. And my favorite story from
Science Hack Day was one where we had someone who wanted to
create a device that would detect when he needed to shave,
essentially a beard detector. [laughter] So, this person hacked
together this USB microscope and he held it up to
his face and was able to see the lines on his face. And I thought this was amusing,
but I wasn’t quite sure what it had to do with science. But, sitting in the audience and
seeing this device demoed was a particle physicist. And when the particle physicist
saw this, he thought to himself, “Wow, that’s actually a genius
way for how to detect cosmic rays in a cloud chamber,” — [laughter] — which is ridiculous, but following
Science Hack Day, this particle physicist wrote up
this entire proposal for how to detect cosmic rays in a cloud
chamber using the original code in open computer vision library
someone had used to detect if he needed to shave or not. [laughter] And so, this is what
I really love about hacking science and space exploration. It’s really just about creating
sparks for future ideas and future collaborations. And, to me, when it comes
to space exploration, you could be searching
for a lot of things, extraterrestrials or
XO planets, but to me, it’s really the search for
experimentation that’s so incredibly precious. And I think we’ve found it
through hacking science and hacking space exploration. Thank you. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thanks, Ariel. I have to confess I had
another one of those momentary confusions. I thought she was talking
about a beer detector — [laughter] — which would also
be useful I think. [laughter] Our last speaker is
Jason Osborne of SharkFinder. [applause]>>Jason Osborne:
Hi, I’m Jason Osborne. I’m the co-founder of Paleo
Quest and I’d like to talk to you about SharkFinder,
which is managed by citizen science scientists. It’s also up to this point
has been funded by citizen scientists and citizen
scientists are also reporting and publishing on the
data from SharkFinder. So, just to give you a little
bit of a background on the project itself, my dear friend,
co-founder of Paleo Quest, Aaron Alfred and I have actually
had this unique skillset. We were able to go into
fossil formations that are poorly-characterized, identify
these formations and actually make them productive, productive
to the point that we have multiple new species, in some
cases, new genus of new species. So, we decided to take
this talent and go to — from micro — or macro level
to micro level. And we knew that from our paleo
buddies and we were told that the — on the micro scale
our yield for new stories or new species and new
occurrence of species, and what I mean by new
occurrence of species, it’s a known species, but it’s
new to the geological formation in the geological location. So, what we did is we actually
went and targeted one of these fully-characterized formations
and we took some sample in to the University of Maryland
where we met Dr. Brett Kent. And Brett Kent is a
elasmobranch specialist. And elasmobranches are
shark’s rays and skates. And since Aaron and I are really
interested in marine deposits along the coastal plain
of the United States, the magnitude of elasmobranch
fossils was just astonishing in the material that
we were searching. Not only that, the material
that we were looking at was so exquisite to anything that
they had found before, that the possibilities of
finding new occurrences and new species were just — it
was — is inevitable. The problem is it takes forever
to go through the micro samples, so we needed a
citizen scientist. So, what better place to go
than in our school system? So, we actually attacked seven
schools — or seven states in the school systems within
those seven states and pushed SharkFinder through
their school systems. And the amazing thing is — this
is the juicy details — is the result of the material that we
sent to these schools had led to nine publications in process
and this is less than — or a little over a year time. So, anybody that’s in
the science community, nine publications in a little
over a year is astonishing. There’s 50 plus students and
counting that will be credited and actually cited for their
work in science publications. Also, all their fossils and
stuff will be in — curated in a museum called
the Calvert Marine Museum, which is led by Steven Godfrey,
and just imagine if we were able to — now this was about
a thousand students. There’s 200 of you in here,
so that would be equivalent, if you could do the math, 10 of
you would actually have a first occurrence of a new species. Imagine if we can tackle
one million students, 5 million students,
10 million students and we were able to push this
through their school systems, the questions that we can
answer like marine diversity, evolution, and climate change. Thank you. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Thanks so much, Jason. And now we’re going to
— I mean, first of all, I’d like to give a very sincere
thanks to both panels for sticking to time. And I suppose — and I was
just thinking about this, it’s not — usually when I
moderate panels people — time is not a variable people
are very good with, but I suppose a bunch of science
and Citizens Scientists would be good at it because timing is
a very important element to scientific endeavor. And when you want to study
the peach change over an hour, you don’t want to do it
over an hour and 15 minutes. So, thank you, panels. Can I invite the first panel to
grab their nametags and sit on the apron here and we’re going
to have a Q and A session where Joan is going to hand me cards
that I hope you’ve written, or if you haven’t yet, raise
your hand and get a card or raise your hand and someone
will collect your card. And provided you haven’t said
anything nasty or untoward — [laughter] — and provided
I can read your handwriting, I will ask the questions
and we’ll get the panel. And here, I have one idea. Let’s give you
guys a microphone. Sorry, Margaret. So, I think you can share. You might have to move around. I’m sorry about the logistics. I would have brought a
microphone if I’d known. Okay, are we ready
with questions? Everybody comfortable? It’s very casual. Okay. Question number one, what
scientific fields provide for natural opportunities
for citizen scientists? I’ll invite anybody to ask
that, but since we’ve heard, it sounds like just
about anything. Maybe the question is what
scientific fields aren’t viable? But, are there any that
have been missed so far, let’s put it that way,
certainly natural — Gregory Gage:
Yeah, I think –>>Joe Palca:
Grab the microphone
so that people can hear. Gregory Gage:
I think historically it’s
been the biological sciences like — but that’s
starting to change now, I think with the tools and
technologies that are becoming available for citizens to
get involved with that. I think for, you know,
for hundreds of years, like a telescope, you could go
out and buy cheap telescope and you could use that. Or in mathematics there’s been
a lot of like citizen science for the history
of adding to that. But I think the softer
biological sciences are just starting to come
online right now.>>Joe Palca:
Okay. Another answer?>>Karen Oberhauser:
I’d like to — yeah,
I’d like to just add to that, that citizen science
by its very definition, needs to catch the
attention of people who aren’t necessarily trained in science. And I think what we’ve seen
today is that any kind of science can capture the
attention of everyone — of so many people, so that really any field
is inherently interesting to people so they’re willing
to volunteer their time in it, in things that have meaning
to them like the projects that Margaret talked about that
have, you know, meaning, kind of life and death
meaning to people, or just interest in
the natural world, there are many — anything goes.>>Margaret Gordon:
Karen, since
she raised my name, I will say that people need to
be able to use citizen science about change of life,
looking at disparities, looking at quality of
life, understanding the problem-solvings of
communities that are impacted, I think that is something that’s
really un-new to science and that science being partnered
with those communities being able to give their own
testimony to their experience, their experience of what’s been
happening in their communities.>>Lee Ann Rodriguez: I would like
to add that our projects have several ecological studies, but
we do have one archaeological study, so it is applicable
to all types of disciplines. And we do engage children
as young as nine years. We’ve had seniors,
92 ripe years old, come in and participate with us. So, it’s really applicable to
any type of science in any type of community or
community member.>>Joe Palca:
Ariel, go ahead.>>Ariel Waldman:
There’s not a very clear
definition of science, so there’s a lot of
people who are curious and who are tracking data in their
own lives or in their kitchen like somebody who wants
to cook the perfect steak or bake awesome cupcakes. There’s a lot of
science involved. But people don’t
see it that way. And a lot of times I’ve
gone and talked to people just said I’m working in open science
or citizen science, and sometimes I get this
physical reaction like, “All right, don’t
talk to me about that, I’m not a scientist,” and I
think the definition around science should be broadened
and made more public. Science communication is
really crucial to this effort. And giving people the feeling of
empowerment is really important because once you tell people
that they’re doing science or introduce them into a lab,
there is some fear there and apprehension. And a lot of what can
make them stay is culture, is just being nice and making
them feel like this is something that you can do using the right
language, it’s really important. And I think when I see
these Champions of Change, you see that they’re
using the language, that really appeals to people,
not one that says, “Oh, this is hard and
you can’t do it,” because everybody can
do it and they do it. And so, we should just recognize
that when we see it in everyday life.>>Joe Palca:
Are we okay? I want — there’s another
question here which I think is a very interesting
one and I’m curious to hear what the panels think about it. How do you ensure that the data that everyday
citizens capture — I’ll correct this —
are accurate? [laughter]>>Sandra Henderson:
Boy, you just asked probably — whoever asked that question, that’s one of the toughest
ones and the challenges or opportunities we face
in citizen science. How do we know the
data is good quality? Well, there’s a lot of ways
to ensure good data quality. Part of it is the instructional
materials you provide, the direction you provide
to your participants. You have things, if
you’re an online program, have some automatic feedback,
some automatic testing. Get to know who your
participants are. Have them write themselves. What is their level of expertise
and comfort in these areas? We’re going to be working
this summer at NEON, with our NEON scientists, who
are also doing plant phenology in the field. We’ll be doing some comparisons. We’re looking, always,
to raise the confidence and lower the error bars. But, it is a challenge, I think
everybody at this panel would agree, is something we’re
all committed to taking on, and we’ll be sharing more
about it in coming years.>>Joe Palca:
Yeah, go ahead, we’ll
start with the — we’ll stay with the
front row for a minute.>>Dolores Hill:
Speaking of error
bars, that’s one way that we ensure
that we have good data. Many observations are
combined into one graph, and the more observations we
have, the more accurate we are. Sometimes we might only have
a single observation that is critical, and we
always look for more. So, we encourage our observers
to get out there and observe as often as they can.>>Joe Palca:
Good idea. Come to the microphone, if the
microphone won’t come to you.>>Julia Parrish:
So in COASST, every single
data point that is collected is done in such a
way that it’s deductive. That is, people
collect evidence, and they use that evidence
to make a deduction. And, in that case, it’s what
species is in front of me. And, because we do it that way,
independent experts can also use that same evidence to come
to the same conclusion. And so, every
single piece of evidence is independently verifiable. And that is a standard that we
use because our data goes into a court of law, it’s the baseline
against which an oil spill can be assessed. And that level of rigor is
higher than graduate school. [laughter]>>Margaret Gordon:
Well, one of the
methods that I’ve used is that I have
partnered with a agency. So it could be a air
quality agency, a USEPA, a state air-quality
agency, and have help, they supported the community to
design the methodology that they were going to use to
organize the project. So, like, we did a traffic
study in counting trucks, and we did use a truck traffic
technical organization that came in and worked with us to
identify how many trucks were coming through our neighborhood,
what kind of trucks they were, and we had, and we, and we
worked in partnership with a local Bay Area air quality
to establish our findings. So they were, so that’s one,
that’s how communities like West Oakland and our low-income
communities, you partner, you partner, you work in
collaboration with a agency. And also support the idea
how to take that science, go into a policy, around an
industry like trucks, trains, cargo-trains,
ships, and so forth. So that’s how we have used
our data, qualify our data.>>Lee Ann Rodriguez: In our case,
we invest quite a amount of time and money and resources in
training our volunteers. So we do have a core
of volunteer leaders, and it’s a trickle-down effect. So, they become the mentors
of the new citizen scientists coming on board in any of
our projects, and we do use, speak of the bits of
what Margaret just said, protocols that have already
been validated and used by other agencies or
scientific community. So, we are ensuring
that the data that is coming in is accurate. And then we, of course, we have
a quality control within our organization that is
always looking at the data, making sure that there are
no huge mistakes in it.>>Michael Cohn:
Just to add, I think,
that, you know, I guess, with a democracy it gets,
there’s a potentiality for to get a little
sloppy at times. And so, you know, it’s important
to have the protocols and the, and the checks. But what I think it also, the
one point I would add is that there’s a, the whole process of
enjoying an outdoor activity, or enjoying a hobby, or enjoying
a different aspect of nature, there is this process
of increasing returns. The more you do, the more
you learn, the more you know, the more the process allows
for you to engage it more. You can get more out of
it the more you do it. And, I think, that those that
come to a certain point and cross over to the citizens
science, to a citizen scientist, have brought themselves to a
certain level of awareness and education. And then, once they join with
the communities and with others with the protocols and the,
you know, the structure, the vehicle which
these, you know, the programs and others provide
for someone that, you know, is out in the nether space of
the internet but wants to get more involved, it’s,
I think that’s where, that’s where — kind of
losing my train of thought. But I just wanted to add that. I think that it’s important that
the process itself, you know, kind of enables that education,
and enables the individual to, kind of, understand a bit more.>>Joe Palca:
Karen, did you want
to add something?>>Karen Oberhauser:
Yeah, we’ve heard a lot
about all of the different ways that we all use to make sure
that the data are accurate, because it’s very
important to us as the leaders of these projects, but I’d
like just to add that citizen scientists are
volunteering their time to collect these data. And most citizen scientists are
very invested in making sure their time is well spent. So, in some ways, that
question kind of annoys me, because when we think of
the ways scientific data are collected, often, you know, it’s
not the hot-shot scientists that are actually
collecting the data, it’s undergraduates
who might be paying, getting paid 10 bucks an hour. And the time that citizen
scientists are putting into this project means that they
really care about the data. So I might turn that question
around and say that citizen science data, as long as all
of these different checks and balances are in place, are
likely to be even more accurate than whatever, you know,
traditional scientific data.>>Margaret Gordon:
I have to agree with that. [applause] I think part of my
science is being able to give the mother who
had to sit up all night alone with her child who has asthma understand that why,
in this neighborhood, this amount of kids have this
many problems or need treatment. Why is this child has to use
a asthma machine all the time. So, I’m a, my thing is to
make sure that when a new, a new developmental project
has come into the community, I don’t care whether
it’s a freeway, a new housing development, that
that mother has the power to be able to go before city
council, any of the agencies, to give testimony about what
her issue is, why is she, why is this in my neighborhood,
and why, and what you, what she thinks they should be
doing to change operations or practices and these
types of things. So this, she would not have
to lose sleep, time for work, kid out of school,
so it’s a science, the science also
have a methodology, the right quality of life. So people need, ao what I think
one of the things that people need to understand,
everything is about somebody got to pay for it. On the front end,
or on the back end. When communities don’t,
such as West Oakland, do not have that type
of system set up, and you have to be able to make
your own homegrown system to have people talk about
their quality of life.>>Joe Palca:
Can I — [applause] Okay. I think I’d like to go
on to the next question, which is an interesting one. It says, “What is the most
important thing you’ve learned that has allowed you to be
so successful in engaging the public in your project?” And, by that, I think
the question is, is it just a question of putting
it there, and if you build it, they will come? Or do you have to engage,
and promote, and sell, and what have you? So, I’d be interested in
the answer to that question. Yes, go ahead.>>Dolores Hill:
We’ve been very successful
in our first year of a decade-long project, mostly
because we’re able to engage our observers and help them
understand the importance of their observations. So they can be in their
backyard and make an asteroid observation, or take an
image, and that’s wonderful. But if they do it, and they
understand how they can actually help us track these things, they
really feel they’re contributing to an overall effort, and
that’s really important.>>Joe Palca:
Ariel, go ahead. I’ll come back.>>Ariel Waldman:
For me, it’s something
where, I think it, I mostly just do things
that I get excited about, and I happen to stumble upon
finding out that other people get excited about
the same thing. It’s not really about
doing a lot of promotion, it’s really just about, yeah,
this idea of just getting excited, and making things,
and playing with science. And I am less concerned about
getting people to pursue degrees in science, or having their
whole lives pivot to do science. I think it’s a lot more amazing
to just get a bunch of people to play around with
things and, you know, maybe it doesn’t
change their life, maybe they still don’t really
understand particle physics or something like that. But they can walk away from
a weekend and say, you know, “I don’t really, fully
understand particle physics, but I played around
with it once.” And, to me, that is enough
of a, sort of, change, where people just feel like it’s
something they can play with that is another fabric they can
consider manipulating in their everyday work one day if
it makes sense for them. And so, it’s really less about
promotion or convincing people, and more just about telling
people it’s just another fabric to manipulate or play with,
and just really just have fun.>>Joe Palca:
Sandra, go ahead.>>Sandra Henderson:
Well, in Project
BudBurst we like to say that timing is
everything, and for us, this is a pretty new project. We came out about 2007, we did
a simple proof-of-concept to see if there was interest in a
project looking at climate change and having
plants give insight. Well, as you all know, I mean,
climate change is an enormous topic and we’re going to
hear more about it today. But climate change
is also a very, can be a very scary project. It’s a lot of unknowns,
it’s extremely complex, the interconnectedness. And doing something like
Project BudBurst is empowering. It gives people the opportunity
to make some observations, share their observations, their
observations can and are making a difference, and they’re not
just sitting on the sidelines as passive receptors
of the information. So, for us, a lot of it was the
timing and the interest in how to involve people in
climate science research.>>Joe Palca:
Mike, yeah, go ahead.>>Jason Osborne:
So, I don’t know
about all of you, but I love to discover. So I think discovery is a huge
aspect in citizen science. The other part is ownership. So, when someone works with
citizen science to have and be a part of that puzzle, whatever
you’re trying to figure out in a citizen science project, that
sense of ownership is huge. And, I think, people
want to contribute, and want to be a part
of citizen science, and be a part of trying to
figure out Earth’s mysteries. And that ownership itself
is, it’s a huge, huge key. And then, and all
of us in this panel, if we could provide
that ownership, I think that’s crucial.>>Joe Palca:
I’d like to add –>>John Rowden:
Joe, can I just –>>Joe Palca:
— put in one more
question, I’m sorry, I want to squeeze in
one more question, and I’ll let you
answer it first. But, my question, and several
people have written this in, so I want to ask it since we’re
sitting here in Washington in the White House. What more can
federal agencies do? What kind of support
do you need from them? And, particularly, is there
a part of the spectrum, the 18 to 24 year old age
group that’s being missed, and how can federal
agencies help capture that? So, maybe, you can…>>John Rowden:
Well, I think I can, at least
tangentially, address that.>>Joe Palca:
Sure.>>John Rowden:
I mean, one other, one
other aspect of, I think, reaching people is making
it relevant to them. And so, that’s meeting them
where they are, you know? So, in fact, if you are trying
to reach the deaf and hard of hearing community you need to
make it accessible to them. If you want to meet, if you
want people in the Bronx to be invested in what you’re doing,
you need to take it to them and ask questions that
are relevant to them. And, so, I think that
that gets at, you know, for missing chunks
of population, be it 18 to 24 year olds, be it
people of color, be it whatever, you need to take it
to what they need. And there’s one aspect of
citizen science, you know, the way that we
develop our projects. And there’s, from the
contributory like the Christmas Bird Count to the co-created,
where you’re actually working with communities to develop
their projects along the lines of what Margaret does. And I think that that’s an
important thing to recognize, is that that’s a very
important way, going forward, as we develop citizen science
projects to work more with communities to
develop the project.>>Margaret Gordon:
I want to add on the latter
question that you said. One of the things that
Washington, D.C. could do, if you have a
agency called USEPA, and that’s supposed to be
environmental protection agency, really do their job of
protecting the people. Also, if you want this economic
engine call of shipping and trade to happen, be more mindful
of where people live, work, and play, that’s connected
to that industry. So I’m, so and then, if you
putting public health inside some policy, carry out the
public health mandates inside of your department. I see, I have, I have a
problem with agencies saying, “We are doing
environmental justice, we are doing public health,
we are protecting the people.” But they have no real policy
mandate when it comes down to the local level. They could do a lot of
stuff on the federal end, but nothing down to the, down to the real community impacting end. So that’s what, that’s
what D.C. could do for me. [applause]>>Joe Palca:
Well, I have a stack
more questions, but I also know that
we have no more time. So, I’d like you, once again,
to thank the panelists — [applause] — and congratulate
yourselves, and I’m going to turn the
program back to Joan Frye. You guys can go sit down. [applause]>>Joan Frye:
Before everyone disperses, I want to add on behalf of the
White House and the Office of Science and Technology
Policy, thank everyone, thank our champions, and
congratulate our champions again, thank everyone
in the audience, and remotely for tuning in
and celebrating with us today. There is a, there will now be a
brief break, and, oh, I’m sorry, before I go into that, I also
want to thank Alyn and Philip Rubin,
Alyn McCauley and Phil Rubin, for making their remarks,
thank you very much. We will be reconvening in
the Indian Treaty Room, a lovely room on the
fourth floor, room 474, for anyone who is interested
in finding out what federal agencies are doing
and new activities in the citizens science space. You are all welcome to join us. There will be, this is a
meet and greet, informal, no refreshments, I’m sorry. [laughter] Meet and greet, informal, opportunity to hear
from five colleagues from the funding agencies. But also, to chat with our
champions and guests and audience members. 474, thank you very much. This concludes the program. [applause]

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