Science for everyone by everyone – the re-emergence of citizen science (22 Jan 2013)


>>Thank you very much. In the next 40 minutes,
we will cover the history of this area called
Citizen Science. We’ll then see a little
bit about the trends that really changed things
in the past 10 years. And we’ll see that they are
both technical and social and just looking at one of them
doesn’t give the full answer. We’ll see what’s going on
today and it’s an amazing area and you’ll see the
whole range of activity. And we’ll finish with what we
call Extreme Citizen Science and [inaudible]. So what is Citizen Science? One easy way to describe
it is scientific activities in which nonprofessional
scientists volunteer to participate in data
collection analysis, doing something with the result. And we are in the
Darwin Lecture Theater who was a citizen scientist. He wasn’t employed
by a university to carry out the work. He was actually a
companion on the [inaudible]. And later on he continued to be
without actual academic position and carry out his work. Now we know this era as
the gentlemen scientist. But then it’d been
extended to a wider range of people in communities. So the next point in our
story with a [inaudible] in the [inaudible] for
mythology is William Whewell. He was in Trinity College in
Cambridge and he was the person who actually termed
scientists as scientists. He created the word
that we are using today to define these professional
who are employed through a university or other
means now to do science. And one of the things
that he’s done is to try and understand the tides. So in order to understand the
tides, he worked with thousands of people in 1835 to carry out
a survey all across the ocean. He had 9 different places, thousands of people
involving people from seamen to amateur interest and so on. And on this work he
actually received a medal from the Royal Society. Now he called the people that
helped him – the thousands of people who contributed the
information and tabulated it and done things with it
– subordinate laborer. And he used the metaphor that those people are
like pearl collector. They give him the
different pearls and then the scientist is
the one who thread them into a proper necklace and
make the sense of [inaudible]. Which is why he deserved a medal and they can go on
with their life. Now since then — once
scientists became professional, citizen science continued. So for example, for over
a hundred years ago, there was the Christmas
[inaudible] count which just finished in
the beginning of the year in which hundred of
thousands of people in the United States [inaudible]
out and observing what they see in the gardens and then reported
back [inaudible] mythologies is one of the places
they concentrated. To this day, meteorological
observations are [inaudible] by volunteers. And there is a — even an
[inaudible] organization dedicated to volunteer
in this area. And it’s continuing
in many other areas. So you can find it
in archaeology where people volunteer
to help in excavation. You find it in astronomy. So the image at the bottom is
from the Shoemaker-Levy comet who brought [inaudible]
to reality in 1994. Now people don’t know but
it’s actually a collaboration between scientist the Shoemaker
and Levy was an amateur. He wasn’t actually a
professional scientist. And in this case he
[inaudible] was involved in creating the mission
and that’s [inaudible]. But what happened is
that the citizens – the people who are involved,
the volunteers themselves – received almost no
recognition in most area or sometimes even
hidden from view. You would use their data but you
wouldn’t say where it came from. And they were seen as
untrusted contributors. So continue [inaudible]
we will concept of things. But then things changed
and the things that changed over the past 10 years are
the technological things. So we’ll look at
the web availability and the whole growth
in internet access and broadband which
is important. Then there was this whole
what we call web-to-zero: this whole interactive web and socially based
knowledge creation systems that see around us today. And very importantly for citizen
science – especially in cases where you do it in a
specific location – [inaudible] location
based mobile devices. But that and very importantly
we have to remember combined with social trends because
that stuff wouldn’t be enough. It’s increased level
of education and increased [inaudible]
communication. So the first one
is most obvious. The internet grown from about
16 million users in 1995 to 2 point 5 billion
people that have access to the internet today. But even more important is
the access to broadband. The fact that now you can get
information rich environment. You can see video. You can listen to audio sounds. You can interact in
a very rapid way. So from the point of view of
interacting with information, if it takes more than 2 seconds, you will feel the
[inaudible] enough. You can do that because
of all this access to broadband information. The second thing that was based on all this [inaudible]
aspect is this socially — what I call socially — collaborative and socially
based knowledge creation system. The most famous of
those is Wikipedia which the moment it
was opened to everyone to start contributing, people
started building it up. And it’s the factor they go to
into encyclopedia regardless if people admit that
they’re doing that or not, they do use it quite a lot. And then we have things like
Flicker where people show photos or a project that’s
started [inaudible] of people now creating
the collaborative map of the whole world for free and
allowing people to access it and download the data. All these systems are based on
interaction, social networking and this broadband availability. But very importantly,
another thing happened at the beginning of 2000. President Clinton
gave an instruction to remove what’s called
the selective availability: this kind of military
grade access to more accurate positioning. And suddenly all the GPS
equipment became much more accurate. Instead of getting your
location for civilian purposes within hundred meter, you
could get it within few meters. And that led to the first
thing of what you see there, the [inaudible] and
the explosion in them. But because there were more and
more chips, the cost of them go down and now many people who
are sitting here have a device in their pocket that
[inaudible] the ability to receive GPS signal
and therefore to record the location
according to the systems. So those are the
technical aspects. Now let’s look at
the social aspects. First thing is this amazing
growth in tertiary education. This the U.K. of adults
age 25 plus or remember that if you look
through the graph, you’re actually having
the people that were born earlier on,
continue to live through it. And it rose from about 2
percent in 1950s to about now over 20 percent and
approaching 25 percent. Every 5th person that you meet in the street had
tertiary education. And if we’re talking about
the younger age group, we are reporting 40 percent. And also [inaudible] is
even more astonishing. That’s information
from the World Bank over the past 10 years. And the numbers there
are a million of students who are currently in
tertiary education. As you can see from the
graph up top, the line on top that shows you the
population growth. So [inaudible] just to make
it easier to compare them. The growth in the number
of students is faster than the growth in
the number of people. So we’re moving towards
2 point 5 percent of the total population
of the world currently in tertiary education. And not just that, even for the
wider population we are this amazing thing called the
Flynn Effect after James Flynn who found it first and you
can find this book about it. And the Flynn Effect is the fact
that there is a gain of 3 points in IQ tests every 10 years
over the 20th Century. And the explanation
of that is not that people are becoming smarter
because otherwise you have to say that people
at the beginning of the century were mentally
retarded or something similar to that, which doesn’t
make a lot of sense. But what happened
is that we’re living in a much more abstract
environment. And we’re now having credit
card instead of notes. We are trained with calculators
and computers and other things. And you can see this progression
of training the population to become what the
IQ tests are testing. And therefore, you see the
Flynn Effect happening. So all these things together
really changed the scene and enable a new and amazing
era in citizen science. And this time they’re not being
excluded because the Wikipedia and other things opened
the door and showed that people can participate
in knowledge [inaudible]. It now started to be
recognized and celebrated. So we have some new forms
which I’m using the term that Francois [inaudible]
from [inaudible] and other places define of
citizen cyber science — the type of citizen science that
is facilitated by the internet. And we will see that there
is a rage of activity. So we look at biodiversity
conservation monitoring. We look at what’s called
volunteer computing, volunteer thinking,
[inaudible] science and community or civic science. So let’s start with the
biodiversity conservation. As we said, it’s
the longest one. That’s why I’ve started
with Darwin, okay? It’s been going on and it
will continue to go on, but it’s been facilitated
by website because now where you are going out and
do observation of your garden, in the U.K. [inaudible]
network, [inaudible] the changes of the season with flowers
and leaves and other things, you can go to the
website nature calendar and plug in your information. Or you can participate
in a survey about the British [inaudible]
mythology by just going to the website and
entering the information. In a very recent report that
was published just at the end of November last year,
counted over 3 — 230 projects in the U.K. And
one of the examples from U.C.L. by Professor Kajos from the
Department of Biology and also from [inaudible] is iBot. So here’s a demonstration
of how I.C.T – Information Communication
Technology – is changing this nature
of this citizen science. So you take your iPhone,
you [inaudible] software. You take a special device
that got a microphone that can record [inaudible]
scores. And you can go around
and do a survey and see exactly what it is. Now what do you do
with the recording? Wait a minute and you will see. The next thing that you can do and also a fascinating project
that’s been run since 2007, quoted in by imperial college
but U.C.L. also participated in it in the Department of Geography is the open
air laboratory: OPAL. Which again just yesterday
celebrated the publication of her report about
the work [inaudible]. And they allowed a lot
of people to participate in different project —
I mean different activity and explore how they can
contribute from monitoring water to maybe other projects. So this area that is the kind of
— the [inaudible] of citizens and science and was there always with people observing their
gardens and watching birds and doing all other
things is still there and just benefitting immensely
from all the abilities of computers and the internet. The next type is a type
of citizen cyber science and that’s called
volunteer computings. We have too much processing
power on our computer and we can do things very fast. So we have extra [inaudible]
capacity within the computer. Now what do you do with that? You can search for extraterrestrial
intelligence for example. This project started in 1999, allow you to download
the software that run the processing — the
extra capacity of your computer and use it in order to
analyze a lot of data. And it’s the biggest computing
project at the moment, bigger than many other project,
even the most recent one that you hear about
processing data in [inaudible] and from other places. Or another interesting
application is Quake Catcher where you take an additional
device and connect it to your computer which
can sense vibrations. And then the software
will run in the background and in the case that there
is an earthquake or a tremor, you can get the information and
it will be sent to the server. And that combined with
other information, other seismic information
can help in improving the understanding
of earthquake and other aspect. And it’s being used already
in some places in the world. The next type is
volunteer thinking. Volunteer thinking –
even volunteer computing, you just download something,
put it on your computer and forget apart for looking at lovely screen saver
from time to time. In volunteer thinking, you actually engage
with the process. You are using your ability
to look at the information and for example we human are
much better at looking at images and classifying what we
are seeing in the image than the best computers
or the best algorithms that currently exist
for computers. So the first project in this
range of classifying things and one of the most
famous project in this area is Galaxy
Zoo where images from the Hubble Telescope were
used to classify different types of galaxies through
a structured process. The people behind it which
include Chris Lintott from Oxford University created
a project called Zooniverse where they are using the
same principle and lessons that they learned from engaging
very large number of people in this classification
process to many other things. And coming back to [inaudible]
project the recording that are coming in can be
classified by volunteers. So if you would like to
listen to bots and help in analyzing the
information that was collected through a different
survey, go to Bot Detective and you can do the work. But just to show that
the range of activities of citizen science is going
way beyond what you would just describe as strictly scientific
and kind of low level analysis, we got here at U.C.L.
to [inaudible]. Where there is all the
writing of Jeremy Bentham and they are very
difficult to read. It’s quite a lot of work. So to [inaudible] Bentham
encourage many people to join in and use this software to record
the information and they manage to work very well and solve
many of the transcript which if you were just waiting
for the occasional student who is interested in
Bentham and willing to transcribe some things, it
would take a very long time. Another type of Citizen
Science is what we would call, do it yourself science. So the one is [inaudible] again from U.C.L. There
is this activity that undergraduate students
involve in synthetic biology through a competition called
International Genetically Engineered Machine
or IGEM for short. And last year the students from
U.C.L. carried out work together with enthusiasts who were just
interested in doing things with biology – it’s
sometimes called [inaudible] – and involve them in the process of doing activities
in synthetic biology. So that’s quite in
the cutting edge of where scientific
activity is happening. And another group that is doing
interesting things is the public laboratory of open
technology and science where they are creating
as you can see there, techniques for very cheap
[inaudible] using [inaudible] and other techniques. We also done some work here
at U.C.L. around in that snow to our group working with
communities around [inaudible] on issues of air pollution. So we’re using wipe samples
where you can just take a sample of the dust in your area
and then you can analyze to see what’s going on in it. And also there is another
project that’s been going on for a while, Global Community
Monitor that help communities to take some bags to
extract some air next to petro chemical plants
and then to analyze to see what they are breathing. And they can be involved in
different type of activity. The reason that it’s called
community and civic science is that lot of time it’s
connected to issues of environmental justice or
concern about the livelihood of the specific community. So what we have seen within
this range of activities, we’ve seen a whole range. The range of activities
that now fall under the category
of citizen science. But the issue with that
is that if we think about the scientific process, so
you have the problem definition, deciding that you want to
classify galaxies or you want to analyze [inaudible]. Then there is the
data collection — that activity of
collecting the data. There is the analysis database that are basically
more advanced. And then to write up in
publication of the results and doing things with it. And lots of time when you look
at citizen science project, you see that they are limited
and most of them are [inaudible] in the data collection a lot of the biodiversity
conservation project that I showed you out of this. Two hundred and 30 project
that we talked about, many of them are in
the data collection. While a lot of their
volunteer thinking are also the basic analysis. People are not involved in wider
things so they’ll do [inaudible] and some people — for few
of them, they’ll do anything about it but by and large
the projects are designed to do basic analysis. And in terms of levels
of education, you can also see
interesting changes. So as you would expect in
[inaudible] Bentham as a result of this changes in education,
they’ve done a survey and I think if I’m not
wrong they found 25 percent of the people that are
involved in it will get PhD. And they do different things
in their spare time whereas in IGEM we also look at
the people and you discover that these people with
[inaudible] degree. And as you go down the
scale there is less and less things people
to be involved in it. And those 2 things also lead to
a different geographical pattern of the distribution of
where things happen. So if we look those are the
images from a large [inaudible] at home, one of the
volunteer computing project where you download the
software and let it run and you can see the
concentration in Europe and the United States
and the fact that in Africa you don’t
see almost no volunteer and in other places
you see very few. Now those kind of aspect of citizen science
and they’re great. They’re all — as we see
from the social changes, there are plenty of people to go around because some
people are concerned that it will run
out of volunteer. And I did hear that in
some cases but in terms of what we are experiencing in
the world and that’s [inaudible] that I took from John
[inaudible] about the things that we are — we’ll
have a challenge within the period
of [inaudible] 2030. We do need to do
something and we can get into more important areas. And where we need to deal with
challenges of energy, food, water, climate change,
biodiversity and other things, we also have to remember
that while we are and that’s the same
information that I showed you in the graph about education. So here you see the menus
in school and you can see at the bottom of the income,
but what you can see is that the rich countries,
yes we don’t have a problem. There are plenty of
people that can be involved in citizen science and
the experience shows that there are some super
volunteer who can collect a lot of data and help
with the analysis. But as we go down the scale,
there are more problems. And that’s get even worse when
we’re talking about women. And we need to think about
who will lead the help and who can get the
most out of it. Which is why as a result of
thing we came up with the idea of extreme citizen science. So if we have the
regular citizen science where the users are usually
educated, some connection to the domain because they are
interested or other things, [inaudible] we want to
open it to everyone. Want to get into
anyone regardless of their level of literacy. Also, the locations because the
geography of it as you’ve seen, because of the type of
people that are involved, you are concentrated into places and that are either
popular places where [inaudible] people would
like to go and have a holiday or the places where they live. That’s the places where
they can do the work. But if we make it
available to everyone in the first [inaudible], we might be able to
go to everywhere. Also, the role is very
important and we want to get into a situation
where we extend it. We’ll go to the extreme
of where it’s done now. So if people are involved
in debt collection, let’s stretched them
to be involved in the problem definition. So we want them to be
involved in all the process, but the point is that it
require a different way of approaching the whole issue. So even in the first mode,
you are thinking about it as involving the public
to the task that you want and structuring what they are
doing [inaudible] by Bentham or Zooniverse and other things. The type that we’re
talking about require you to actually work very close to
people, do it in a collaborative and that does mean that
the scale of it would be by itself go to a hundred
of thousands of people. And another way of looking at
it is to think about the level of engagement and participation. So at the bottom of the scale when someone just installs
something and go around and doing that, they are
just acting as a [inaudible]. You don’t trust them. You just believe what the
instrument that they’re carrying around is doing whereas
as you grow up you start in getting people
in a bigger level. And you end up with
collaborative science which is problem solving,
doing everything together. So that’s what we’re
trying to do at U.C.L., establishing an [inaudible] for [inaudible] citizen science
group that works on the theory, technique, the technology
and other aspects of — that will allow any community
regardless of [inaudible] to [inaudible] citizen science
activity, collect, analyze and do all the work
that [inaudible]. And if trying to sum
up what it’s all about, then there are sort
of 4 principles. First of all, that the
problem can be [inaudible]. It can come from the people
who are involved in the area. They want to improve their
agriculture or anything else. We want to support engagement
through the scientific process as I said from start to end. We want an inclusive engagement where you deliberately target
people that are usually excluded from it and you’ll go to places that are usually excluded
from the [inaudible]. And not everything will
[inaudible] all this [inaudible] things. It’s more of [inaudible] ideals,
but you can see other examples. And here an example of how
far you can reach and that’s from the work of [inaudible]
at U.C.L. in neuroscience who together with a bunch of 8 to 10 years old created
a scientific paper. They came up with the research
question which is understand if bumblebees could learn to recognize different
spatial configuration of color. They carried out their research. They wrote the paper. It was quite a [inaudible]
to get the paper published. But in the end, it was
published in biology letter. So that’s the things that
we’re doing to finish off. And here’s one example. [Inaudible] work and this is a
group of resident that live next to London City Airport,
and they were concerned about the expansion of the
airport and what’s going on. So together with — in
2007, 8 [inaudible] 2010, we developed a method
that will suit them in terms of noise mapping. So having phones and
recording the information and then being able to
do it by themselves. And they then carried it out
and collected information on the website where each red
dot that you see is 1 location where people recorded
the level of noise. Not just that, when you have
people on the ground recording and [inaudible] the space to
start adding more information, they can add pictures,
they can add — do reports about [inaudible]. They can add about events or
specific things that they see and experience and then you
can be very, very lucky. And we were lucky
because one stage where the community was
running the activity, it was when there was the ash
cloud over Europe in April 2010. And that allowed them to
carry out their analysis and collect the data at the same
time with the same instrument and the same protocol
and same approach when there are no flights
and when there are flights. And then things for example
like the local traffic come to the [inaudible]
which usually models in other things don’t come. Later on within a
project called Every Aware which is still running and
you can download the software that I’m talking about from
the website called Every Aware which is there. We developed a software
that run on your smartphone. So you download it and then
you can record noise level in your environment
and see what it is. And with a bit of help from
another grant from U.C.L., we were able to also run
an advertisement campaign around Heathrow. So doing with this
ad [inaudible] and having information on the
website and a few other places, and encouraging people to
download and use the website, and you can see that it
actually was quite impressive. So [inaudible] June 2012 last
year we had a few images, very few data points. By July, people are
starting to add information, even more in August, and by October we have
a very rich information. Today we have over 5 thousand
recording from the whole area which make it one of the most
dense noise recording project by a community anywhere
in the world. Another example of this
[inaudible] citizen science is in forest [inaudible]. So this is the Congo
Basin where my co-director of [inaudible] citizen science
[inaudible] Jerome Lewis [phonetic] is working with pygmy
hunter gatherer groups there. And you can see they’re
working with them on identifying resources
that belong to them in order to protect them as part of
a forestry management plan. But it’s difficult. And it’s difficult to read
the maps and understand and to deal with that. So over the past 5 to 6 years, he developed this
[inaudible] approach that you can use a handle device
that allow you to use pictogram and record the information. And the issue was that it
needed also a GPS receiver but that allowed
them to identify and protect some
valuable resources such as [inaudible]
valuable for the community. And later on the same
software was used to monitor [inaudible]
in the area. The issue is that those projects
were coming from the outside. And the community got the
problem with [inaudible] guards: people that are there to
protect about illegal poaching but instead of just dealing
with poachers, they also deal with the pygmies and
start blaming them [inaudible] process. So they’ve asked Jerome if he
can develop a tool for them where they can record
the problem. So here is an example of
the problem definition. And we wanted to develop for
them a tool that will allow them to record the information,
go around, capture information taken which
is — and do other things. And there are issues of
literacy, of the signal of GPS, electricity and network
coverage. And what we have done is
develop for them a software and the nice thing is
that today it’s possible to develop this software
very rapidly, and to provide for example this is the
recording of a camp. And by April last year, we
also were able to do that. So instead of having 2 heavy
devices, it’s now possible to do it on a smartphone
that got the adapted software and allowed them to use it
in different applications. And they took it into their
forest and analyzed it and checked that it’s
working well for them. So that was the first
prototype and when we came back to the office and checked it
with imagery that we received from the Jane Goodall
Institute, we could see that the recording was
quite well and allow us to continue and progress it. And as I mentioned, we also
have the problem of electricity. So through work within the
group we also discovered that there is things
like that and [inaudible] that allow you to
charge your phone. And that’s suitable
for the community because you can’t use solar
power because there is no — nothing of any sun
because of the canopies. So if you have interesting
problems, you’ll have interesting
solution. That’s usually what’s
going on within this group. So here’s an example of the
prototype and we continue to develop this prototype
within [inaudible] by the [inaudible]
they will be able to start doing the
illegal poaching monitoring within the community. And there is already plans in
place to also engage community in more recorded of local
resources and other types of information within this area. So those are just early example
and there are many more examples of what we mean by
extreme citizen science. And you can find them on
our website or in the blog or you can follow us on
Twitter if you are interested. And that’s about it. So I’m happy to answer question. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Thank you very much. Indeed [inaudible] we do
have time for questions. If you have a questions, if
you could wait for a microphone and — so the people who are
watching online can hear you. [Inaudible]>>Since you already have
experience running projects in very different settings, I
imagine one of the challenges of running these projects
are the social dynamics that are involved in
achieving a particular goal, group structure, motivations
to participate, interactions between team members and so
on, what have you learned about those kinds of dynamics?>>It’s [inaudible] that
kind of things, it’s a topic for a completely
different discussion. You can find some
information on that. We produce a report in Every
Aware because we should report on the motivation
and engagement. And we just earlier
today we talked about this topic inside the
group and it’s one thing that we’re working on. So you can find some information on the [inaudible]
change website which is the social enterprise
[inaudible] on the side which explain some of
the issues of guidelines of how you engage people. But we’re also doing
things inside the group. And you can find few
blog posts on the blog but it’s an ongoing
area of work and we — I can give you other source of
information if you need them.>>Thanks.>>Hi there. I’m Jack [inaudible] from
the Department of Science and Technology Studies here. I’m just wondering — I
can see how all the things that you’re describing change
the science that’s done. I’m interested in whether
it changes the scientists that do it. So I wonder if you can offer
either personal reflections or some sense of how your
colleagues have changed going through this process?>>Yes. I completely agree. That’s why when I’m talking about the presentation
the process itself, I’m always highlighting
that when you’re getting into the more extreme
citizen [inaudible] try to get into the right slide. Saying that you can
work [inaudible] or say that allow you to stay within the safe scientific
[inaudible] professional [inaudible] that kind of pearl
collectors as in we were. That’s why I like this
example because it’s so good about the differentiation
between the scientist and the subordinate laborer. If you’re going into the
more engaged side of things, you don’t have a choice but to
say, “I don’t know more than you about your involvement. I might know some things
about my specific areas.” And we’ve seen example
that surprised me to a very large extent. So the first community where
we’ve done the noise mapping, it was the community
members who went into the [inaudible] website
and show noise regulations and talked about the
structure of the noise and mentioned the
[inaudible] aspects and done all these
things and presented it to the community,
all by themselves. We didn’t need to
do any of this work. That’s actually why
Wikipedia and all of these open resources are so
important when we’re getting into this area and kind of
providing the backbone for it. So you kind of need to approach
this project very differently. And it doesn’t work the same way that you’ll approach
the other projects. So it need to be much
more collaborative and participatory approach
to the whole process.>>Thank you very much. I’m afraid that’s all we’ve
got time for the questions. But I wanted to thank
you all for coming. Thank you for your questions
and thanks especially to Professor [inaudible]. [ Silence ]

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