Calling all citizen scientists


There is room for everyone in science and researchers are harnessing the enthusiasm of everyday people (not to mention their free time) to work on projects.

Galaxy Zoo is perhaps the most famous example of citizen science, with over 200,000 volunteers classifying galaxy images taken from a robotic telescope. Citizens have always played an important role in astronomy but now anyone can contribute without buying expensive equipment. We humans are needed to describe the images but the task is too large for a researcher or group of researchers to take on. Thus far over 150 million galaxies have been classified by volunteer astronomers (zooites) and a few have gone on to make really neat discoveries.

A more local example is Phylo, a citizen science project from McGill. A lot of these projects are actually games that people can play (yes, science can be fun!) and this one uses your pattern recognition skills to solve DNA puzzles in order to learn more about gene mutations and genetic disorders.

I urge you to find a citizen science project that interests you. Take a look at this list from Scientific American. There are a lot of weather or nature watching options (Snowtweets, RinkWatch, ZomBee Watch, SubseaObservers). There is even an Open Dinosaur Project.

Happy exploring!

Social networking for everyone

Genevieve Bell is an Intel researcher who “found that women are the heaviest users of today’s most widespread and vital technologies: the Internet, mobile phones (voice and text), Skype, e-readers, other e-devices, GPS, and all social networking sites except LinkedIn” (Slate Magazine, 6/19/2012, Waldman).  However, I think that this news should not discourage men from using any type of current technology when needed.

There are social networking sites for both sexes in the physical sciences and engineering.  One example is ResearchGate.

I think of ResearchGate as a sort of Facebook account for professionals.  It allows you to connect with people that have similar research interests.  When you register for an account, you will be prompted to put in educational and professional information about yourself.  You can enter in as little or as much information as you like.  Based on the information you enter in your profile, ResearchGate will suggest conferences, papers, researchers, and jobs, etc. that you might be interested in.

Don’t hesitate to give it a try!  You may find pleasant surprises in the suggestions that ResearchGate brings to your attention.

Image from Microsoft Office Clipart

“Gen Y” Doctoral students

The UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the British Library have just released a major (17,000 students) study of the behaviors and beliefs of “Generation Y” (i.e.born 1983-1992) doctoral students involving social media, information access, and related matters. The students were surveyed over a three year period to set a benchmark for the research behavior of that generation.

Here are some of the results from the report:

  • “For example, 23% of all the students have made passive use of online forums, but only 13% have taken an active part in any discussions: 23% followed blogs, but only 9% maintained a blog themselves. Active take-up of institutionally-provided open web resources is also low, with students requesting more information about technologies and applications such as Google Scholar, cloud computing, EndNote and Mendeley.”
  • “Other findings from the report include a continuing lack of understanding about the nature of open access.”
  • “The study also highlighted a marked dependency on published secondary sources rather than primary sources, such as archival materials and data sets, as the basis of students’ own original research, regardless of discipline.”

To get more information you can download the report from:

Image from:Journal de Montréal/Québec édition du mardi 22 janvier 2008.