Thursday, 7 November 2013

Citizen Science

A new and exciting area in the field of Science is that of Citizen Science.

Nowadays scientists have access to technology that allows them to generate huge volumes of data which they then have problems in processing. Computers can held them in this but they have their limitations, for example computers are not very good at recognising patterns whereas humans have had a million years to develop this technique.

With these issues in mind, Scientists have turned to us, Joe Public, to help them to process their data. It started with the classification of far distant Galaxies whose images had been captured by the Hubble space telescope. Computers had difficulty classifying them based on their shape and pattern and so people (citizens) were asked to do it in a site called "Galaxy Zoo". In the first 18 months they managed to classify all of their stock of galaxies many times over.

This site and method then sparked others which looked at things from bat calls to the three dimensional folding of proteins (Fold-it).

Another excellent aspect to this process is that the scientific publications that have resulted from this process have included the names of the "citizens" that have contributed to it. Imagine having your name on a scientific paper in "Nature" or "Science" with the work you have done from your sofa!!! And when I say work it isn't really like work; it has been designed to actually be enjoyable and rewarding.

Try them out for yourself:

http://blogs.plos.org/citizensci/2012/12/31/top-citizen-science-projects-of-2012/

http://www.galaxyzoo.org/

http://fold.it/portal/

https://www.zooniverse.org/project/hubble

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