Thursday, February 16, 2012

Citizen Science Around the World

Around the Citizen Science world in 80 minutes!

Citizen cyberscience is truly a global trend and the landscape is evolving rapidly. During the second afternoon session we heard from projects in China, Brazil, South Africa and South East Asia. Even though projects are initially set up in specific regions, they attract volunteers across the globe often tackling widespread humanitarian problems such as improving access to clean water (Computing for Clean Water), or mitigating the devastating of earthquakes (SE Quaker Catcher) and monitoring deforestation (Forest Watchers).

Wenjing Wu from the Chinese Academy of Science told us that in China, volunteer computing has grown in popularity by nearly 25% in the last year. She gave us an insight into the ‘Computing for Clean Water’ (C4CW) project which is the first Citizen Cyberscience project to be established by Chinese Scientists. The project has the support of IBM’s World Community Grid.

Clean water is one of the UN Millennium Goals. Worldwide 1.2 billon people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion have little or no sanitation, which is a big problem for China and its growing population. The ultimate goal of this research is deeper insight into how to build a new generation of cheap water filters, to alleviate the pressing demand for clean water. The physical mechanism of filters is not fully understood, and requires the insight of data from thousands of realistic computer simulations.

Earthquake safety and mitigating the devastating effects of seismic activity is a responsibility shared by billions worldwide. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes. Taiwan is located on the convergent plate boundary zone between the Eurasia and the Philippine-Sea plates. Eric Yen from the Academia Sinica, presented the SE Asia Quaker Shake - a project that aims to encourage locals (including high school students/teachers) in quake prone areas such as Taiwan to join in and monitor signs for aftershocks using sensor technology.

Deforestation is responsible for 20% of the greenhouse gases, and a major cause of global concern. The exact rate at which rainforests are presently being destroyed is not known. Daniel Lambrana Gonzalez (Citizen Cyberscience Centre) introduced a Brazilian volunteer-powered project, Forest Watchers, which is building a global network of volunteer to monitor forests across the world with limited traditional means of self-monitoring.The project asks volunteers to check for signs of deforested areas through Satellite images. Join them for a Hackfest on Saturday. Results from the project will be presented at the Rio+20 summit on global sustainability at the end of June!

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