Friday, February 17, 2012

Science by citizens

Don't panic, organise by Martin_Duggan on Flickr
The citizen cyberscience summit brings together so many disparate activities and people, all with the basic premise that everyone should be doing science and be involved. They also have the attitude of "Don't Panic, Organise!" Well three projects which are doing this are the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS), London Zoo and EveryAware.

Shannon Dosemagen and Sara Wylie from PLOTS are interested in open source development of tools for grassroots science. They want civic science to solve the problems of engaging the community in environmental science and health research. What matters to them is that citizens are interested in different kinds of needs and data types outside usual standards. So they are trying to develop science which is community orientated and owned.

Their first project used balloons and digital cameras in 2 litre soft drink bottles to do aerial mapping/photography. It was first used in Louisiana so that actual on the ground stakeholders could get involved in tracking and monitoring the oil spill form the Deep Water Horizon disaster. They now have over 200,000 images and have also transformed all of the data into to industry standard but also created non-online data e.g. maps that were handed out at diners and shops. It has now been used for pollution monitoring at the Gowarnus Canal superfund site in Brooklyn NY as well as by protestors in Jerusalem, Wall Street and Santiago to show the extent of their movements.

Not everything is so urban though Alasdair Davies from Zoological Society of London presented the Instant Wild application. They have 6 camera traps in 4 locations like Sri Lanka, and Kenya. When they are activated by a mammal moving past them the photo is sent to a volunteers phone so they can identify what animal it was they are now upto 80,000 downloads to iPhones and over 325,00 identifications. They have had some real surprises like a fishing cat in Sri Lanka or leopards in Kenya but the most important one was a mountain mouse deer which has only been photographed once before in 3 years (before that it wasn't even officially recognised as existing). They hope to move forward with 21 new cameras and new locations as well as supporting the Android platform.

The last project was EveryAware presnted by Vittorio Loreto from La Sapienza University of Rome. It is a platform that integrates objective and subjective monitoring to improve awareness and possibly change behaviour. They combine various technologies from sensor boxes to smart phones with their flagship project being "Widenoise". Measureing actual noise (objective) and a user's prediction (subjective) it helps build up a noise map of the area but also engage the user in what the noise levels are around them

These are only 3 of the projects trying to bring people to bear on science and engage them actively in thinking about their local environment as well as the global.

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