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Without Citizens you don’t get the Science – Lessons from projects with 60 to 6 million contributions – Simon Tokumine

Thursday 16th February

Speaker: Simon Tokumine | website

Theme: Spectrum of Citizen Science

Website: vizzuality.com

Simon Tokumine tooks on a journey on how to motivate citizen scientists:

1st project: Old weather – aims at projecting future climate based on historical British weather data. Old weather is intended to extract the data from the old logbook from captains since 1914!

Climate change models can have dubious accuracy if you do not have historical records. For the records that you do have, the format can be inconsistent and the writing illegible .

Old weather involved 24,000 volunteers and together, there volunteers have managed to transcribe 800,000 pages from logbooks.

But the real question is HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE people to engage and continue participating? Tokumine shares:

  • Capture people’s imagination and have a topic that is captivating
  • Have a clear course of action
  • Have an open forum
  • Show participants how their contribution add to the project (visualisations)
  • Be open to surprise!  Your participants have a lot to offer.

Old Weather meets these criteria and it also includes a game: you win badges the more logbooks you digitise . This keeps people motivated! Old Weather also has an open ended forum where people can communicate in their own way. Sharing their approaches and ideas and a bit of themselves makes them feel that this virtual space is a personal space. Feeling that you are interacting with real people is also a key motivator.

Old Weather also has animations that show participants’ contributions, that is,  visualisations on a map show the travels of the ships, the ship from which the logbooks they just transcribed are from.

There is another deeper more empathic aspect to Old Weather. Vissuality carried out a semantic analysis on the logs to learn about life on board the boats. This provided an interface where people can learn about history, perhaps even their ancestors! Motivations can sometimes capture you by surprise!

Tokumine also suggest that feeding back results to participants so they can see their results visually is a great motivator.

And the best part is that there is a very high rate of accuracy — 97% in transcription!

2nd project Planethunters.org

Over a year and a half there have been over 10 million classifications. Tokumine adds that getting live coverage really gets people motivated. For example, Stargazing live on the BBC, really encouraged people to join planet hunter and peaked participation.

But what is really key to getting people motivated is having a Philosophy :

  • Interesting problems – that captivate
  • Real research – that contributes to knowledge
  • Respect your contributors – the deserve it!

The citizen science alliance.org  currently has a call for projects of people are interested in starting their own projects. Vizzuality is a member of the citizen science alliance. Vizzuality is mainly about the power of people to do amazing things.

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