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A Week of @IAmCitSci: Experience with citizen science, Galaxy Zoo, UCL ExCiteS, EyesOnAlz, forum moderation and more

Greetings! I’m Alice Sheppard, ExCiteS’s Community Manager, and I have been a citizen science volunteer for 9 years. I started back in July 2007 when Galaxy Zoo began and members of the public were asked to classify galaxies. The team got so many questions that they built a discussion forum, which I was asked to moderate – and my journey into citizen science began.

The @IAmCitSci account is a rotating one, organised by Caren Cooper; every Monday, a different person involved in citizen science in some way takes over the account and tells their followers about their experiences. (Would you like to curate? Ask Caren.)

Twitter is the “microblogging” site where everything is said in 140 characters. So each sentence from me will be very short. The trick is to link them all together to tell a story of which people can share (“retweet”) their favourite parts. Or to really practice saying a lot in a few words – and this is often very memorable. Initially it’ll look a bit disjointed, but you’ll soon get used to this.

Note: depending on when you read this blog, the profile picture of IAmCitSci will change – links have shown my (fantastic) successor, Billy Tusker, and currently show their latest curator, who will keep changing. Please just imagine that they all have a picture of a penguin galaxy.

penguin-galaxy

Day 1: How I got into citizen science

I first got access while at work, and there’s always plenty to do on a Monday – plus I had to get to grips with Tweetdeck. So my first few tweets were on the sporadic and random side.

However, later, I was able to start stringing some coherent thoughts together.

It seemed quite popular:

I continued the story of how I got into citizen science over several tweets strung together (if you keep hitting the “reply” button, but deleting your name, it makes them far easier to follow.) The following sentences are all tweets, and this is how I will present most of them – there are only so many pictures of tweets you want to see.

How did citizen science come to mean so much to me? Why do I spend all the professional time I can on it? Why that, not something else?
It’s been a very odd path, with good things and bad things. I’d be interested to know how others get here too, feel free to tell me.
To be honest, science at school bored me senseless. Only reading popular science books persuaded me to take Biology and Chemistry A levels.
I loved astronomy books when I was little, such as https://t.co/3eO90QfAnN and https://t.co/j6r4SSMKAG but school never went into this stuff
(I wish I’d done physics now, but it clashed with history, my favourite, and the teacher wouldn’t have me due to getting a C at GCSE maths.)
But I did have a truly wonderful RE teacher at school called Catherine Housden. She taught in Kent. If you know her, give her my thanks!
Her classes weren’t so much religion as introducing different viewpoints and social, moral, ethical etc issues. It got very important to me.
From this I got really involved in thinking myself into other people’s perspectives and wanting to do something useful.
So in sixth form (aged 16) I heard of environmental science as a university course to take. I was thrilled. Varied, useful science!
But when I got there I felt horribly unequipped. Other students seemed to know loads of maths and how to read academic papers. I didn’t.
People would just sort of smile at me and say “they don’t hold your hand here”. But I always felt I was lacking something essential.
Maybe I’m just not all that smart. Who knows?
Anyway, something else I thought was missing from a lot (not all) the degree was the role the public plays in the environment.
Not that the degree was obliged to do that – I won’t be one of those “why wasn’t the article about X instead of Y” commenters … 😀
But anyway. It drove me mad that here were the academics producing all this data that then most people never get to see, instead getting….
….to hear from journalists, pundits, politicians etc and the environment just being some kind of abstract, irrelevant argument.
So anyway, to cut a long story short, after I graduated I decided to indulge myself with a childhood love: astronomy books.
I got this one https://t.co/1shUZ6OhjR & it came with a website where you could ask questions. I wrote in with some. @chrislintott replied.
I’ll embarrass @chrislintott now by saying that by answering my questions he taught me and directed me to science much better than my degree
Suddenly science felt like something that I could access and share, not something I was too thick and ill-equipped to qualify in.
Then @chrislintott blogged: “I thought you might want to be the first to see my new research project. We need your help!”
Wait, what? I thought. Help from unqualified beginners like me? Turned out, yup. That was @galaxyzoo. Then it was https://t.co/cwm1lqBXbi

zoo1
So I went and started clicking on galaxies. Huge great groups of stars out in space. Billions of possible worlds. Infinite beauty.
But anyway, I did have a lot of questions for the (very small) team and it turned out other people did too.
They started getting 20,000 e-mails a day and wondered if they needed an e-mail zoo to get the questions answered 😀
(This https://t.co/1R5QMjMzED was the 2nd most shared article at the time. The 1st was “man flies to wedding a year early”.)
I barely knew what a discussion forum or a moderator was. But it got handed to me and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
But I’ll just finish my self-indulgent personal ramble now. They made a discussion forum and I ended up leading it.
I will be tweeting over the coming week about some important things: what was @galaxyzoo up to? and why was it so popular?
My degree had lacked interaction; this was all about teaching people by interaction, though online. That was really special. We were a team.
It was the most wonderful thing to see people explaining so many components, different types of expertise complementing each other.
Some of us knew how to search the databases. Others knew how to read spectra (I’ll explain those later). Others read lots of books/articles.
And lots of people felt they had found a home. So many friendships began, as well as discoveries made, papers written, etc.
Seems to me that’s the best way to learn science, to get it done, and perhaps in the long term to help decisions get made.
Many discoveries weren’t what the @galaxyzoo team had, could have, anticipated. Unknown unknowns, found by lots of eyes and time.
If I’d done well in my degree, would this have happened? Maybe not. Citizen science filled gaps for me that are’t gaps for other people.
To me, science – investigating the Universe – is a right and responsibility of everyone with the slightest interest.
Don’t mess about with endless exams and jargon. Get in there and do the real thing and find a niche and the other people with niches 🙂
But I found it by coincidences, luck, and kindness. Scientists, we have a responsibility to expose everybody to that. Not a lucky few.
Science is real and too precious to belong to an elite, or to waste in a miserable bunch of qualifications. It’s real. It’s everybody’s.

This story seemed to strike a chord:

Anyone still reading is probably yawning and wanting a tea now, so I shall give you a break for a while. Thank you so much! 🙂
So, what would you like to know next? The story of how @galaxyzoo got started? Or what it was like to look after the discussion forum?
I’ll be telling you a *lot* about galaxies, astronomy, spectra and what we discovered this week 😀
And I would still like to know what gets both volunteers and academics – and anyone else – interested in #citizenscience.
I’m getting sleepy so may not give you another War and Peace length account tonight. I’m sure you’ll all survive …
So I’ll tell you all now that I also help at @eyesonalz. The forum, of course.
I’m also the citizen science columnist for @popastro’s magazine. Oh and I’m giving a talk there on Saturday. https://t.co/C8Vv7IcVoV
Want your laptop to do #citizenscience too? Download @WCGrid. It’s almost sad to shut my laptop down at night when it’s running.
There are LOADS of people and organisations doing #citizenscience. I’m a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam here. I just talk a lot 😀
(The mote of dust quote comes from this: https://t.co/MPSFr7FFFE)

Day 2: Introducing galaxies and Galaxy Zoo; my inspiration to share science

Next day, in between preparing a presentation, I began to talk about some projects specifically:

There are a lot of initiatives now to let people “meet” science in a better way than at school, and we must continue this IMHO.
Today I’ll let you “meet” some science the way I did and introduce you to @galaxyzoo as it was born ….
Take a look at this galaxy https://t.co/oyOJYxp1XU What do you notice?

(The galaxy in question is M101. Yes, “zooites” soon get the hang of acronyms – don’t be put off.)

spiral-m101

Well, there’s a huge amount to notice, but here’s a question automated telescopes aren’t good at answering: what shape is it?
Telescopes are very good at saying how much light is coming from it, the wavelengths etc, so finding quasars, for example.
However, this itself can be misleading. If we expect characteristics in one galaxy type, confirmation bias might creep in.
What we can say about this galaxy is that it’s spinning.
How can we tell which way round it’s spinning? The arms trail along behind – think of a whirlpool, the centre part going fastest.
We can verify which way a galaxy is spinning by checking it over time. We can also see if areas are going away from or towards us.
We have found that about 5% of spiral galaxies are spinning the opposite way round; I will try to find an example for you.
But anyway. Why should we care which way a galaxy is spinning? I mean, it just depends on where we’re looking at it from, right?
(Here’s a spiral galaxy whose arms are leading, not trailing – pretty rare [I linked here to a New Scientist article])
A scientist had found such an area of sky and, this being that era, nicknamed it the “Axis of Evil” 😀
This is correct – however, imagine if there was an area of sky where lots of spiral galaxies seem to be lined up, spinning all the same way.
So, @chrislintott’s officemate Kate Land wanted to see if this was a real effect. But how to check?
Meanwhile, another investigation was taking place. And now it’s time to introduce you all to @kevinschawinski.
Well there are rather a lot of galaxies up there and a limited number of scientists to look. But who doesn’t like looking at galaxies?
Back in 2006-7, Kevin was a PhD student at Oxford. He was looking at another type of galaxy: ellipticals. https://t.co/sve1ms4aJf

elliptical
What do you think about elliptical galaxies when you see them? A bit boring?
(Obviously I’m trolling you here. You’ll never get to hear me admit anything space related is boring.)
Anyway, in an elliptical galaxy, there is no organised, structured orbit that all stars follow, as there is in a spiral. It’s a bit muddly.
Now this means that things are continually being mixed up and dust clouds are less likely to form. This spiral is full of dust clouds. [I provided the same link in this tweet – see the spiral galaxy picture above]
Ironically, in order for new stars to form, you need to let regions get cold – because that lets gas condense.
So, spirals are starforming and ellipticals aren’t, right? But @kevinschawinski had found a few starforming elliptical galaxies.
Typical bloomin’ science, never going the way we expect it, eh?
Anyway, @kevinschawinski needed to find more elliptical galaxies like this. But there was no collection of ellipticals ready for him.
The brightest objects might be spiral galaxies, elliptical galaxies, bright stars in the way, aeroplanes, other types of galaxy ….
The only way Kevin could make himself a collection to study was to use this telescope [here I linked to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey] & go through 900,000 manually.
So @kevinschawinski and @chrislintott went to a pub to discuss the problem. Kevin had quite a headache, I should imagine.
(A tangent – do check out Stardust@Home [link] – they also helped create @EyesOnAlz, another project I help with!)
Now, @chrislintott knew of Stardust@Home – where they invited members of the public to look at dust grains from a comet.
If the public will look at grains of dust, surely they’ll look at beautiful galaxies? Yes, the general public will indeed to that!
In fact, @galaxyzoo was so popular that the server melted on its second day. Fortunately their friends fixed it and put them on a bigger one
9 years later @galaxyzoo is still going, though rather different. Want to have a go? You can sign up, or I’ll give you a quick tutorial!

As I had invited others to tell me their citizen science stories, I received an extremely moving one from this account.

Carla Burgess’s Mom had studied monarch butterflies for many years, teaching her children about them as she did so. After she died, Burgess read her notebooks and found extensive notes. She has been continuing citizen science on these butterflies and their parasites, learning more techniques. Thank you for sharing this with us.

And I was being sent some frank opinions too:

(Don’t we all, in this department?)

At this point I decided to go into exactly what people were asked to do:

The other bright spots are other galaxies. Note also you can see through it. Stars are very far apart in space.

Note that you can see a heck of a lot of dust in this one. Like a sunset, it looks thick – we are seeing all its contents over a small area.
There’s no such thing as an edge-on elliptical galaxy as they are all 3D to some extent. Some are round; some more like rugby balls.

I then decided to make a poll. Unfortunately, I picked a very tough galaxy, it seems.

As you can see, there is huge disagreement! (Which isn’t a problem. You’ll see more on this later.) Or there might be another explanation. Personally I would have said an anticlockwise spiral galaxy. It does slightly resemble an elliptical galaxy in the centre, which is quite common to galaxies. Unfortunately it was a long time before I had any answers to this poll and I forgot to follow it up: apologies to my followers. I continued tweeting ….

While I’m waiting for your answers, I’ll introduce you to some more galaxy types we found.

That was my introduction to the things we were asked to classify in Galaxy Zoo 1. However, the story is a lot more involved.

I have heard criticism of @galaxyzoo that it was set up by and for professionals, no chance for citizens to start own projects: however…
….this was indeed how it started – but they quickly built a discussion forum where lots of projects were started independently.
It would be a limitation of science if all projects were begun by professionals. That shouldn’t be our aim.
But a lot of our best stuff came from people asking their own questions, which were tackled by fellow volunteers first.
My favourite example of this is the “pea” galaxies. I analysed how it happened: https://t.co/SDIx74sjRA
The @sdssurveys has a green filter, and lots of people posted questions about green objects they were finding.
I’ll post a few tweets to summarise the story, though I love that post and I recommend you read the whole thing!
But then we began to look at the spectra of these images. I promised I’d explain what a spectrum is yesterday. Here goes!
We were used to totally weird images and often thought they were just mistakes, and posted the images for a laugh, with many dreadful puns.
You know how a barcode tells a machine what a product is? I call spectra “starcodes” because they do the same thing.
Spectra are created by the interaction of light and matter, such as electrons around atoms, or atoms jiggling.
Incidentally, I had heard of spectra in chemistry courses, but actually using them was something different altogether. Learning by doing!
You know light has different colours; each colour corresponds to a different energy. Blue light has a higher energy than red light.
For the purposes of our discussion, we can think of the outdated model of an atom as a mini solar system with electrons as planets.
If a photon (piece of light) has precisely the right energy to strike an electron, it will move the electron into a different level.
It’s a bit like Mercury moving into Venus’s orbit. However, any old photon won’t do: it has to be *exactly* the right energy.
IIRC it was de Broglie who figured out why. An image explains this better than words: https://t.co/O5B3U9AF9M

debroglieorbits
(I googled for an image and it turns out to be from a great blogger, @drskyskull https://t.co/1bbEh6ciPg)
The way we see this happening is thin dark lines – where the photons have been absorbed by the atom.
Anyway, every type of atom (element) has its own unique arrangement of electrons, so they will be boosted by different energies of photons.
(Obviously the electron will eventually fall back down and release a new photon, but it’ll go any old where.)
Indeed we set up a spectra help thread
So do you find all this quite heavy science for beginners? But at the @galaxyzoo forum we helped each other understand this.
And if you want to know more about spectra I wrote this for my fellow @galaxyzoo volunteers
So back to those peas at @galaxyzoo. We noticed they all seemed to have a massive spike showing lots of oxygen missing two electrons.
That itself contradicted everything I’d been taught in A level Chemistry: oxygen is greedy for electrons! But in space, all is different.
We checked the spectra of other galaxies and it seemed that these little round “pea” galaxies were forming a LOT of stars.
(Everything you’ve learnt in chemistry probably applies to “standard conditions” ie at sea level on Earth: special circumstances really!)
But they were very rare and very small; why such a large starforming rate? In the end, @kevinschawinski and Carie Cardamone got involved.
At present, I don’t think amateurs can successfully get Hubble telescope time, which is sad – but we did many months of our own work.
Now, I don’t want you to take this as “professionals swooped in and saved the day”. Professionals had never even found a pea galaxy.
They were able to get us time on the Hubble Space Telescope and find out that these peas were a new class of galaxy!
To find those peas we needed thousands of eyes, manually searching a database, we needed people to read spectra, to do SQL queries.
No single one of us could have done that. We combined many different types of skills. My dept @UCL_ExCiteS calls this transdisciplinarity.
We need 2 things: 1) access to data, 2) a good friendly format where lots of people can talk to each other. My job was to maintain #2!

My next few tweets are mostly a personal story, but I’ll still share some highlights: the immense feeling of luck and gratitude I felt from getting all that knowledge and the desire to share it:

Anyway, I had a lot of astronomy stories to tell before long, and I was also involved with Skeptics in the Pub #SITP and public speaking.
(Skeptics in the Pub did their own bit to teach me some citizen science, by the way. Remind me to tell you that story too.)
So I decided to give some public talks and raise money for charity. Luckily, a kind venue, @newunity, offered me their space for free.
Anyway, I felt incredibly lucky and privileged to have so much access to astronomy and I wanted to share it and practice public talks.
I decided to raise money for charities addressing #FGM, a subject that was less talked about then – @NimkoAli et al have changed this a lot!
(I asked if I as a very white person had any business getting involved in this and was told absolutely, it’s a human rights issue.)
To read more on this, check out @DaughtersofEve. Also, @Crowd2Map for relevant #citizenscience, but I hadn’t heard of them at the time.
Anyway, I didn’t get a huge audience for my space charity talks, but they were nice. That was @GalacticOrchids. Fond memories.

I then went into another story of some past activity – not an organisation I’m particularly involved in any more, though they still ask me to give space-related talks every so often.

And now for Skeptics in the Pub, @SITP and something they did a few years ago that I consider to be citizen science.
The science writer Simon Singh wrote a column that an alternative medicine practitioner did not like, and they sued him.
They claimed that he was accusing them of deliberate dishonesty, and the burden of proof was on him to say he wasn’t.
(Don’t get me started on English libel laws, by the way. They are rather unique. International cases often taken to London in order to win.)
Anyway, Singh argued that he was claiming that there was no evidence to support the claims being made. The claims certainly were made.
They said they had “a plethora of evidence”. It took them 14 months, if I remember rightly, to actually publish it.
The practitioner therefore had to provide evidence that the claims of efficacy of their treatment were actually correct.
It then took 16 hours for bloggers to check all the references and find that none of the scientific papers cited actually claimed anything.
Now, I’m not going to have a go at anyone who uses alternative medicine, unless they claim it cures serious conditions that it doesn’t.
(And if you choose to use them for that, again, your choice, but telling others this may delay them getting life-saving treatment.)
Anyway, to me, this is citizen science because it involved lots of people delving into medicine journals and data, then sharing it.
One problem here of course is that journals are often locked behind paywalls, and even when not, the language isn’t always easy to read!
By the way, English libel law did actually get amended after this case. Read more at https://t.co/EG0eJPOB1S
Can someone remind me – isn’t there a website where people can “translate” scientific papers to make them more accessible?

I thought the above might be PubMed, but it isn’t. If anyone does know, please leave a comment. And if it doesn’t exist – who’s up for creating it?

I do think it would be terrific if more people felt confident enough to go through science journals and see for themselves whether claims are accurate or not! This is one of the many things I hope to achieve with citizen science ….

A few more tweets about papers – I’ve seen a lot of discussions, books and articles mentioning this open access problem:

A lot of papers are made public now, for instance https://t.co/cQ4L2Fj6PV. I wish everyone could be taught to read scientific papers easily!
Academic publishers, however, are against this as obviously the paywalls is how they make money and continue to exist.
Some academic publishers have apparently hired people to claim that open access is damaging to scientific integrity, etc.
And some scientists find they can’t access their own papers without paying, even though they weren’t paid for writing them!!
Please tweet me your favourite accessible scientific paper websites!
So some scientists are openly boycotting some academic publishers.
Obviously, a lack of open access to scientific papers is a blow to citizen scientists. + We pay tax for science; we should get to read it.
You can find all @galaxyzoo’s scientific publications at https://t.co/Y97fAtlrI1. Often, “zooites” are listed as authors.
“We couldn’t find a journal that would allow 100,000 authors” – @chrislintott 😀 So @galaxyzoo papers have a link to a thank you page.

Muki of course was following all this:

Thus far, things are imperfect, but perhaps we can change this …. https://t.co/epxGJ7CguX
What motivates people to do citizen science? Here is a pretty readable paper from @the_zooniverse https://t.co/p50SJYFqIe
Academics: If you want some software/advice to get #citizenscience into your research project, look here https://t.co/3A6xoBVIkF

(The last link leads to the Citizen Science Alliance.)

Day 3: The Galaxy Zoo Forum and an aborted astrophysics career

Although this was a voluntary, sit-at-home-and-do-this-in-your-own-time job, it changed my life and I learned more from this than I have from anything else so far.

I had a few other things to do that evening ….

(Said talk is now available online if you’re interested.)

When I’d got tired of doing the other things – I went back to the story:

Last night I was going on about how the discussion forum on @galaxyzoo provided a space for people to talk, teach each other and collaborate
Just because there was a nice, organised place where people could bounce ideas off each other, volunteer-led projects began.
I’ll tell you a little bit about my job. Take a look at this place: Galaxy Zoo Forum. Pretty big, huh?
For anyone who missed it, my analysis of one such project, the “peas”: “Peas in the Universe, goodwill and a history of zooite collaboration on the Peas Project”
My original job description was “just keep an eye out for swearing and spam generally”.
I feel a bit of a hypocrite sometimes that I enforced that firmly, since I swear my head off on my @penguingalaxy account.
Just the way you should be able to behave differently in different houses, countries, environments etc – same with websites.
However, I think you’ll agree that all websites are different. And I found it was VERY easy to get blocked by school filters, for example.
The Internet gives you various freedoms. It can give you freedom to say what you like. Or to be yourself without being scared of hurt.
I decided on going for the latter approach, as there are plenty of places – like Twitter – for the former. Also I was naiver then.
It turned out that the “zooites” mostly actually loved the outrageously polite atmosphere and took up the challenge forcefully!
One of our volunteers, Liz, began greeting every newcomer with “Welcome to the zoo.” That caught on quick too!
Another, Tommy, created a special thread for newbies to have their first few questions answered, try out picture-posting, etc.
So, all this took up a lot of time? Yes, but it was such a nice place, I went there for sanity. The more time the better. I was in love.
If anyone posted anything obscene or violent or whatever, I’d have a very private word with them and say I know you meant well, etc.
I can think of two separate people who I had to metaphorically slap quite hard – who then became major supporters of a super-nice place.
I did make a big instructions thread, but I found, just as I’d found at university, that interaction helps people learn.
So often, telling someone directly what was in the instructions, by private message, helped them learn much faster than just instructions.
When I started teacher training I thought the zoo would be a great teaching tool. My mentors said it was a distraction and I should quit.
I have since found to my surprise that it’s not necessarily the most “academic” pupils who like citizen science. They expect *answers*.
People who are more used to not knowing answers or finding them out seem more comfortable with just diving in and seeing.

When new volunteers asked about these, chatterboxes would argue with each other and the new person might get upset.
“But what’s the ANSWER?” they’d ask. “I don’t want to mess things up. I want to get it right, and nobody can tell me.”
This is when I’d tell them that we don’t already know the answer – or we wouldn’t be asking! We are writing the very first answers!
There is no textbook here. We don’t even know if our categorising is “right”. We can only sort as best we can, and keep refining.
Science isn’t answering questions someone else knows the answers to. It’s about asking new ones. And refining our answers with new data.
Occasionally I’d get a message after explaining this from someone who said this was a revelation to them about science. Liberating.
When you look at science like that, it matters one heck of a lot less how you did in your exams. It matters if you are contributing 🙂
So, my jobs grew to ensuring people were happy, quietly telling off people who made others unhappy, deleting spam, and much more.
Also, I often had to move topics around that had been posted in a poor choice of place. It had to be kept organised and navigate-able.
I also noticed when someone lost confidence and left, and if appropriate sent them an e-mail to encourage them to come back.
People could be hacked off if I’d moved their topic, but liked it if I messaged them to show it would get more attention in its new spot.
The first person who worried the Zookeepers (@kevinschawinski et al) was @NGC3314, who came along trying to gather data.
So very soon @NGC3314 joined the team and instigated another project: looking for overlapping galaxies – in the same line of sight.
The only thing was @NGC3314 hadn’t explained that he was an astronomer. We all laughed a lot when that misunderstanding was cleared up!
The handle @NGC3314 is actually pair of overlapping galaxies. Here it is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_3314
These are useful because the background galaxy lights up dust in the foreground galaxy. Dust is pretty hard to see in faraway galaxies.
When we’d been classifying galaxies and chatting for a few months, Astrofest – an astronomy festival – came up. I organised a get-together.
None of us knew each other and this was only 2007. Some of our relatives were horrified – “You’re meeting people on the Internet?!”
So I issued these instructions about how if anyone felt uncomfortable they could leave immediately without giving a reason, etc.
Turned out, lots of us went to Astrofest, listened to talks, made friends, went to local London pubs together and had an ACE time.
I travelled down from Cornwall, others from Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy! 🙂
(I wonder if anyone watching this is beginning to think we were a bit of a cult by now? It was a damn happy one though.)
We arranged several more meet-ups after that and then the Americans got envious and arranged their own.
However, yes, serious science was getting done too. For example, a volunteer called Waveney was a programmer and put this to use.
Waveney wrote a program that emulated @galaxyzoo in that you could click buttons to check a galaxy’s characteristics.

Irregulars tend to be small and sort of random bursts of star formation. Our Local Group of galaxies is mostly irregulars.
We were curious. Do irregulars turn into spirals, for example? Do they merge and form galaxies of Milky Way size? Are there old ones?
And is their lack of structure (spiral/elliptical) due to them being so small?
(They all seem to be blue, which indicates that they are full of young stars. We couldn’t seem to find any red ones. Where are they?)
It is useful to make collections of galaxies, because then all he had to do was collect all the reference numbers from one forum thread.
Waveney (real name Richard) wrote a blog about what he’s doing here:
Waveney’s irregulars project was a massive collaboration too. Another zooite, Aida, searched feverishly for irregular galaxies for it!
Waveney asked several questions about the irregular galaxies: do they have spiral arms? Bars? Clear centres? Are other galaxies nearby?
However, as I recall, one interesting finding of his was that irregular galaxies are forming stars faster on average than spiral galaxies.
Given that irregular galaxies are pretty titchy, that’s a major finding.
This was a project which was thought up and created by volunteers. Professionals had merely provided access to @sdssurveys and the forum!
He hoped to do a PhD with all this, but sadly his application got approved and then overturned later.
The great thing about @sdssurveys is just how much you can dig out of it. Here, I’ll introduce you to my penguin: https://t.co/j6Mvf96DxY
If you go to https://t.co/j6Mvf96DxY you can click the little picture and it’ll zoom out. You can also see the spectrum.
On the zoom out pic https://t.co/KHWMxYdSiW try ticking “photometric objects”, “objects with spectra”, “labels”.
You’ll see “ra” and “dec” on the “labels”. Now you know why I have that as my location at @penguingalaxy. It describes where the galaxy is.
Like, change the *last* digit. Not the first, or you’ll end up halfway across the sky 😀
Now go to those ra and dec boxes at the top left of https://t.co/KHWMxYdSiW. Try changing some of the numbers. The tiniest possible that is.
And now let’s go down a bit further on my penguin’s page …. “NED” will give you a list of recorded objects. “SIMBAD” shows you papers.
Anyway, let’s head back to the Explorer page https://t.co/j6Mvf96DxY Click on the graph. That’s the spectrum.
My penguin’s spectrum shows peaks – that is, electrons falling down towards the nucleus, releasing photons of light.
(Go back to here for my tweets saying what the hell a spectrum is.)
So, you can see why I miss having @sdssurveys as our data source – we have so much stuff to dig out of there.
This means there is plenty of matter that’s hotter than the source of the light shining through it. Cool, huh? Well, I mean ….
That itself could create a problem with classifying, though. People would go to the website instead of trust their eyes.
They’d get very cross when we said “please just classify what you see, don’t go to SDSS”. “You want me to be a chimpanzee?”
Well, quite the opposite, actually. Because what they wanted to do was copy down data which was already there, rather than provide new data.
On the other hand, to deny people access to SDSS would have been horrific. So we asked people to classify first THEN dig in.
Computers can get a spectrum, etc. What they didn’t get was the shape of the galaxy, and that’s what we were looking for.
People were getting so good at going with the data that they’d assume a peaky spectrum meant a spiral galaxy, for example.
I said yesterday that @kevinschawinski was looking for starforming elliptical galaxies – an impossibility, or so we’d thought.
And this meant that nothing new or odd would be found. That assumptions wouldn’t be challenged. But the assumptions were wrong.
But by concentrating on a galaxy’s shape, we found that those do exist. And that not all spirals are starforming – the reverse situation.
We found that a galaxy’s starforming activity depends on its environment, not its shape: Galaxy Zoo blog link
Sometimes wishes of scientists and volunteers were slightly at odds, and I would have to try and mediate and help find a solution.
Generally, though, the relationship was terrific. Volunteers felt they had come home and scientists felt that their careers had been made.
Eventually, other zoos such as @moonzoo, @snapserengeti, @oldweather etc were developed. The early ones got forums. Later, they got Talk.
“Talk” is a tool developed that allows much easier picture sharing, thread-forming etc. Somehow I’ve not really taken to it so well.
Anyway, it also means it’s easier for the zookeepers to spot when an interesting find has been made. “We can’t replicate Alice 20 times.”
Sadly, all the most eager volunteers got picked to be moderators on the other projects’ forums and Talks, and my forum got very quiet!
One of the most famous finds of the discussion forum was probably this.
Some finds were when someone was extremely lucky. Others were when lots of people collaborated and delved in deeply.

I got asked a question halfway through this thread from Pietro Michelucci, who asked me to help run the citizen science project EyesOnAlz:

I was very pleased to be getting some feedback that this was useful, and not just me talking into the void:

All this was, I hoped, the beginning of a new career for me, as well as (far more importantly) a change in the general direction of science, education and discoveries. I began another thread: this one on some of my sorrows and frustrations ….

Most unfortunately, several years of delving into SDSS and galaxies does not give you the maths background you need to pass MSc Astrophysics
and I learned this the hard way. I spent all my savings on a maths tutor. Friends and partner tried to teach me. It wasn’t quite enough.
People tell me “just practice” with maths, but that just doesn’t work with me. I need someone to explain it to me.
In 2011, @galaxyzoo very kindly got me to the American Astronomical Society conference. Everyone there thought I was a PhD student.
Most people assured me that they never use maths in their astrophysics and I should be in it because of the kind of questions I asked.
What if astronomers weren’t all selected on the basis of being able to pass an essentially maths degree? What effect would this have?
I wish I was good at maths though. I also wish I knew why equations work. We were seldom shown any evidence they agree with observations.
I am sure maths is very important and it would be wrong of me to say “I failed it so it’s pointless” like Neville Longbottom’s grandmother.
Anyway, at present citizen science is not a gateway into academia. Waveney and I both tried.
(I didn’t completely fail: I got a diploma. I passed some exams and the dissertation, which was on Saturn’s moon Enceladus!)
Oddly enough I’m not working in astrophysics any more, but at @UCL_ExCiteS!
And I’m also helping @EyesOnAlz – the forum, of course (go and look). So, environmental science, medicine, biology.
Right – I ought to write that talk now. Any questions?
Maybe one day I’ll discover something in astrophysics. Or maybe in something else. Or maybe I’ll just keep talking about #citizenscience.

When curating a Twitter account you feel obliged to pop in every so often just in case people have missed your long-winded stories. So I took a couple more breaks during the talk writing:

Muki followed up by light pollution tweets and I am still determined on this point:

(Muki has since got me back and pointed out I’ve been turned into a geographer by participating in OpenStreetMap!)

Day 4: My current citizen science work – UCL ExCites and EyesOnAlz

Time to start tweeting about the present!

Lots of environmental work especially, but it varies. The project I’m working on is @TogetherSci, especially the communications part.
First meeting of the day: over Skype with Pauline from @waag and my colleague Judy. We’re planning the release of our website.
All projects need funding, and in order to get the funding you need to promise various things. For example, to reach 1.3 million people.
Moderating a discussion forum seems awfully straightforward in comparison to all the stuff going on in the background of university offices!
I seem to have just volunteered to receive all public queries. I’ll also be responsible for writing newsletters.
I’ve actually done this for a charity whose office I used to run, and at @galaxyzoo I handled a lot of media queries! So all good.
However, coming and working in academia for the first time ever, aged 34, was a bit of a shock. It’s …. different.
I thought creating a citizen science project was straightforward and active. Here’s the science problem. Here’s the software. Go!
But I said the other day that I sometimes find academic papers a bit tricky to read. Which most people do, I imagine.
But the kind of science journals you see on arXiv are the tip of the iceberg. There are lots more documents!
When you’re used to millions of small things that need to be done NOW, having a large deadline a long way away is hard to address.
I began my job here with one big document to write with little idea how to do so, and out of practice at managing my own time.
You’re pretty much left to your own devices. It’s the reverse of micromanagement. But you don’t do the work, it’s disastrous.
So yes, I think I was a pretty terrible worker for my first month or so. But I’m much more confident now – learning and so very happy.
I sometimes feel a bit of a fraud working among all these people who’ve got through PhDs. Is my career path extremely unusual?
So, what is @TogetherSci doing? In short, we want to massively amplify and mainstream citizen science. Cool, huh?
DITOs ie @TogetherSci is 11 different institutions across Europe running citizen science events, and doing something called “scaling up”.
There are lots of citizen science projects; we want to link them all together to share good practices and empower people to start their own.
Particularly, we want to empower members of the public to start their own projects, for example about local issues they know a lot about.
We also want citizen scientists to share their data with local government, for example to improve their local area together.
It’s empowering to know how to use science to analyse and fix a problem in your area – or to indulge your own curiosity!
Knowing science is empowering. This is beautifully expressed in @helenczerski‘s article here
I tweeted last night about how people at @galaxyzoo had to make up their own minds about galaxies, there was no textbook with answers.
I love @bengoldacre‘s opening of “Bad Science”: science is often portrayed as “a monolith, a mystery and an authority, rather than a method”
Anyway … back to my current job. I’ve written a big document – I’m also organising lots of presentations and writing conference proposals.
Our project has started tweeting. It’s currently being curated by our partner Kersnikova. It’s @togethersci. Do you like our logo?
There are also all these academic models in citizen science: for example, what “level of engagement” someone is at.
This isn’t so much how much time someone spends on something as how much trust they put in, how many decisions they can make, etc.
There are also different types of citizen science: citizens as 1) sensors, 2) data analysts, 3) problem solvers, 4) project creators.
An example of 1) would be just using your iphone to measure light or sound, or using a screensaver such as @WCGrid.
An example of 2) is clicking through galaxies, animals, whale songs, ancient papyri or supernovae on @the_zooniverse.
An example of 3) is the Peas Project.
An example of 4) is “OMG, the air is so polluted, that company’s lying. Let’s go and ask for some equipment and test their fumes!”
No one of these is “better” in any way than the others. Everyone will have a preference, confidence level, how much they can commit to, etc.
What we’d like is for everyone to have access to any of these if they want to, and be able to learn more and change.
For this reason we’re reaching out to lots of local groups who are already doing grassroots work. Also to policy makers, etc.
Now, how to put all this into action across Europe, and ensure it actually continues? Quite a lot of work.
We want policy makers to meet citizen scientists and for them to get used to working together. So we’re arranging these meetings.
We also need to study and evaluate loads of citizen science events, to see what works well and what doesn’t.
Particularly, we need to reach people who don’t often have time, resources or confidence for citizen science. It shouldn’t be an elite thing
If you were trying to make citizen science a mainstream thing, what would you do? Interested to hear all your thoughts.
I recommend you read @mhaklay‘s blog about his discoveries in citizen science
For example this fascinating post on researchers of different subjects and backgrounds working together:
“It can take time, and long discussions to discover that you’re looking at the same thing but seeing something completely different.”
In that post @mhaklay also advises caution against assuming your discipline’s values are absolute; you may unintentionally undermine others.
For example, “fixation with randomised controlled trials” as being considered the only appropriate methodology, or how many volunteers, etc.
I would love to know more about various academic methodologies. I’ve started reading a book on qualitiative vs quantitative research.

Quite a topic for the organisation Skeptics in the Pub mentioned earlier, I think. Meanwhile, the world of citizen science is very busy and new thoughts kept popping up:

On Saturday @Seplute & I will be presenting @EyesOnAlz at #Mozfest! Our session keeps vanishing but is 1pm Saturday
If you’ve ever gone to a citizen science event or website and been put off, what was it that put you off?
For example, difficulty, unfriendliness, not sure what you’re supposed to do, boring, or life got in the way? Or something else?
Want to help make DIY science postcards? Anyone can! https://t.co/bsmLE4HaQy

Meanwhile, it seemed only polite to show everyone UCL ExCiteS!

And now for my work outside UCL:

There is evidence that Alzheimer’s disease is due to misshapen proteins blocking blood vessels in the brain. See https://t.co/BEWLBqPFFA
The above video is by StallCatchers, the first @eyesonalz game. Their website is https://t.co/jLjV7CchyP
(It used to be WeCureAlz, but we didn’t want to promise a cure and risk disappointment – science is very unpredictable.)
So, want to look at blood vessels in the brain? You can! Cornell University have got some. https://t.co/LU60E5s4cO
Indeed, if I know science, @eyesonalz will end up discovering other things about blood vessels in the brain that we’d never anticipated 😛 https://t.co/XJu3LIdP64
My job at @eyesonalz is to look after the forum. It’s small right now, so not a huge job. Come and change that? 🙂
In StallCatchers at @eyesonalz you will first see movies that others have seen, to teach you how to spot “stalls”.
You know how when you stand up suddenly you feel dizzy? Lack of blood to the head? This is a bit like Alzheimer’s, @pmichelu tells me.
A stall is a blood vessel through which blood is no longer flowing properly due to a blockage from those malformed proteins.

I got that bit wrong! It’s white blood cells that do the blocking, not malformed proteins. Sorry about that.

My ability to help @eyesonalz is twofold: first my moderating experience with @galaxyzoo, secondly my job at a charity for disabled people.
Here is an article from @seplute with lots more information about @eyesonalz https://t.co/QHKAFmA0ik

I hope someone will!

Day 5 was only a few sporadic tweets.

Day 6: Two talks

This was an exhausting day – rushing to Mozfest in the morning, helping with a session and then charging across London to give another talk. I didn’t tweet anything of huge importance besides a quick description of Mozfest, which I hope will encourage more people to come next year – but teachers and anyone who likes brains may enjoy this link:

Day 7: Building a citizen science community

This is a long post – but we’re nearly done now. It’s time to reflect on what it all means and what we can do.

Today I’ll share a little about a wonderful book I recommend, Reinventing Discovery by @michael_nielsen
And I’ll also offer some tips for how to create and run a really successful online citizen science community.
Years ago @cshirky gave a brilliant talk which ended with a story about a four year old looking for the mouse. Is the text still available?
I think the video is still online, but there used to be a lovely transcript I’d like to share with you all if possible.
In a week’s time I will be giving a short presentation about #citizenscience in Brussels. I need to improve my timekeeping so it stays short
And ideally I’d also like to finish writing the presentation today – however, it’s been a heavy week and relaxing now is so wonderful!
Last week involved a lot of meetings, yesterday was two presentations in different places and this morning was my landlady visiting!
Also, @popastro have suddenly announced they’re making me Citizen Science Officer. So if you ask them #citizenscience questions ….
…then you will probably get replies from me.
Obviously I recommend you join @popastro. They welcome beginners and they’ve got a lovely magazine, discussion forum, astro info, advice etc
Which means there’s a lot of projects out there, folks. Some need you to know a lot or have a lot of equipment. Others do not.
My @popastro presentation yesterday showed about 12 different #citizenscience projects and that was just space related ones.
If you are interested in learning science but think you are too old or weren’t good enough at it at school, it’s never too late.
(Also, school science often presents a very warped view of science, as some authoritative thing only geniuses get. Real science ain’t so.)
Good popular science books show the human effort and questions that went into discoveries, and science is questioning, not just answers.
One way I learn well is by reading popular science books – if you don’t feel they’re serious enough they still give you lots to look up.
There’s no one way to get into science. I expect other people who’ve got into it again after school/university will have other stories.
I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to do so much #citizenscience. I hope to be able to share it with other people 🙂

After these very general points, I then took up the story of how we really built the community on the Galaxy Zoo forum: the difficulties and the joys.

Some of the best #citizenscience discoveries are due to separate projects thought up by the volunteers, not the scientists.
For this to happen, the volunteers need to be able to communicate – for example, with a discussion forum.
It also needs to be relatively clear and organised, so you know where to find what.
This discussion forum needs to be a friendly place otherwise those who aren’t aggressive might well get fed up and leave.
And of course the database you’re using for your #citizenscience project needs to be something you can link parts of to in a forum.
How do you encourage good behaviour in a #citizenscience forum? Most people are there for good reasons, so it’s not too hard.
The @sdssurveys was really ideal for this (here’s my penguin page again – all of this can be put in a forum).
One @kevinschawinski told me is not to let people question my moderating decisions in public. This also helps the tone business.
However, I will share a few tips with you. First of all, set a super-friendly and polite tone of the forum – people will notice that.
Some will threaten lawyers or go on about free speech if you remove their swear words. You’re not obliged to give them a platform.

This struck a chord with another forum moderator:

But also, focus on the positives. Pay obvious attention to those who are there to do citizen science and who help other people.
Obviously, this is not the way to go about life in general. For example, I don’t expect victims of discrimination to be polite and calm.
In the real world, the approach I’ve described can just turn into “tone policing”. But in a forum all should be equal and fairly anonymous.
If you ignore someone’s polite questions, but respond when they have a public tantrum, this encourages others to have public tantrums too.
If you have to write someone a message saying “I removed your post because….” here are a few tips to keep the situation OK.
Unless they’re an obvious troll, tell them you know they meant well and they were just unlucky. Assume good intentions. They save face.
Have guidelines so they can’t argue. However, in some cases, people can be really inappropriate without breaking guidelines.
For example, they might use a lot of euphemisms or start something “but let’s not go there”. Then say, “I said nothing wrong.”
In such cases think about the consequences – someone is bound to say, “What does THAT mean? Oooooh! Oh, why can’t we say that? FREE SPEECH!”
Answer: they can say that somewhere else, we just don’t have to provide a platform and we don’t want to get blocked by safety filters.
So, guidelines aren’t a scientific formula, or a clever obstacle to skirt around. It’s about the overall tone of the place.
I certainly made hundreds of mistakes running the zoo forum. I expect some people got quite annoyed with me. I’m a human, after all.
There may be genuine concerns; do be prepared to apologise including publicly if you get something wrong. You won’t lose respect for this.
But the main thing is: are they there to do the citizen science project? If so, let’s keep focussed on doing that well. If not, go away 😛
Sometimes people will have concerns (or prejudices) about the citizen science project. Sometimes I just had to send them to the scientists.
Things I did that helped: Spending a lot of time there. Listening. Answering questions. Providing tech support. Helping people out.
The Zookeepers thought up a great feature called “Object of the Day”. They’d showcase a galaxy and a little science about it.
As they ran out of time, I gradually took over this. People often said “I think such and such a galaxy should be object of the day”.
At first, as I was following the sciencey agenda, I ignored this. Then I realised I was wrong; I should listen & use this enthusiasm.
So I put a sticky (stays at the top) thread explaining how to nominate galaxies. I told them to look up its reference number & who posted it
Eventually, volunteers (“zooites”) also started writing Object of the Day – we opened up a “slightly-secret” area for them to do this.
This meant they had preparation time and also these essentially mini-blog posts could be fact-checked in advance.
Another way to really keep people happy and helpful is to keep crediting efforts. They all wanted to be showcased in such a positive way!
There are things to avoid in running a forum. One is “collective punishment” eg deleting a whole thread because one person was abusive.
Another, as I’ve highlighted, is rewarding trolls by ignoring polite questions and only responding when crisis/tantrum level is reached.
Showing some irritation, of course, and other human emotions, is all right – don’t pretend to be superhuman.
And another mistake, which I certainly made, is responding irritably where other people can see & allowing an argument to escalate in public
If someone is very angry, it can help to give them time to calm down, eg don’t respond to their message immediately.
Also, if one volunteer is being aggressive to another, do intervene. Don’t be afraid to temporarily lock a thread, say you’ll unlock later.
If you have to move someone’s thread, contact them privately and explain why. Show them that the move is beneficial, not controlling.
And critically, set an example. If you’re enforcing rules, don’t ever even come close to breaking them. Expect more of yourself than anyone.
If you’re a scientist, which I was not back then: keep people informed, for example by a blog. Talk at their level – avoid jargon.
It’s best to come into the forum yourself, start threads, tell people why X galaxy type is interesting. “Please look out for X because…”
You may have to explain the same thing again and again. Try to remember that each person asking is new. Other people will help you!
And feel free to have silly threads – jokes and games! “The three word post game”. Or show funny camera artifacts too.
As the forum grows, you may need to have particular threads to help out new people, where they can ask the same questions again & again.
And when volunteers set this up, celebrate it! Have an Object of the Day highlighting their help and directing new people to their thread.
(Or blog post, if you don’t do anything like Object of the Day.)
Anyway, have some regular thing so people will keep coming back and checking the place. Keep a critical mass so chat keeps happening.
Make a public big deal out of good things. Publicly delete and ignore bad things (talk about them privately with who you have to).
Eventually, I think the zoo forum did lose the positive tone when the most helpful people left to moderate other forums.
Because this meant that the remaining people were, shall we say, the less helpful and positive ones.
A really great community can absorb a certain % of such folk and stay nice, but when they become a majority, you lose the nice tone.
Also, as more and more people used “Talk”, the new tool, the forum became obsolete, so we made the decision to archive it in 2014.
That was sad – and I wonder if there will ever be quite such an amazing community again. I hope to help create more.
On one occasion a nurse on the forum noticed that someone else (who just mentioned some symptoms) was very dangerously ill, and told her.
Another time, a social worker told us that she came to the forum to escape from all the horrors and frustrations that she had in her job.
We talked about the Universe and mind-blowing things. But we also talked about dinner and trivial things.
In fact, if you live alone, it’s damn nice to eat your dinner while on a good discussion forum. You’re eating in company now 😀

Community organisers seem to have enjoyed this post:

Muki and I ended up deciding that Storify was just too difficult for over 500 tweets! Which is why it’s here.

Back to the book which included our story:

A page of @michael_nielsen’s book mentioning @galaxyzoo. “The zooites don’t have the credentials of [polymaths]. But they are scientists.”

michael-nielsen-page

Another @michael_nielsen book page – I will use Twitlonger in a minute to write out the quote.

Twitlonger text: The quote from the photo I just took is one I use in presentations a lot: “Cynics will say that most people aren’t smart or interested enough to make a contribution to science. I believe that projects such as Galaxy Zoo and Foldit show these cynics are wrong. Most people are plenty smart enough to make a contribution to science, and most are interested. All that’s lacking are tools that help connect them to the scientific community in ways that let them make that contribution. Today, we can build those tools.”

I think the tools we need for people to make a contribution are a) a good database they can delve in to and b) a good place to communicate.
The database might indeed be something they are creating themselves, or it might be something large and open, like @sdssurveys.
It really depends on what type of science you are doing.
An early version of a citizen scientist creating a database and communicating was a variable star enthusiast, Argelander, in 1844.
I’ll link you to his words about it, “Observations buried in a desk are no observations”: look for quote in box….

I here linked to a post which quoted the text in question:

“Could we be aided in this matter by the cooperation of a goodly number of amateurs, we would perhaps in a few years be able to discover laws in these apparent irregularities, and then in a short time accomplish more than in all the 60 years which have passed since their discovery.

Therefore do I lay these hitherto sorely neglected variables most pressingly on the heart of all lovers of the starry heavens. May you become so grateful for the pleasure which has so often rewarded your looking upward, which has constantly been offered you anew, that you will contribute your little mite towards the more exact knowledge of these stars! May you increase your enjoyment by combining the useful and the pleasant, while you perform an important part towards the increase of human knowledge, and help to investigate the eternal laws which announce in endless distance the almighty power and wisdom of the Creator! Let no one, who feels the desire and the strength to reach this goal, be deterred by the words of this paper.

The observations may seem long and difficult on paper, but are in execution very simple, and may be so modified by each one’s individuality as to become his own, and will become so bound up with his own experiences that, unconsciously as it were, they will soon be as essentials. As elsewhere, the old saying holds here, ‘Well begun is half done’, and I am thoroughly convinced that whoever carries on these observations for a few weeks, will find so much interest therein that he will never cease.

I have one request, which is this, that the observations shall be made known each year. Observations buried in a desk are no observations. Should they be entrusted to me for reduction, or even publication, I will undertake it with joy and thanks, and will also answer all questions with care and with the greatest pleasure.”

Do you have any advice for creating good citizen science communities? Tell me and I’ll RT it.

It was still lots of fun to keep sharing space and science-sharing links:

(Not exactly citizen science but a really nice way to just connect with the stuff up there – human made and nature made.)

If the Moon is a C shape, the Sun is on its left. If you face a full Moon, the Sun is behind you – & a new Moon, the Sun is “in front”.
Similarly, a crescent Moon at night will always be a U-shape, never the other way up – the Sun is “below” from our point of view.
For this reason, if you ever see a full Moon at sunset/sunrise, it’ll be on the opposite side of the sky.
My favourite astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gapsoschkin recommended spotting “impossible moons” in paintings eg full next to a sunset for laughs.
Anyway, I used this trick to find my hotel when I was lost in Berlin (on a citizen science conference).
Poll: It was evening, just after sunset, and the moon was full. Quick: what direction was the Moon in?
I’ll leave you all to read the tweets above the poll and vote, and I’ll finish the story when some votes have come in 😀
So anyway, I was having trouble reading the road signs and my phone was nearly dead, so finding my hotel was going to be tricky.
Well done – 5 answers, all correctly saying that at sunset, a full Moon will be in the east! Sunset, therefore sun, in the west.
But I knew my hotel was to the east of the venue. So I simply walked in the direction of the Moon for an hour.
Every so often I would see a road name that I could also see on my phone. My course needed correcting a few times.
But by walking in the direction of the Moon for an hour I found my hotel in a country whose language I didn’t speak 😀
As the Earth rotates the Moon would of course have appeared to move so it wouldn’t have worked all night.
One of my academic colleagues tells me she’s dying to know how I did that, but whenever I offer to teach her, she’s too busy! It will happen
Probably next time we’re both outside an office at night – perhaps on our next conference. And I really look forward to that moment.

 

And that was the end of my week. I think it went well overall! Thank you so much IamCitSci for hosting me. I thoroughly recommend it.

 

 

 

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About Alice Sheppard

Community Manager at UCL. Helping with Into the Night and DITOs.

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