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Thoughts on CyberScience conference

Last week saw the Citizen Cyberscience event at King’s College London, and it featured plenty of ambitious scientific research projects making extensive use of the enthusiasms and knowledge of an international public.

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Projects on show included Einstein @home, which used volunteer’s PCs to detect various astronomical phenomenoa, and herberia @home, a distributed project to classify and transribe planet speciemens.

Of the sessions I attended, much of the focus was on research itself, with little being said about the relationships the scientists are building up with the public. Via such projects, an awful lot is being learnt about how to engage citizen scientists and maintain their interest, but this seemed to get lost in the discussion of the scientific research that propels this work in the first place.

The RunCoCo project at the University of Oxford is dealing with some of these issues (albeit for more community focussed projects that deal more with social or cultural themes), but one feels there is plenty more that the academic community needs to learn about how to engage the public.

The apparently easy success of the cyberscience movement should not disguise the fact it takes time and effort to get members of the public to contribute to sometime complex projects and that one or two mis-managed projects could easily destroy broader public trust in working with the research community.

A bit more discussion about these issues would help strengthen the current digital crowdsourcing phenomenon and ensure that it’s not a short-lived bubble.

1 reply on “Thoughts on CyberScience conference”

I couldn’t agree more! I was quite disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion of the social aspects of citizen science. There’s a huge opportunity here for citizen scientists to work with the social media community who have, after all, been doing this sort of work for quite some time now! I’d very much like to see the two communities come together to tackle this problem, as I believe both sides would find it a valuable experience.

I wrote in more depth about this on my own blog:

http://charman-anderson.com/2010/09/06/the-social-side-of-citizen-science/

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