Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.
Did you know you can print live cells from an inkjet printer? Companies like Organovo are developing ways to 3-D print human tissues and organs. But the basic technologies are so accessible that we wanted to play around with them ourselves.
BioCurious has built its own functioning bioprinter from a couple of old CD drives, an inkjet cartridge and an Arduino. We probably won't be printing human organs any time soon, but how about printing a leaf from plant cells? Or add a BlueRay laser to turn it into a miniature laser cutter to print "lab-on-a-chip" microfluidic devices.
BioCurious community projects are open to anyone, and are driven entirely by whoever wants to show up and participate.
The inaugural Space Hacker Workshop on May 4-5, 2013, at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, Calif.—across the street (literally) from NASA Ames Research Center—will teach citizen scientists and hardware hackers how to do "space on the cheap." During the two-day event, participants learn how they can build and fly experiments in space, and even fly in space as citizen astronauts, through the Citizens in Space program.
The workshop is sponsored by Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, and the Silicon Valley Space Center. Citizens in Space is dedicated to citizen science and citizen space exploration.
Citizens in Space has purchased 10 suborbital flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, now under construction by XCOR Aerospace at the Mojave Air and Space Port, which will be made available to the citizen-science community. Citizens in Space will also select and train 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators for up to 100 small experiments. For information on submitting payloads, see the group’s Call for Experiments.
Public radio station WNYC invites families, armchair scientists and lovers of nature to join in a bit of mass science: Track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York State and the whole Northeast by building homemade sensors and reporting your observations.
Magicicada Brood II will make its 17-year appearance when the ground eight inches down is a steady 64 degrees Fahrenheit/17.8 degrees Celsius. Help predict the arrival by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting your findings back to WNYC. We'll put them on a map and share your observations of this once-in-a-generation discovery with our entire community.
The whole detector costs about $80 in parts and takes about two hours to build. You'll want it in the ground by mid-April, the earliest the cicadas are likely to emerge.
Formed in 2000, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) is an environmental health and justice organization working with communities that neighbor the state's oil refineries and chemical plants. The group’s mission is to support communities' use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable neighborhoods free from industrial pollution.
The EPA-approved "bucket" is an air-sampling device that people who live next to industry—“fenceline” neighbors—use to document pollution in their neighborhoods. Air is drawn into a 19-liter bucket and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Though the bucket is an important part of the assistance the LABB provides, it is only one part of a toolbox that includes education, assistance with organizing, media and other types of sampling (water, soil, seafood).
LABB programs include the Refinery Efficiency Initiative, Environmental Justice Corps, Fenceline Neighbors Networks and Oil Spill Response.
The Genographic Project is a multiyear research initiative that uses cutting-edge genetic and computational technologies to analyze historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world to better understand our human genetic roots.
By participating in the latest phase of this real-time scientific project, you can learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. You will also help support the Genographic Legacy Fund, which works to conserve and revitalize indigenous cultures around the world.
The three components of the project are:
The Genographic Project is anonymous, nonmedical, and nonprofit, and all results are placed in the public domain following scientific peer publication. For more details, visit: Genographic.nationalgeographic.com/about/
uBiome has launched a citizen science effort to map the human microbiome, the microorganisms that inhabit every inch of our skin as well as our ears, mouth, sinuses, genitals and gut. The correct balance of microbes serves to keep potential pathogens in check and regulate the immune system. Microbes also perform essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins.
The biotech startup from the University of California San Francisco branch of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) seeks to spark the era of personalized medicine by providing the public with easily accessible information about their own bodies using the latest in high-throughput DNA sequencing technology.
uBiome provides citizen scientists with a catalog of their own microbes; detailing the microbial composition of the body and explaining what is known about each genera of microbe. In addition, uBiome compares participants’ microbiomes with numerous past studies on the role of the microbiome in health, diet and lifestyle. uBiome also provides personal analysis tools and data viewers so that users can anonymously compare their own data with crowd data as well as with the latest scientific research. uBiome is HIPAA compliant and will not release personal identifying data or information to anyone.
The more people join the uBiome community, the more statistical power the project will have to investigate connections between the microbiome and human health. For example, with 500 people, uBiome will be able to answer questions about relatively common diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. With 2,500, the project can investigate connections to breast cancer. With 50,000 people, the project can begin to address multiple sclerosis and leukemia.
The weathering rates of gravestones are an indication of changes in the acidity of rainfall between locations and over time. The acidity is affected by air pollution and other factors, and could be used as a measure of changes in climate and pollution levels.
The Gravestone Project has two levels of data collection. The first is the location of graveyards, which requires the use of a GPS. The second is the measurement of the weathering of marble and other gravestones, which requires a micrometer. Citizen scientists can participate in either or both tasks.
After the March 11, 2011 earthquake and resulting radiation leak at Fukushima Diachi in Japan it became clear that people wanted more data than what was available about the earthquake, resulting tsunami and damage to nuclear power facilities. Through joint efforts with partners such as International Medcom and Keio University, Safecast has been building a radiation sensor network comprised of static and mobile sensors actively being deployed around Japan—both near the exclusion zone and elsewhere in the country.
Safecast is a non-profit group building Geiger counters, measuring radiation levels and making the data available to the public through maps, a Web site and data feeds to citizens, scientists and the public. Safecast is releasing data openly and pushing the Japanese government as well as universities and researchers to share their medical, sensor and other data. Open data is a very important trend and pushing people to release their data instead of just their results and findings is essential and adding a new layer of robustness in research that the Internet and data science enables.
While Japan and radiation is the primary focus of the moment, this work has made us aware of a need for more environmental data on a global level and the long-term work that Safecast engages in will address these needs.
Deadline: Dec 11 2013
Reward: $52,000 USD
Platform technologies – tools, techniques, and instruments that enable entirely novel approaches for scientific investigation across a b
Deadline: Jan 27 2014
Reward: $15,000 USD
The Dow Chemical Company is the leading producer of polyalkylene glycols (PAGs) used in synthetic fluids and lubricants where petroleum,
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