Saturday, December 27, 2008

BBC Radio 4: Citizen Science

The Growing Role of Amateurs in Collecting Scientific Data

From using home computer downtime to search for extraterrestrial life and designer drug molecules to asking amateur experts to track comets with their back garden telescopes, the public are getting involved in a huge range of surveys and experiments. In this series, Sue Nelson enters the world of the amateur scientist and discovers the hidden army of willing helpers to the scientific community.

Episode 1: Conservation

[snip] Pick an organism in Britain and there's bound to be a voluntary organisation which looks after it. Sue Nelson meets amateur moth trappers in Bedfordshire and orchid rescuers in the Cotswolds.

But it's not just a fun activity or a publicity stunt by the organisation.

The data collected by volunteers is essential. It would be impossible to set up an army of professional scientists to survey Britain's natural history at the same scale as the amateurs.

Listen To Episode 1

Episode 2: Computers

If you want to do your bit for humanity, and help scientists fight the war against cancer or HIV, halt the spread of Malaria, help mathematicians discover the largest known prime number, or even search for ET, then you don't have to do much more than log on to your computer.

A plethora of new science projects are relying on the fact that a few thousand, or even 100,000 humble home computers are better than one giant super computer in trawling through the vast amounts of data generated.

Distributed computing really took off with the launch of SETI@home, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, ... It so captured the public imagination that other scientists realised that distributed, or volunteer, computing could work for them, too. [snip]

Listen To Episode 2

Episode 3: Astronomy

Sue Nelson dons her anorak and heads out into the night to meet some amateur astronomers.

Some of these enthusiasts get a thrill out of seeing sky sights with their own eyes, while others patiently scan the heavens to discover things that no human has seen before.

David Tate monitors the skies from a small fibreglass dome which he built himself in his back garden near High Wycombe.

Mike Oates in Manchester doesn't need to watch the skies in his search for comets: he uses a home computer rather than a telescope.


But the top prize for amateur dedication must go to Tom Boles in Suffolk.


On the cloudy nights he studies each galaxy to search for the faint flashes of distant exploding stars or supernovae. Over the decade he has been doing this, he has clocked up a world record of 202 discoveries!

Listen To Episode 3




Meet the Citizen Scientists


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reference Extract: The Power Of Search Meets The Credibility Of Librarians

Reference Extract [] is envisioned as a web search engine, like Google, Yahoo and MSN. However, unlike other search engines, Reference Extracts will be built for maximum credibility by relying on the expertise and credibility judgments of librarians from around the globe. Users will enter a search term and get results weighted towards sites most often referred to by librarians at institutions such as the Library of Congress, the University of Washington, the State of Maryland, and over 1,400 libraries worldwide.

This grant will support planning for Reference Extract and building the foundation necessary to implement it as a large-scale, general user service.

Project Partners

Michael Eisenberg / OCLC / R. David Lankes / The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Source []

Upcoming Partnership Meeting

Next Monday the team is having a meeting to discuss how Reference Extract can build strong partners within the LIS community and beyond. Libraries and consortia in the New York City area that may be interested, please contact David Lankes.

Reference Extract Partners Meeting

When: November 17, 2008 11-4 / Where: New York, NY

We are currently looking at the feasibility of the project including exploring technical architectures, business models, and partnership opportunities. The focus of this meting will be on possible partners and partnership models. We are looking for your input on building a successful strategy through cooperation.

Project Team: Jeffrey Penka, OCLC / R. David Lankes, Syracuse University / Michael Eisenberg, University of Washington

Anticipated Agenda: Overview of the Project / Partnership Opportunities / Discussion of Partnership Issues / Concerns and Possibilities / Wrap Up and Next Steps


News Coverage

ars technica / Using Crowdsourced Librarians To Outsmart Google / November 11, 2008

Chroncile of Higher Education / Librarians Want To Out-Google Google With A Better Search Engine / Lisa Guernsey / November 10, 2008

InfoToday NewsBreaks / The Wisdom of Crowds of Librarians Is on the Way—In Time: Reference Extract by Barbara Quint / November 24, 2008

Library Journal / Too Late or Just Right? OCLC, I-Schools Announce Reference Extract Web Search Project / Norman Oder / 11-10-2008

OCLC / OCLC, Syracuse University and University of Washington To Help Develop A New Web Search Experience Based On Expertise From Librarians / 7 November 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shaking Not Stirred: The Quake-Catcher Network

The Quake-Catcher Network

is a collaborative initiative for developing the world's largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers.

The Quake Catcher Network (QCN) will soon employ existing networked laptops and desktops to form the world's largest high-density, distributed computing seismic network. Costs for this network will be low compared to traditional networks because the QCN will use 1) strong motion sensors (accelerometers) already internal to many laptops and 2) nearly identical low-cost universal serial bus (USB) accelerometers for use with desktops. The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC!) provides a free, proven paradigm for involving the public in large-scale computational research projects.

As evidenced by the SETI@home program and others, individuals are especially willing to donate their unused computing power to projects that they deem relevant, worthwhile, and educational. The client- and server-side software rapidly monitors incoming seismic signals, detects the magnitudes and locations of significant earthquakes, and may even provide early warnings to other computers and users before they can feel the earthquake.

The open-source software will provide the client-user with a screen-saver displaying seismic data recorded on their laptop, recently detected earthquakes, and general information about earthquakes and the geosciences. Furthermore, this project will install USB sensors in K-12 classrooms as an educational tool for teaching science. Through a variety of interactive experiments students will learn about earthquakes and the hazards earthquakes pose. For example, students can learn how the vibrations of an earthquake decrease with distance by jumping up and down at increasing distances from the sensor and plotting the decreased amplitude of the seismic signal measured on their computer. We hope to include an audio component so that students can hear and better understand the difference between low and high frequency seismic signals. The QCN will provide a natural way to engage students and the public in earthquake detection and research.

Researchers Create a Distributed Earthquake-Detection Network /
Lawrence Biemiller / Chronicle of Higher Education / October 28 2008

Scientists seek volunteers to monitor for quakes / Alicia Chang / Associated Press / September 25 2008

The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) is a collaborative research project between UC Riverside and Stanford University.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

The CrowdSource Global Facebook Group Established

The CrowdSource Global Facebook Group was formally established on September 27 2008.

The CrowdSource Global Facebook Group is intended to serve as a forum and venue in which members can discuss community-based contributions and potential solutions to any and all economic, scientific, social, and technological issues, problems, and situations, primarily via, but not limited to, a digital environment.

It is a companion to the CrowdSource: The Power of the People blog[], which is intended to document key activities, developments, literature, and news.

The CrowdSource Global Facebook Group is located


Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business

Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business /

Jeff Howe / Crown Business / ISBN-10: 0307396207 ; ISBN-13: 978-0307396204 / 320 pages / August 26, 2008 /

First identified by journalist Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired article, “crowdsourcing” describes the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of the specialized few. Howe reveals that the crowd is more than wise—it’s talented, creative, and stunningly productive. Crowdsourcing activates the transformative power of today’s technology, liberating the latent potential within us all. It’s a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education, and job history no longer matter; the quality of work is all that counts; and every field is open to people of every imaginable background. If you can perform the service, design the product, or solve the problem, you’ve got the job.

But crowdsourcing has also triggered a dramatic shift in the way work is organized, talent is employed, research is conducted, and products are made and marketed. As the crowd comes to supplant traditional forms of labor, pain and disruption are inevitable.

Jeff Howe delves into both the positive and negative consequences of this intriguing phenomenon. Through extensive reporting from the front lines of this revolution, he employs a brilliant array of stories to look at the economic, cultural, business, and political implications of crowdsourcing. How were a bunch of part-time dabblers in finance able to help an investment company consistently beat the market? Why does Procter & Gamble repeatedly call on enthusiastic amateurs to solve scientific and technical challenges? How can companies as diverse as iStockphoto and Threadless employ just a handful of people, yet generate millions of dollars in revenue every year? The answers lie within these pages.

The blueprint for crowdsourcing originated from a handful of computer programmers who showed that a community of like-minded peers could create better products than a corporate behemoth like Microsoft. Jeff Howe tracks the amazing migration of this new model of production, showing the potential of the Internet to create human networks that can divvy up and make quick work of otherwise overwhelming tasks. One of the most intriguing ideas of Crowdsourcing is that the knowledge to solve intractable problems—a cure for cancer, for instance—may already exist within the warp and weave of this infinite and, as yet, largely untapped resource. But first, Howe proposes, we need to banish preconceived notions of how such problems are solved.

The very concept of crowdsourcing stands at odds with centuries of practice. Yet, for the digital natives soon to enter the workforce, the technologies and principles behind crowdsourcing are perfectly intuitive. This generation collaborates, shares, remixes, and creates with a fluency and ease the rest of us can hardly understand. Crowdsourcing, just now starting to emerge, will in a short time simply be the way things are done.

About the Author

JEFF HOWE is a contributing editor at Wired magazine, where he covers the entertainment industry among other subjects. Before coming to Wired he was a senior editor at and a writer at the Village Voice. In his fifteen years as a journalist, he has traveled around the world working on stories ranging from the impending water crisis in Central Asia to the implications of gene patenting. He has also written for U.S. News & World Report, Time magazine, the Washington Post, Mother Jones, and numerous other publications. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and children.

>>>Table of Contents / Introduction + / Index Available<<<



Crowdsourcing: The YouTube Trailer


Crowdsourcing Blog


BTW: Crowdsourcing: Why The Power Of The Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business Is Also Available As An Audio CD, Audiobook Download And An eBook.

Audio Excerpt From Chapter 1 - The Rise of the Amateur


Friday, September 26, 2008

Launch of CrowdSource: Power Of The People

The CrowdSource: The Power Of The People blog was formally established on September 26 2008.

CrowdSource is devoted to documenting community-based contributions and potential solutions to any and all economic, scientific, social, and technological issues, problems, and situations, primarily via, but not limited to, a digital environment.

Related areas of interest include Community-based Design and Citizen Science.


The term 'Crowdsourcing' was coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article.

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