Become a citizen scientist with Zooniverse

A feature on citizen science for the Guardian Online has included a profile of the highly successful Zooniverse projects. The feature details how Zooniverse began in 2007 with Professor Chris Lintott‘s Galaxy Zoo project, which exceeded all expectations with 100,000 citizen scientists signing up to classify galaxies. Many important discoveries, including a new planet, were made by these volunteers. Galaxy Zoo was so popular that it was developed into Zooniverse, where over one million volunteers are registered and anyone can get involved in contributing to real research in space, climate, nature, humanities and biology projects.  To get involved in citizen science, visit the Zooniverse site to register and choose from the exciting range of current projects.

 

First day on the CONSCICOM project

Today was my first day in harness on the CONSCICOM project. There’s a buzz around the project’s new offices at the Gibson Building. My arrival has been organised with such proficiency that by lunchtime it’s down to business. And what an exciting set of ideas on which to be working. The project’s citizen science themes speak to a broad church of science. I’m keen to begin exploring this theme in my own area of interest, botany, a discipline historically co-inhabited by amateurs and professionals. I’m also excited to be looking beyond botany. It’s been fascinating to hear more about team-member Sally Frampton’s work on these themes in the history of medicine. The project’s simultaneous concern with publishing and modes of exchange between the many groups who consider themselves to belong to a scientific community promises to be an equally fascinating way of studying the creation of scientific communities. It’s going to be an exciting few years and I can’t wait to start putting some historical flesh on these ideas.

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars – Michaelmas Term 2014

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We are very pleased to announce the first three seminars in our Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century series. Drinks will be served after each seminar and all are welcome.

Wednesday 22nd October 2014 (Week 2)

David Trotter, King Edward VII Professor of English Literature, University of Cambridge

Signalling Madly: Telegraphy and Obsessive Behaviour in Late Nineteenth Century Fiction

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Wednesday 12th November 2014 (Week 5) 

Pietro Corsi, Professor of History of Science, University of Oxford

Across Boundaries: The Business of Scientific Periodicals in Early Nineteenth Century Europe

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 5, St Anne’s College

Wednesday 3rd December 2014 (Week 8) 

Dr Susannah Wilson, Department of French Studies, University of Warwick

Decadents, Innocents and Medical Men: Morphine Addiction in Fin-de- Siècle France

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

All queries to Project Administrator: alyson.slade@ell.ox.ac.uk

A Night of Humanities Uncovered!

As a historian, I have never been entirely sure of the most effective way to engage the public in what, to some, might be considered a niche research area. Victorian periodicals, and the plethora of illustrations which accompanied them are certainly interesting to me, but are they relevant to a modern audience which is used to seeing, reading and experiencing much more spectacular images on a daily basis?

After working the ‘Science Uncovered’ event at the Natural History Museum last Friday (the 26th of September), I’ve learnt at least one thing – that there is an incredible appetite by the public to talk to, and engage with, scientists and historians about their research.

I also learned that when attempting to engage with wider audiences, that holding that discussion in an amazing venue really helps.

Richardson research and NHM 049

The Natural History Museum, lit up at night, becomes a surprisingly different place – it may have just been the change in lighting, or the fact that the Museum’s halls were filled with over 8000 individuals walking around, ready to ask questions and to give their own opinions. For me, at least, the museum became less about the spectacular collections that it houses, but about the active and vibrant research culture which goes on behind the scenes.

For my own part, I had the opportunity to stand on a soapbox on one of the main promenades towards the Darwin Centre, begging the question “Do you have to be a professional to be a scientist?”

Richardson research and NHM 044

Having never done a soapbox before (which I’m told are becoming all the rage in public engagement!) I really wasn’t sure what to expect, or whether people would be interested in my question. But once I was on the soapbox, I didn’t really have time to wonder – for the following hour and a half I was able to have very interesting and deep conversations with passersby about their views on who can and can’t be scientists.

The Science Uncovered event really attracted a wide range of people. I spoke to PhD students currently writing up their doctorates in a number of different scientific disciplines. I spoke to school teachers, high school students, and retired professionals from the industrial sector, and many others. There was no singular answer to this question from any of the audience – but the general consensus was that scientists and professional didn’t need to be binary nor mutually exclusive terms. Naturally, this was music to the ears of a historian who is used to talking in terms of the ‘mushy’ nature of terminology, and importance of context!

At the same time that everyone I spoke to had a well formed and interesting opinion, there was also a keen desire to hear about what why I was asking this kind of question, and what kind of research I was doing on the ConSciCom project. While I love the journals and the archival research I get to do as a post doc – and occasionally presenting this research to colleagues – it is really good to be reminded that these archives and questions are relevant and important to a much wider audience.

I was also very lucky that when it came to a really sticky question – such as “how is it possible to be a non-professional scientist in a modern context where there are so many barriers?” – I was able to give them a concrete answer, just a couple of feet down the hallway from me.

Standing at the opposite end of the hall, colleagues from the Zooniverse project were on hand to carry on the conversation, and show the many projects they currently have running which allow the non-professional, or ‘citizen’ to participate in science.

Richardson research and NHM 046

In the end, I, nor the team from Zooniverse, were not able to give definitive answers to the question posed. But what we were able to do is present some of the central questions that are motivating the research on the ConSciCom project. And we discovered historical research – especially when mixed up with scientific practice – is something everyone wants to talk about!