The Material Culture of Citizen Science: Workshop Friday 12 May at St Anne’s College

The Material Culture of Citizen Science

Friday 12 May 2017

9.00 – 5.30

Seminar Room 8

St Anne’s College, Oxford

In recent years, citizen science has flourished in and out of the academy. Across the globe, via projects such as   Zooniverse, socially and intellectually-engaged members of the public contribute in crucial ways to the making of new scientific knowledge. Within academic discourse, scholars have embraced the term “citizen science” as a   heuristic analytical tool for thinking about activity both past and present.  Thus far, historical scholarship on citizen   science has tended to focus on people and institutions. This workshop extends the current conversation by  examining and reflecting upon the technologies and materials that have enabled citizen science to flourish. What are the practical means that fostered the break down of the divisions between professional and non-professional    science? What kinds of technologies and materials can be identified, and how did they shape the interactions among participants and thus, the production, circulation and use of scientific knowledge, in the digital age and before? Citizen Science practitioners, researchers from the Oxford-based project ‘Constructing Scientific  Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries’, and  members of the Max Planck working group “Working With Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge” will discuss these questions in historical perspective.  In particular, our conversations will concentrate on the use of paper as a central means to mediate between  seemingly divergent actors and spaces and those digital technologies that have replaced it.

Programme: The workshop programme is available here 

Registration: This is a closed workshop, but a limited number of free places are available to book. If you would like to book a place, please contact Alyson Slade on no later than 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday 3 May 2017 who will then confirm the place. Please also indicate if there are any dietary requirements.



Connecting with the Crowd Conference: 16th June 2017 at the Natural History Museum, London

Conference: Connecting with the Crowd

Date: Friday 16th June 2017

Time: 10:00-17:00

Venue: The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD

This one day cross-disciplinary conference aims to explore best practices and new perspectives on crowdsourcing citizen science.

This event is jointly sponsored by the British Ecological Society through their Special Interest Group for Citizen Science, and the Constructing Scientific Communities Project.

Register Here

Crowdsourcing projects and platforms abound, involving over one million citizen scientists in the analysis or interpretation of images and data online. This conference will showcase the latest tools, technologies and approaches available to engage and collaborate with diverse audiences online.

Key elements of the event will be to share lessons learned, and to explore collaborations with social science researchers to understand who makes up ‘the crowd’, how we can best reach, engage and connect with them, and how effective they are at crowdsourcing research data.

This event provides a networking and professional development opportunity for researchers and students from the fields of science, social science and the arts and humanities, as well as practitioners in science communication, citizen science and crowdsourcing.


Keynote speakers include Chris Lintott, Professor of Astrophysics and co-founder of the Zooniverse crowdsourcing platform, University of Oxford.

Call for abstracts for speed talks: We have allocated time within the conference for a number of five minute speed talks and would like to invite delegates to submit proposals. Speed talks can introduce a crowdsourcing project, share lessons learned, share experiences of using a particular tool or technology, reflect on strategies to recruit, retain or connect with ‘the crowd’, or cover any other aspect of crowdsourcing you’d like to share. We really want to make this an opportunity for a diverse range of people and projects to share their experiences. Please send a 200-word abstract including the title and the names and institutions of the contributing authors to  by 5 May 2017

The conference will also feature interactive formats including a chance to meet platform developers and leaders over a coffee, and a collaborative ‘Wish List’ Wall where we invite all attendees to share their needs and desires for new tools, apps or functionality on existing platforms to support new crowdsourcing projects, or extend existing ones.


Booking is required. £22.50 – Full fee. £15 – Students / retired / unemployed / BES members.

The conference fee includes lunch and morning/afternoon refreshments.

Registration deadline for early booking rates is 17:00 on Friday 12 May 2017. After this date, tickets (if available) will increase in price. Places are limited so please register now! Deadline is May 28th!

Please contact Kath Castillo on with any queries.

To download the event flyer, please click here.




Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars for Trinity Term 2017


The Railway Station by Francis Holl after William Powell Frith (1866)








Our programme for Trinity Term 2017 is now announced with three seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

Wednesday 10 May 2017 (Week 3)

Professor Ursula Martin, University of Oxford

Ada Lovelace in her Mathematical Context

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

Ada, Countess of Lovelace, 1815 – 1852, the so called “first computer programmer”, is famous for her 1843 paper, which combined technical detail, and farsighted reflections, in describing Charles Babbage’s unbuilt analytical engine, a mechanical computer which, in principle, would have had the same capabilities as a modern machine.  Lovelace’s broader reflections  include the complexity and difficulty of programming, the potential for mathematical experiment, algebra, or composing music, and even, as noted by Alan Turing, the limits of machine thought.

Celebrated as an icon of women in science, Lovelace has been the subject of many popular accounts, with intense debate as to her ability and contribution to the 1843 paper. The only biography to study Lovelace’s mathematics  is detailed,  confident, but mathematically incorrect: the only edition of the letters is somewhat unscholarly and leaves out the mathematical content, stressing notions of poetical science.

Our recent work (with Christopher Hollings and Adrian Rice) is the first study of Lovelace by historians of mathematics, ad describes her eclectic childhood education, and her private study in 1840, at university level, with the eminent mathematician Augustus De Morgan.  We identified her increasing insight, tenacity with details and desire to grasp abstract principles – the skills required for independent mathematical work.

One might assess such  varying accounts of Lovelace’s life and contribution against changing contexts of class, gender, or mental stability; changing perceptions of mathematics amongst both professional mathematicians and the general public; changing perceptions of how to present women scientists; or better understanding of the misremembering or composure of women’s contributions.  Despite her reputation, we lack a scholarly account of the 1843 paper, and the trajectory of its ideas, rooted in the relevant mathematical context,  or a biography that  treats her as a member of a scientific community, alongside Babbage, De Morgan and Somerville, rather than constraining her as marginal or exceptional.

Ursula Martin is Professor of Computer Science at Oxford, and holds an EPSRC Fellowship to study collaborative  mathematics.

Wednesday 24 May 2017 (Week 5)

Dr James Emmott, Oxford Brookes University

On the Stratification of Language

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

‘There are few sensations more pleasant than that of wondering,’ the philologist Max Müller declared at the opening of his Rede lecture, delivered in the University of Cambridge on 29 May 1868. The cause of wonder for Müller on this occasion was the thousands of years that humans had lived in ‘conscious ignorance’ of the ancient layers of rock and the remains of organic creatures, before geological eyes were opened in the eighteenth century; and, more strikingly, the centuries during which names had been given to a panoply of living things while ‘what was much nearer to them than even the gravel on which they trod, namely the words of their own language’, escaped systematic notice. ‘Here, too,’ Müller observed, ‘the clearly marked lines of different strata seemed almost to challenge attention, and the pulses of former life were still throbbing in the petrified forms imbedded in grammars and dictionaries’. Yet this attention did not fully arrive until the nineteenth century, when the idea that language was a fixed and stable structure gave way to the view that it was a ‘growing and developing medium’ (Hans Aarsleff), a material accumulation susceptible to sifting, analysing, and accounting. This paper will wonder about what new varieties of thought were made possible by the association of these fields, and the analogies they engendered. The vastness and composite complexity of the linguistic record, with models of preservation and decay borrowed from geology, prompted reappraisals both of the utility and applicability of universal laws to human culture, and a fundamental rethinking of language itself.

Wednesday 7 June 2017 (Week 7)

Professor Oliver Zimmer, University of Oxford

Time Tribes: How the Railways Made Communities (1840-1900)

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

When it comes to modern loyalties, scholars of various disciplines have predominantly looked at class, profession, region or nation. While these no doubt represent important sources of identity, in the long nineteenth century TIME emerged as a significant source of individual and collective self-definition. Increasingly, how people related to and made use of their own time marked out their actual and desired status. Time, that most elusive of matters, became instrumental for the making and unmaking of communities that sometimes transcended regional and national contexts. Much of this can be attributed to the railways and the temporal innovations they facilitated, above all standard time and railway timetables. This paper approaches the phenomenon in question – time tribes – through an investigation of British and German railway passengers.