We’re in the early stages of exploring citizen science as a Mozilla Drumbeat theme. The idea would be simple: use the talent and creativity of web developers to help scale participation in volunteer science.
Our first step is a series of lectures and hackfests in Beijing this week. I had hoped to go but got sick. Instead, I recorded this video for the lecture evening:
Mostly, this video is an overview of the Mozilla Drumbeat initiative. However I do talk briefly at the end about challenges that people be working on at the hackfest. Here are some write ups on these challenges:
Challenge 1: Develop one-click volunteer computing
Context: Joining volunteer computing projects is often fairly complicated. Some people never succeed to complete the sign up procedure. Even for those who do, many who download the software never run it. How can ideas from good web design help solve this problem, in particular for a Chinese audience?
Homework: Sign-up, install and launch the Chinese project CAS@home on your computer. Write down any difficulties you encounter on the way. Was the information for installing and launching the project clear? Was there enough information in Chinese? How could we make it easier to join, especially for Chinese participants?
Challenge 2: Make the largest citizen science team on Earth
Context: We would like to create an online volunteer computing team of >10,000 participants to help Chinese researchers at Tsinghua University solve the problem of providing cheap, clean drinking water, using nanotechnology. This project, called Computing for Clean Water, uses the IBM World Community Grid volunteer computing service.
Homework: Sign-up and join World Community Grid. Join the Computing for Clean Water Project. Join the ‘Tsinghua-IBM 100×100 Challenge’. Was the information for installing and launching the project clear? Was there enough information in Chinese? How could we make it easier to join, especially for Chinese participants?
Challenge 3: Turn mobile phones, laptops into scientific instruments
Context: Mobile phones and laptops are becoming the most popular way for young Chinese to surf the web. So citizen cyberscience projects need to exploit this trend. For this, we need to develop good examples of volunteer sensing and data collection projects that run on open platforms on mobile devices, and have a great Chinese user inteface.
Homework: Design a form online for data collection using EpiCollect, and if you have an Android phone, download the form onto your phone. If you don’t have such a phone, install and test QuakeCatcher on your laptop http://qcn.stanford.edu/. Was the information for installing and launching the project clear? How could we make it easier to join, especially for Chinese participants?
We’re lucky to have Francois Grey of the Citizen Cyberscience Centreat CERN and Shuttleworth Foundation as a collaborator on this exploration. He helped come up with the challenges above. He will also be collaborating with us on future hackfests in Rio, Sao Paulo and Geneva. Once we’re through these we’ll evaluate whether ‘citizen science’ and Mozilla are a good match.