"Working with Citizen Scientists" Event Probes Collaborations Between Professional Researchers and the Public
NEW YORK, January 27, 2011 –

Citizen scientists, members of the public who voluntarily contribute to scientific research projects, have informed research on protein-folding, discovered new celestial bodies, and tracked wildlife after last year’s Gulf oil spill. The event “Working with Citizen Scientists” will examine how researchers can realize the potential of projects incorporating amateur collaborators. It will take place on Wednesday, February 9 at 12:00 PM in Alfred Lerner Hall, Room 555. Guests who do not have a Columbia University ID must RSVP to kp2002@columbia.edu by Monday, February 7.

Panelists will share their experiences with citizen science initiatives and consider what factors contribute to a successful collaboration with interested amateurs. How have scientists created the necessary tools and infrastructure to gather data or verify analyses carried out by large numbers of citizen scientists? How do research funders and the scientific community view these projects? What does the future hold for citizen science?

The panelists are distinguished scientists engaged with citizen scientists. David W. Hogg is an astronomer and physicist at New York University. In addition to performing traditional scientific research on observational cosmology, he works on engineering systems that can manage and analyze enormous data sets. One of the spin-offs of this work is Astrometry.net, a Web-based service that automatically calibrates amateur and hobbyist images of the sky for use in scientific astronomical investigations. Jane Hunter is a Professorial Research Fellow in the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (ITEE) at the University of Queensland in Australia. She is also the Director of the eResearch Lab where she leads a team of post-docs, PhD students, and software engineers developing software services for managing and analyzing scientific and research data. Rick Bonney is Director of Program Development and Evaluation at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and a co-founder of the Lab’s citizen science program. Founder and director of www.citizenscience.org, he researches developing projects in which the public actively engages in scientific investigation and environmental conservation and studies the impacts of public engagement in science.

Co-sponsored by Columbia’s Scholarly Communication Program, Department of Astronomy, and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), this event is free and open to the public. It is the first of three events this semester in a speaker series, Research Without Borders: The Changing World of Scholarly Communication, organized by the Scholarly Communication Program. Follow the series remotely via Twitter at http://twitter.com/ScholarlyComm. Video will be distributed through the Program's website and Columbia University's iTunesU page, as well as on YouTube. For information about Research without Borders, please email Kathryn Pope at kp2002@columbia.edu, or visit http://scholcomm.columbia.edu/events.

The Scholarly Communication Program explores effective uses of digital technology for sharing new knowledge. The Program, based at the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) within Columbia University Libraries/Information Services, highlights innovative approaches to communicating scholarly work and examines related debates over policy and practice, particularly in the context of global research.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.  

Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy -- Astronomy was first taught at Columbia in 1757 and, during the intervening 254 years, has formed an important part of the University's curriculum, both as a discipline in which new scholars are trained, and as an introduction to the methodologies and perspectives of science for students pursuing other areas of inquiry. Today's Department has over two dozen Ph.D. faculty and research staff and 30 graduate students pursing doctoral degrees. Research activities span the spectrum from radio waves to gamma rays and from theoretical investigations to the development of novel instrumentation for ground- and space-based telescopes. The Department has a very active program of public outreach which last year saw over 10,000 members of the community attend free lectures, telescope viewing, sidewalk astronomy displays and family weekends.

CIESIN, the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, is a research center in Columbia University's Earth Institute that addresses human interactions with the environment. Its focus is on integrating data, information, and knowledge from the natural, social, and health sciences to address problems related to climate change, natural disasters, emerging infectious disease, environment and conflict, and other pressing interdisciplinary issues. CIESIN provides a range of online information resources and tools for research, education, and policy, and partners with researchers and organizations from around the world in innovative research and development of cyberinfrastructure.