Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Citizen Science You Can Wear

This week we are proud to be joined by guest blogger “Best in Latest”. With the recent popular interest in wearable technologies the potential for a dancing citizen science grows. So today she looks at many of these exciting possibilities for us.

Wearables for Citizen Science - What Does it Mean to Us?

The rise in the demand for more portable assistive technologies means that wearable devices are currently in high demand, especially in the world of citizen science.

Photo Courtesy: Janitors via Compfight

How can wearables change and revolutionize our industry?

Wearables can be a digital health tool, particularly with smartwatches and fitness bands. They come with the ability to track and measure heart rate, stress levels, speed and distance among other things. The next wave of wearable releases are said to focus on assisting patients with particular health needs such as the Google smart contact lens for people with astigmatism while the Embrace band will assist those that suffer from seizures.

In terms of acquiring data, a study revealed that smartphones are more accurate in getting health data than wearables. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that health apps for smartphones are More accurate in counting the steps of users than the built-in pedometers on wearables. This is also one of the reasons why people still prefer using their handsets rather than investing in new devices that still require the need to be paired with smartphone.

Today’s premium smartphones are now built with health sensors similar to smartwatches and fitness bands. Even without the Apple Watch, O2 said that the iPhone 6 Plus can track the speed, distance, and elevation level of its user through its built-in M8 motion coprocessor and barometer respectively. Other premium smartphones today are also incorporating the same features to give people more variations in tracking their health.

But, convenience appears to be the main factor why people purchase technologies. Demands for wearables continued to rise this year, with 50% now considering purchasing smartwatches as they offer the consumer the same features as smartphones but with more convenience. 

In citizen science, volunteers will be able to gather the real-time health data of patients. Virtual health assistance is now the new trend in citizen volunteer divisions in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) collaborated with a mobile network company to provide volunteers and medical practitioners with cost-effective and reliable devices and plans to connect them with patients in real-time. Click here to know how they perform this in the public sector. Apart from social workers, nurses and doctors are also able to maximize the same technology to further assist patients quickly during emergency cases.

Additionally, wearable devices are also seen to have the potential to change the way scientists monitor air quality. In a post on, author Brian Handwerk said that emerging technologies such as smartwatches and smart headsets can turn help anyone monitor environmental factors such as air quality. In particular the TZOA, a wearable device that measures air quality, will be able to help the public and even scientists in monitoring the quality of air we breath in real-time. This type of innovation is a good stepping-stone for many scientists to crowdsource pollution maps for smartphones and other consumer tech items.

A large-scale effort in Europe is well underway wherein portable and wearable environmental-focused technologies are being assigned to further assist in scientific research in the region.

“People may use this information to organize themselves with other like-minded people to take action or go to their (local) politicians and ask that they do something about pollution,” said Mark Nieuwenhuijsen of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Space. He also uses wearable monitors to measure and map air pollution.

Wearable devices have plenty of potential in citizen science. It will only be a matter of time before these technologies will develop and become a main component in the science and technology industries. How do you think wearables can shape the citizen science sector?

Exclusively written for Open Scientist
By Best in Latest

Monday, July 20, 2015

Radio Astronomy in the News

Have you heard about the new Breakthrough Listen project?  Funded by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and supported by Stephen Hawking, Fran Drake (of the famed Drake Equation for calculating the potential number of extraterrestrial civilizations) and many others, the project hopes to use powerful radio telescopes from across the world, famed researchers, and everyday people to search for alien intelligence.

As a recently inducted member of the radio astronomy community I am still learning all the great things this funding can do for SETI.  As my new job involves working with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia that will be funded for much of this work I may be biased, but I honestly think this is a fantastic shot-in-the-arm for the SETI program, and understanding our place in the Universe.  It's also a great testament to the science communicators out there who have kept these dreams alive in the public.

This is still a breaking story with much more news to report as time goes on.  But in the meantime take a look at some current thinking on the subject:

  • Scientific American:
  • Wired - UK:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A New Job: Radio Astronomy and Citizen Science

This is a big week both for OpenScientist and for me personally.  I just started a new job at Associated Universities, Inc and working with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  Much of my job will be overseeing sponsored research funding and administration for all of the grants and contracts they operate.  But I will also be helping set up a citizen science program for them in radio astronomy.  A dream job for a guy like me!

For those of you who may not know, for the past ten years I have worked at the National Institutes of Health overseeing many of their grant policy and compliance efforts.  It did not directly intersect with citizen science, but as one of the largest funders of scientific research, ethics rules kept me from talking about it.  I also could not write about the large amount of biomedical research taking place with citizen science.  Projects like EyeWire, uBiome, and others were blazing interesting paths in the field but I could not write about it.  With the new job that all changes.  So expect to see much more of the "pent-up" supply of articles to be posted in the near future.

I'm also hoping to help AUI incorporate everything I've learned about citizen science over the last ten years into radio astronomy.  There are still many different ways this may happen and I don't want to make any commitments yet, but the opportunities for scientists and the public are too great not to do it.  Much of it will likely take place as part of my "day job" under the NRAO or AUI but I will also talk about it here.  Making sure you never miss out.

That's the big news!  Hopefully you will see the fruits of this new job soon, and we can continue a new journey of citizen science together.