The wide spread use of smart phone applications in Citizen Science projects stood out for Seamus Doherty at #CitSciOz18.
- Seamus Doherty, Biomedical Honour’s student, the University of South Australia
I was one of the many fortunate people to attend this year’s Australian Citizen Science Association conference.
Up until just last year, I had never really heard of the concept of citizen science, never mind the great association that would eventually help fund my attendance to Australia’s official citizen science event in my very own city! It’s funny though. You see in the past, I was part of many citizen science projects without even knowing it. It had always been a passion of mine to help researchers in different fields (namely environmental, biology and cosmology science to name just a few of my favourite fields) to sort through and interpret mass amounts of data via online organisations, such as Zooniverse, just for the sheer joy it gave me to be helping real researchers make new and exciting discoveries. And here I am today, developing a citizen science mosquito surveillance programme of my own in an effort to help control arboviruses in South Australia as part of my honour’s thesis.
Attending what was one of my first ever conference events, I had a really great time pacing my way through and absorbing all sorts of information from all sorts of people. Roaming through the various workshops and talks focusing on citizen science projects being run all over the world, it was amazing meeting new people in a variety of different fields and discussing their subjective thoughts and perspectives on different ideas and projects. But with my time at the event, I noted that there were several talks that jumped out at me as not only brilliant in their thinking, but also on how I could personally alter my own project using their experiences.
A great example was given by Andrew Tokmakoff, who discussed the use of gamification for his smartphone application Wild Orchid Watch to make gathering data more fun and engaging for participants. Adding level and ranking systems, and the ability to unlock more content the more a participant contributed could allow people to be more engaged, competing with friends and allowing them to have fun whilst gathering data. Another great example of using gamification was Andrew Robinson’s talk on his QuestGame smartphone application that incorporated a similar design. I found this to be an extremely smart way to engage and sustain participants over a long period of time and is a design feature that I would like to incorporate into my project if I also decide to develop an application.
This theme of using smartphone applications for citizen science projects was echoed throughout the event by many speakers including a lecture by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr. Allen Finkel’s who emphasised a list of continuous engagement strategies that could be used through these applications. Some of my personal favourites were real-time validation on observation/data submission and notification of updates to contributed observations. I personally thought these were great ways to keep participants engaged and improve the longevity of a project overtime. Using an application is just such a simple way to get more people to engage in these projects so effortlessly using their smartphone.
In summary, the Australian Citizen Science Association conference of 2018 was an absolute blast and provided many great ideas from all walks of citizen science projects. What really stood out to me was the wide-spread use of smartphone applications part of these projects and how useful they can be for sustained engagement, education and ease of access for participants. I think it really emphasises how much we should be incorporating and embracing the electronic age more to help with the engagement of these citizen science projects. I hope to use many of these ideas and work on the successes of these projects in the future.