Cynthia Garde (@cygarde) raised an issue recently on Twitter related to data science and citizen science that got me thinking: is citizen data science possible?
In many science areas, citizen science is a well-established and productive activity. There are associations actively promoting citizen science, such as the Citizen Science Alliance, and citizenscience.org:
The CSA is a collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop, manage and utilise internet-based citizen science projects in order to further science itself, and the public understanding of both science and of the scientific process. These projects use the time, abilities and energies of a distributed community of citizen scientists who are our collaborators.
Projects of the Citizen Science Alliance are listed at the Zooniverse, which currently has more than 1,500,000 registered volunteers.
Citizen science is the involvement of the public in scientific research – whether community-driven research or global investigations. The Citizen Science Association unites expertise from educators, scientists, data managers, and others to power citizen science.
citizen science.org has over 1,000,000 volunteers and 4,000 members.
What drives activity in citizen science is science projects. A project is something in which you are interested and want to do. Citizen science allows and encourages people of all skill levels to become engaged with others, including skilled scientists, in a science project.
So … what about citizen data science?
As it happens, at data science.university we are sold on data science projects as the most productive way to engage with and learn data science.
Certificates and diplomas and badges are all very well, yet engaging in a project that you really, really want to do is SO much more fun (which, as some theory or other might have it, makes the learning easier, deeper, and longer-lasting. Let us know if you recall the name of that theory).
What are examples of projects on which citizen data scientists could work?
- How about extending Jorge Fernandes’ project of mapping the time and location of police calls in Brockton, MA, to every zip code in the United States. Why stop at the United States? Could we map police calls by time and place for the entire world?
- Data Science for Social Good has a number of neat projects, including:
- Predicting risk of long-term unemployment. The project aims to support Câmara Municipal de Cascais in understanding patterns of unemployment in the municipality and to develop a recommendation system to identify individuals with the lowest skills gap from the current job market and the type of the intervention required to bridge the gap, to increase the likelihood of people switching from unemployed to employed status. This could be extended to other communities. Why not the entire globe?
- Preventing juvenile interactions with the criminal justice system. DSSG worked with City of Milwaukee officials on applying a data resource towards intervening with at-risk youth and reducing juvenile crime. Again- extend this to your local community, and across your state or country.
What we don’t mean
Analytics Vidhya has a list of 17 Ultimate Data Science Projects To Boost Your Knowledge and Skills. These “projects” involve looking up an existing data set and doing something fairly general with it – for example, look at a Chicago crime data set and predict types of crime.
This is more of an exercise to practice certain skills or techniques. It’s not what we think of as a project.
We want your input
To start a citizen data science group we need you ideas and support:
- Is this worth doing?
- Is it feasible?
- What format might work?
- How do we reach data scientist mentors?
- How do we promote this to potential volunteers and members?
- What ideas for genuinely interesting projects do you have or can you imagine?
Please let us know by a comment, what you think of this idea, and whether and how you might contribute. The Leave a Comment link is at the top of this page.
We’re excited by this idea – we hope you are too. Thanks Cynthia!