Citizen Science involves a broad range of activities where participants contribute to research in different ways. Very often, projects involve the collection and/or analysis of data, for example collection of images (i.e photos of specific biological specie), analysis of text (ie. historical records), collection of physical samples (ie. samples of water). Some projects, far less common, involve the donation of computing time for CPU intensive modeling and simulations (ie. identification of new drugs).
Citizen Science Zurich offers a set of tools that supports scientists and citizens in the implementation of projects based on digital data, namely digital data analysis (CS Project Builder) and digital data collection (CS Logger). In digital data analysis projects, contributors perform - typically via a web interface - classification tasks on existing data. These include, for example, image tagging, pattern recognition, text transcription, video/audio analysis or mapping. In digital data collection projects, contributors engage in the gathering of new data - typically via a smartphone app - in the form of text, images, video and audio clips. The developments, carried out in full cooperation with the department S3IT (Service and Support for Science IT) of University of Zurich, are based on open source software solutions and are available on GitHub.
Thanks to the EU project CROWD4SDG, Citizen Science Zurich has been involved in the development of the more wide-ranging Citizen Science Solution Kit, which includes additional tools supported by some of the consortium partners.
The CS Project Builder is a web-based tool that allows the implementation of digital data analysis Citizen Science projects. It supports projects where contributors can enrich large sets of existing digital content, such as images or texts (ie. satellite pictures, social media posts, etc.) as well as other media formats such as videos, audios, and scanned documents.
The goal of the Project Builder is to facilitate the implementation and testing of participatory ideas and processes, and to further refine and improve them in collaboration with the community of contributors. After the creation of the initial project (via a step-by-step interface that requires very limited technical knowledge), the next step is to build an initial community of contributors (colleagues, friends, family, students) around the project, allowing its scope, shape, and potential to be tested. By involving all contributors in the co-creation process, a lot can be learned about research questions, processes, data, and mutual benefits.
The CS Project Builder has been developed in collaboration with the Citizen Cyberlab at University of Geneva and is based on PYBOSSA, an open software framework created in 2011 within the FP7 Citizen Cyberlab EU project specifically for the implementation of Citizen Science projects. The CS Project Builder complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and centralises the collected data into a shared database hosted at University of Zurich’s ScienceCloud.
The CS Project Builder features a unique system for individual data control and ownership. All registered contributors have access to their own contributions via a personal dashboard (under “My Profile” tab menu) and can download them in the form of a json file. This allows full ownership and easy handling of individual data. Users can decide, for example, to share their contributions with other research projects.
At the same time, the combination of individual contributions within the projects with behavioural data collected by the platform (i.e., to how many projects each user is contributing, for how long, etc.) allows for additional research in behavioural disciplines such as sociology and psychology.
The CS Logger is a web/mobile platform that allows the creation of smartphone Apps (iOS and Android), featuring the functionalities most commonly used in digital data collection Citizen Science projects, for example taking geo-located images and adding additional information, or answering to questionnaires and surveys. As for the CS Project Builder, the aim is to allow an easy creation of different App configurations via a simple web interface, that will offer a menu of several ready-to-use components such as geolocated image/video/audio and several kinds of text-based questions/entries.
The implementation is based on the integration of an existing open source solution, MindLogger, developed by the ChildMind Institute. The development has been done in partnership with the ETH Library Lab.