White House Citizen Science Forum
September 30, 2015
AAAS CEO Rush Holt’s Remarks
Published with permission from AAAS. The video is available here, with Dr. Holt’s remarks running from 43:00-56:30 minutes. Photo source: Library of Congress.
“I’m at the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s premier general science membership organization, and our mission and goal includes integrating science into public policy, into legislation, into the branches of government, into education and culture and society. And citizen science connects directly to our mission and goals.
It’s interesting to note that citizen science is central to our founding. The AAAS was founded in 1848 when some disciplinary scientists got together and abolished their disciplinary societies so they could form a new society to advance science. The word “science” actually was relatively new to the general lexicon at that time, and they believed it was important to speak for science at large, the principles, the fundamentals, of science. And they elected as the first president of the AAAS, William Redfield who was a citizen scientist, who predated the Christmas Bird Count by half a century. You see, he had noticed after a storm went through New England, that trees in different locations were blown down in different directions. And he began to think that maybe storms were cyclonic in the circulation of winds. But of course, the conventional wisdom was that storms just blew through town, and blew in from one side and out the other. So he enlisted hundreds of people along the Atlantic coast and asked them to note when a storm came, at what time did the winds blow in what direction, and, if they had access to a barometer, what was the barometric pressure.
We now know, from every evening’s weathercast, that storms do circulate. And this citizen science activity established modern meteorology. Redfield was not a trained scientist, he was a steamship owner who had steamboats up and down the rivers, the Hudson River and so forth, in the early part of the 19th century. But he knew he could think like a scientist. And he could engage others to think like scientists. That’s the goal of AAAS. To see that society at large integrates science into the society, into the culture, into the policy.
So we certainly support crowdsourcing and citizen science. In our education programs we’ve developed something called “Active Explorer,” which is a smartphone app that’s available to kids to do citizen science—real science, and real education. We have programs to incorporate cooperative programs in the schools to look at meteorology around the world—consistent, I would say, with our founding. We have publicly endorsed the goals and the principles of Senator Coons’ legislation: the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act. Many of our members, of course, have taken part in these celebrated citizen science activities. Looking for gravitational lenses—some of you may know, these are the subtle signatures that you can observe when massive objects block a light source, but bend the light so you can see from Earth the light that would be obscured by those massive objects. Then you can deduce something about the masses of those objects. It requires some pattern recognition that humans are good at. Just as humans are used for typing galaxies, because you have to recognize forms and patterns, and humans do that well.
David Baker published an article in Science about protein folding. The way proteins that are in biological cells fold has a lot to do with how they function, and they try to arrange themselves in a low-energy state but there are lots of possibilities. And David Baker in an article in Science, and subsequently recognized by the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland prize, enlisted, I think, thousands of people, in looking at how the proteins might fold, to find novel foldings that could be important, at least for the understanding of biology, if not for human health.
Recently in Science Advances, the new AAAS open access journal—I recommend it to you by the way, fine journal, Science Advances, online, free to the user—we published an article about work that had been sponsored by the US Geological Survey, of how smartphones can be used in real time to detect and measure and categorize earthquakes. And in fact, it can be done in time to give warnings, because radio waves travel faster than seismic waves, you can then warn cities, of a coming earthquake. And it was a nice article, earlier this year.
We’ve followed all those things at AAAS, and care about them a lot. We hosted at the last annual meeting—by the way, David Baker, the protein biologist, spoke on this subject at our annual meeting—and we also hosted the first meeting of the Citizen Science Association, which is off to a good start now, and I urge you all to get involved in that. Because citizen science has all sorts of advantages. Labor that is distributed in space and time: many hands make light work. But in some cases, many perspectives make work possible. You can accomplish things that individuals cannot accomplish by having multiple points of view, multiple people practicing, contributing to the observations and the experiment.
And of course, it can be conducted without any limitation by region or race or age—it is democratic. Small ‘d’—I don’t want to get partisan here. It can speed discoveries, but actually make possible discoveries—and, by giving you large statistics, it makes it possible to do lots of cross-cutting statistical analysis that might be impossible if you have one researcher collecting data for one experiment.
It’s open. Now this is something that is essential to science. Open communication is one of the principal goals of the AAAS, or of scientists anywhere. The United States is open and democratic not just in our political system, but intellectually as well. We are, back to our foundings, rooted in the scientific way of thinking. Not just Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Rush, the acknowledged scientists. All of the founders were employing a scientific way of thinking: a reverence for evidence, and openness in communication. And I would argue that the benefits from citizen science—and by the way, citizen science doesn’t necessarily mean simply crowdsourcing. When I talked about William Redfield—yes, he was using crowdsourcing in the 1820s, but he was also a practitioner of open, democratic science.
And I think this points out what we stand to gain from the citizen science movement, even more than good scientific discoveries. What we stand to gain is what we badly need today: a reverence for evidence in our population and our policy-makers, an understanding of how science works, an ability to evaluate evidence on one’s own. Scientists, of course, have developed the ability to evaluate evidence. That’s what scientists do.
I think the American traditional ability to think like scientists has eroded somewhat. There are fundamental misunderstandings right now, widespread in our society, about vaccines and public health, about climate change, about evidence-based economics, about biological evolution. Our legislative, and policy, and public behavior suffer because the public forgets that they—ordinary people—have the ability, and I would argue the responsibility, to evaluate evidence. They think that science is for the scientists. Specially trained, esoteric scientists. Science is asking questions so they can be answered on the basis of evidence, that ideas can be communicated openly and somebody else can check your work.
Scientists develop a reverence for evidence; citizen scientists do too. And what they learn, and what they can communicate to their sisters and cousins and aunts, and their co-workers and everyone else, is that science is not just for the specialists. Science is accessible to all. It is essential that everyone practice this, at least to some extent, for the sake of our society and our policies. Thank you.”
WHITE HOUSE OSTP DIRECTOR JOHN HOLDREN MEMO:
Memo: Addressing Societal and Scientific Challenges Through Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/holdren_citizen_science_memo_092915_0.pdf
FEDERAL CROWDSOURCING AND CITIZEN SCIENCE TOOLKIT
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in partnership with the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science
NSF CORE PRIORITY IN CITIZEN SCIENCE AND CROWDSOURCING Announced
The NSF Director Dr. France Cordova announces that citizen science and crowdsourcing—“a visionary concept”– will be a core priority for NSF in the coming fiscal year. Her presentation begins about 32 min into the Citizen Science Forum video, and the announcement is at 40:49. The written announcement will come from OMB later this year. https://youtu.be/J17uBahTdDE?t=2449
NSF Press Release: Be a (citizen) scientist! (of note, NSF has made $5,613,201 in grants and related awards that support research in this area): http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=136445&org=NSF
CITIZEN SCIENCE DAY Announced
The Citizen Science Association and partners, including the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, announced plans to organize a Citizen Science Day on April 16, 2015, which will kick off a series of events nationwide.
CITIZEN SCIENCE FORUM:
White House Citizen Science Forum, in partnership with the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science
YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=4&v=J17uBahTdDE
Holdren Opening Remarks (waiting for them to be posted): https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/library/docsreports
CROWDSOURCING AND CITIZEN SCIENCE ACT OF 2015 – FEDERAL LEGISLATION:
The Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2015 provides clarification to government agencies, removing ambiguity about whether an agency can use crowdsourcing techniques. Senator Coons (D-DE) and Senator Daines (R-MT) co-sponsored the bill.
The Government Wants You to Help It Do Science Experiments, Senator Chris Coons, Wired Magazine
First in MT…Coons to Unveil Federal Crowdsourcing Bill
Senator Coons Introduces Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2015 by Gene Quinn, IPWatchdog
by Jonathan Drake and Eric Ashcroft, Physics today, Feb 1, 2013
If scientific endeavor has a purpose beyond the accumulation of knowledge for its own sake, it must be for the progress and betterment of humanity. Despite the incredible scientific developments that have defined the modern era, however, the ability of science to solve humankind’s most enduring problems remains elusive. Nowhere is that more apparent than in conflict-torn regions where weapons technologies, with their roots in scientific discovery, are exploited with lethal effectiveness.While technology’s power to exacerbate violence in that way is well established, its role in mitigating hostilities has often been considerably less visible. Recently, however, new natural science technologies have made it possible to take a more active role in conflict reduction and the promotion of universal human rights. One of the most powerful of those technologies is satellite imagery.
For full text of the article, visit Eyes in the sky: Remote sensing in the service of human rights | Points of View – Physics Today.
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
For information and analysis of the U.S. federal R&D budget, visit: http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/
Appropriations Progress Chart
Agency Budget Briefing Schedule FY 2012
|When:||Monday, February 14, 2011, 1:30pm – 2:30pm|
|Where:||AAAS Auditorium, 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC (entrance at 12th and H)|
|Metro:||Metro Center (red, blue, and orange lines)|
|RSVP:||Press should RSVP to Phil Larson|
|Details:||Live webcast will be available at http://www.aaas.org/go/ostp|
Data Use and Access
Science Magazine, February 11, 2011
In the 11 February 2011 issue, Science joins with colleagues from Science Signaling, Science Translational Medicine, and Science Careers to provide a broad look at the issues surrounding the increasingly huge influx of research data. This collection of articles highlights both the challenges posed by the data deluge and the opportunities that can be realized if we can better organize and access the data. Science is making access to this entire collection FREE (simple registration is required for non-subscribers).
For collection of articles on data use and access, click on Special Online Collection: Dealing with Data.
To delve deeper into these issues, we polled our peer reviewers from last year and learned that lack of standardization, lack of metadata, and privacy concerns are among the major obstacles. How can we best overcome these challenges or others specific to your field? What role(s) should funding agencies, journals, individual scientists, and society play in the development and maintenance of data archives?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and in our poll about data use and availability.
- Dumped On by Data: Scientists Say a Deluge Is Drowning Research – Research (chronicle.com)
- Defining A Data Deluge (npr.org)
The latest science-related news on Capitol Hill from the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Congress
Changes Coming in the 112th Congress
The 112th Congress will feature a host of new faces, a new Republican majority in the House, and several changes in committee structures. In the House, changes include the abolishment of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the creation of new subcommittees, and a plethora of new Chairmen and Ranking Members.
Read the full story here.
FY 2011 Appropriations Battles to Continue Next Year
Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Extensions Act, 2011 (H.R.3082) on December 21. This short-term extension of federal funding at FY 2010 levels through March 4, 2011, sets up a face-off in the new Congress between the newly-elected House Republican majority that is pushing for $100 billion in discretionary cuts and the Democrat-led Senate. Additionally, Congress finalized the extension of several tax cuts, including the R&D tax credit.
Read the full story here.
- Upton promises oversight hearings ‘early’ in 112th Congress (techdailydose.nationaljournal.com)
by Richard Stone, Science Magazine, November 12, 2010
A veritable orchestra of Earth-observation systems is intended to make reams of data available and relevant to decision-makers. At the summit last week of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO)—the organization attempting to get this ensemble performing in synchrony—initiatives were unveiled to monitor land-cover changes and forest carbon stocks. And GEO delegates embraced plans to funnel data from platforms tracking everything from biodiversity to earthquake risks into a free and open database.
For full text of the article, click here.
Science 12 November 2010:
Vol. 330 no. 6006 p. 902
Keywords: Forest Carbon, REDD, SERVIR, Disaster / Crisis Response, Biodiversity
- NASA, USAID Expand Environmental Monitoring System to Another Continent (prnewswire.com)
- White House Delivers Preliminary Plan for National Earth Observations (geodatapolicy.wordpress.com)
- UK mulls Earth observing service (bbc.co.uk)
- Why Are We Going Blind in Space? (green.blogs.nytimes.com)
- OGC Adopts Earth Observation Profile for Web-based Catalogue Services (eon.businesswire.com)