Monday, 23 August 2010

Pulsars, Bruce and webcasts

Citizen Cyberscience has once again come up trumps for science. After the excitement that was Hanny’s Voorwerp in 2007 and the constant science being crunched across the globe on home computers, Einstein@home has found its first pulsar. The 3 cyberscientists that discovered PSR J2007+2722 are Chris and Helen Colvin from Iowa, US, and Daniel Gebhardt from Mainz in Germany. More details can be found in a paper published by Science.

To tie in with this amazing discovery we have Bruce Allen the Lead Scientist on Einstein@home who is talking at the Citizen Cyberscience Summit answer our usual round of questions:
Why are you going to the Summit?
I want to learn about how other groups are making use of volunteer computing, and about what else might be done in this way.
What are you going to talk about at the Summit?
I'm going to talk about the recent discovery made by the Einstein@Home project, and about what we might be able to find in the future, with the help of the public. I may also talk about some of the astronomical science that large-scale volunteer computing could enable in the future, if enough people 'signed up'.

There has been a massive amount of interest in the summit and there are a few tickets left but if you can't make it we will be doing a live webcast. We will be streaming from here. Just click on the video link at the top right. Of course it's not ready yet, the summit's not for 2 weeks so ignore the error message you get if you click on it just now, we're getting it ready.

Of course we are all media savvy here at Citizen Cyberscience Towers and we will be also using web 2.0 on the day with our twitter account @CyberSciCentre being from the horse's mouth and we will be asking people to use the hashtag #cybersci when talking about/at the event.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

We talk to Ben Segal

The summit is even closer now, just over two weeks away. The speakers lined up are amazing and none more so than Ben Segal who has been working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, for 40 years. In that time he has seen the internet grow from a tool used only by scientists to the massive communications network used by the entire globe. He has been a part of many projects that hope to turn the public that uses the network into a resource for science, including LHC@home and Africa@home. Again we were able to collar Dr Segal and get him to answer our questions about the summit.

Why are you coming to the Summit?
I'm coming to meet other enthusiasts and volunteers who want to spread public interest in science. In my own work I have seen the scientific potential of public participation via the Internet. Also I am very excited by the beauty of some of today's Citizen Cyberscience applications and want to see what the future holds.

What are you going to speak about?
I will describe how CERN has used volunteer computing since 2004 to help design the LHC accelerator, and what we are doing today to extend the system to handle much more difficult "real physics" problems. I will also stress that most of this LHC@home system has been built at minimal cost by volunteers and students, in the spirit of the public volunteers who offer their computers to us for solidarity and interest in CERN's research.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Giant Prime Numbers

One of the speakers we are lucky enough to have coming to our event is Rytis Slatkevičius, creator of PrimeGrid - a distributed computing project for searching for prime numbers of world-record size. Francois Grey discusses his project in an article for the Cern Courier and we caught up with him to ask him two quick questions:

Why are you going to the Summit?
I believe in inspiration. It is one of the things that drive my life, and I hope that my talk will inspire more people to join cyberscience ranks. The Summit seems to be a great place to meet inspirational people, and to help to inspire people who just need that tiny nudge to shift from citizens to cyberscientists

What do you plan to talk about at the Summit?
I manage a volunteer computing project that searches for giant prime numbers, so naturally, my talk will be centered around the relation of mathematics and volunteering. I hope to disclose the story behind my project and the development of prime number discovery process. You will find out about my struggles while running the project and the incredible help that I received from ordinary (and extraordinary!) people. No math or science skills necessary!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Hanny's Anwers

Back in 2007 Hanny van Arkel, a Dutch teacher, was taking part in citizen cyberscience project Galaxy Zoo, when she found Hanny’s Voorwerp.

Since then she has probably become the most famous cyberscientist in the world. She even has a section of her site dedicated to her media appearances/lectures. Well you can add our Cyberscience Summit to the list Ms. van Arkel :-)

Hanny will be talking at the summit and we tracked her down (virtually) and asked her some questions about why she is coming and what she will be talking about.

Why are you coming to the Summit?
I am attending the Summit because I think it’s great that citizens without a scientific background can easily be a part of scientific research. This has an important value to science, but it also enables those citizens to learn a lot. Besides this, in my experience, it’s a lot of fun to participate in citizen science research and therefore I think it’s important to promote it.

What are you going to speak about?
I’m planning to talk about the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo, on which I made an astronomical discovery.

We have a few busy weeks coming up preparing for the summit but we will keep bringing you updates here, on twitter and FaceBook.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

World’s first summit on citizen cyberscience

At the moment we are gearing up for the summit next month (tickets available here) and in that spirit we have put out a press release. It is a good overview of the summit and the people involved so I have posted it below for anyone interested.

The world’s first summit on citizen cyberscience will be held at King’s College London on 2-3 September.

Citizen cyberscience is a growing trend where ordinary people use their computers and the world wide web to contribute in meaningful ways to an increasingly wide range of scientific challenges.

Citizen cyberscience activity takes place all over the world and by its very nature participants very rarely – if ever – meet. This event will showcase a cross-section of these projects and will provide a platform for for scientists and citizens to share their thoughts on the impact of citizen cyberscience face-to-face.

The summit will be hosted by King’s College London, and is organised jointly by the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, based at CERN in Geneva; the Centre for e-Research at King’s; Queen Mary, University of London; Imperial College London; University College London and GridRepublic. It is supported by the Shuttleworth Foundation, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), e-ScienceTalk and Microsoft Research.

Confirmed speakers include David Anderson, director of the SETI@home project, Space Sciences Laboratory, University of Berkeley; George Dyson, historian and philosopher of science and author of ‘Darwin Among the Machines’; and Myles Allen, head of at Oxford University.

There are currently more than 100 active citizen cyberscience projects - many address topical themes, such as modelling climate change ( or simulating the spread of malaria ( King’s staff will demonstrate how citizen cyberscience can be applied to the cultural heritage sector through the East London Theatre Archive project (

John Ellis, CERN and incoming James Clerk Maxwell Professor of Theoretical Physics at King's College London said:
“Citizen cyberscience offers people around the world the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge scientific research that may be of fundamental significance, as well as having applications relevant to their own lives. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has already benefited from the contributions of citizen cyberscientists, and this event will provide an ideal opportunity to showcase this and other possibilities for more citizen cyberscientists to get involved in this and other scientific projects.”

Mark Hedges, Deputy Director of the Centre for e-Research at King’s College London said:
"Citizen cyberscience has great potential not only for scientific researchers but also for those working in the humanities and cultural heritage. By bringing together experts in the field, this summit will both advance the techniques of citizen cyberscience, and encourage public participation by publicising the various applications among a broader community. The Centre for e-Research at King's has a strong interest in supporting citizen cyberscience and we are delighted to be able to host this important event."

Francois Gray, Citizen Cyberscience Centre Co-ordinator, said:
"There are already hundreds of thousands of people actively contributing to citizen cyberscience - we want to reach tens of millions. This event will provide a unique opportunity to brainstorm about how new technologies can enhance citizen cyberscience, and how researchers in the developing world can exploit this highly appropriate low-cost approach to doing science. One bold ambition of the summit is to draft a citizen cyberscience manifesto, involving all stakeholders in the field."

The event will be of interest to both amateur and professional scientists, to people who care about the impact of science on society, and of society on science, and to those working in the digital humanities and cultural heritage.

The Citizen Cyberscience Summit will take place on 2-3 September 2010 in the Anatomy Theatre & Museum at King’s College London’s Strand Campus. To see the full programme and for information about how to book tickets, see The event will also be webcast.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Tickets NOW available

The Citizen Cyberscience Summit is now (just) less than a month away! Even better news, you can now book tickets online for this event at:

The programme is almost complete with some fantastic speakers lined up like Julia Wilkinson and David Grier. We will bringing you more news and updates as we get them so watch this space, follow us on twitter @CyberSciCentre or friend us on FaceBook.

For any questions you may have about the event or tickets, please contact Anna Ashton at

Looking forward to seeing you in London!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Words from the wise

We have many amazing speakers lined up for the Citizen Cyberscience Summit in London next month (literally starts a month from today). One of the people we will have is David Grier, the author of When Computers Were Human. He is talking on the first day and we have been able to get a few minutes of his time to answer some questions for us in anticipation of the event.

Why are you coming to the Summit?
This is easy. I'm coming to the Summit so that I can be on yet another panel with George Dyson. I understand that if I give one more talk with him, I am moved up to the next level of rewards in the frequent Dyson speaker program and will get upgrades to all conferences next year plus extra treats in the speakers' lounge (This may or may not be true - Ed).

At our last conference, which was the Rome Science Festival, George talked about how life uses matter, a subject was both highly disturbing and yet exhilarating. I am interested in a slightly less fundamental topic but one perhaps equally disturbing, how organizations use science to achieve their social and political goals. I am hoping that I will spark some good discussions at this summit. I'm also pleased to see that I am going to talk before George, which means that the audience will stay through my talk even though they may view me as the warmup act.

What are you going to speak about?
Well, I believe that there is no aspect of contemporary life, no matter how advanced and ethereal that cannot be traced back to the Great Depression and the New Deal. This is important because it allows me to stories about Henry Wallace, (Roosevelt's Secretary of Agriculture) who is both one of the great visionaries of the 20th century and one of the stranger individuals to achieve high office. Second, it gives us a distant mirror that reflects some of the aspects of crowd sourcing. The New Deal loved to promote the accomplishments of the unemployed and thereby revealed the tensions in their programs. The New Workers genuinely wanted to be viewed as accomplished and were more than a little angry that they achieved that goal through the state of unemployment. We may be in a position to remedy that contradiction but where will that remedy lead us?

Thanks to David for his answers and we will have many more nuggets coming soon from the other speakers so watch this space.