Crowdcrafting opens up the wisdom of crowds for science

A novel open source software platform called Crowdcrafting, trialed by LCN researchers for the recent “Finding Feynman’s Flowers” project, was officially launched today at a workshop on Citizen Cyberscience held at the University of Geneva.

The platform, a joint initiative between the Citizen Cyberscience Centre and the UK-based Open Knowledge Foundation, enables the rapid development of online citizen science applications, by both amateur and professional scientists. So far, the software has already generated 50 new applications with over 50 more under development, attracting thousands of participants. 

“Crowdcrafting enables the general public to contribute in a direct way to fundamental science,” says Professor Gabriel Aeppli, Director of the LCN.

“A case in point is the Feynman’s Flowers project, led by Dr Cyrus Hirjibehedin. In this project, volunteers use Crowdcrafting to measure the orientation of magnetic molecules on a crystalline surface. This is part of a fundamental research effort aimed at creating prototypes for devices that would use a single magnetic molecule to store data, perform calculations, or sense the environment.”  

Crowdcrafting fills a valuable niche in the broad spectrum of online citizen science. There are already many citizen science projects that use online volunteers to achieve breakthrough results, in fields as diverse as proteomics and astronomy. These projects often involve hundreds of thousands of dedicated volunteers over many years.

The objective of Crowdcrafting is to make it quick and easy for professional scientists as well as amateurs to design and launch their own online citizen science projects. This enables even relatively small projects to get started, which may require the effort of just a hundred volunteers for only a few weeks. Such initiatives may be small on the scale of most online social networks, but they still correspond to many man-years of scientific effort achieved in a short time and at low cost.

Francois Grey, coordinator of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre and former Deputy Director, Business of the LCN, says, “Our goal now, with support from the Sloan Foundation, is to integrate other apps for data collection, processing and storage, to make Crowdcrafting an open-source ecosystem for building a new generation of browser-based citizen science projects.”

Notes for editors:

 [1] The Crowdcrafting platform is hosted by University of Geneva, and is a joint initiative between the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, a Geneva-based partnership co-founded by University of Geneva, and the UK-based Open Knowledge Foundation, which promotes the creation and sharing of open data on the Web. The Sloan Foundation has recently awarded a grant to this joint initiative for the further development of the Crowdcrafting platform.

[2] The Citizen Cyberscience Centre (CCC) is a partnership established in 2009 by the University of Geneva, the UN Institute for Training and Research and CERN, to promote the use of citizen science on the Web as an appropriate low-cost technology, in particular for researchers in developing regions. The Shuttleworth Foundation is the founding sponsor of the centre. IBM, the Open Society Foundations and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are currently project sponsors. For more information about the CCC, see http://www.citizencyberscience.net