The Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Show & Tell event took place in the Event Space of the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) on Tuesday 24 November 2015, from 13.00 to 16.30. It was one of the two events organized by our network (in partnership with the NMS) on the same day, the second one being Dr. Erinma Ochu’s talk ‘Citizen Science for Community Engagement’, which took place in an adjacent venue, from 15.00 to 16.30.

The Show & Tell was modelled on ‘science festival’ events. It was free and open to the public, and its rationale was to gather together a number of individuals and organizations to show-case projects and initiatives on citizen science and crowdsourcing. The response was impressive, with nineteen individuals and groups demonstrating their work to invitees and visitors of the NMS.

Two projects of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RGBE) were represented by two of its members. Elspeth Haston showed how they support a range of work in the Herbarium (such as transcription, geolocation, and sorting) through the use of crowdsourcing, while Rob Cubey presented how the RGBE is involved in Treezilla, a new platform for citizen science, aimed at mapping every tree in Britain, through the engagement of anyone who is interested.

A similar project was Track a Tree, which is a ‘citizen ecology scheme’ that records the progress of spring in the UK. Track a Tree was demonstrated by Christine Tansey, who has developed it as part of her PhD at the University of Edinburgh (The project is supported by the Woodland Trust, and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council).

Amy Styles, Joanne Crawford, Stephanie Farley, and Janet Khan represented another four exciting citizen science projects from the area of nature and the environment. Amy Styles, from The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), showed how citizen science can be an inspiring way for people of different ages and levels of abilities to get involved in the observation of nature and species such as aquatic invertebrates. Joanne Crawford presented CITI-SENSE, a project which develops ‘citizens’ observatories’ in order to empower citizens to contribute to and participate in environmental governance. Stephanie Farley showed Citizen Observatory Web (COBWEB), and how it enables everyday people to collect environmental data (suitable for use in research, decision making and policy formation) using mobile devices. Janet Khan represented Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which runs a range of citizen science projects in the environmental field, and has funded the production of a best practice guide for their design.


The spectrum of the event was even broader, including schemes related to the areas of history, library and information science, health, energy, and linguistics.

Mapping Edinburgh’s Social History (MESH) aims at representing historical information through a variety of ‘open source’ tools, which are free to all members of the public. The project, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), was displayed by Eric Grosso, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of History, Classics & Archaeology. Edinburgh Collected, showcased by Allison Stoddart from Edinburgh City Council, falls into a similar category of projects. It offers individuals and groups an easy, digital way for collecting, preserving and sharing memories of Edinburgh, such as memories of living and pictures, to develop and sustain Edinburgh Libraries’ local heritage collection.

Claire Knowles, Gavin Willshaw, and Scott Renton, from the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services, Library & University Collections, presented a new digital engagement project, Metadata Games, which aims to improve the descriptive metadata of the library’s digital image collection, enabling the collections to be more easily accessible to scholars.

Tom Armitage, from Edina, showcased the Fieldtrip GB and Fieldtrip OSM Apps, two free data collection apps, ideal for citizen science projects, which allow data collection forms to be designed, and then deployed to multiple mobile devices; the results can be then collated as a single, new dataset.

My Asthma Story project has been developed by researchers at the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research (AUKCAR), and it aims at improving the lives of people affected by asthma through applied research. Its representatives, Melissa Goodbourn and Rebecca Campbell, provided examples of how members of the public have been involved in the design and creation of the project, while they also gave attendees the option of taking part in a ‘hands-on’ exercise to encourage people to think about how and why they would get involved in research.

The improvement of people’s sleep quality, mood, and energy levels is the purpose of Lightlog, which creates wearable, low-cost devices that automatically record ambient light levels and colour from people’s environment. Gary Martin displayed a number of Lightlog devices and prototypes, and demonstrated some interactive data visualizations of collected data sets, as well as 3D printing of the Lightlog device cases.

HeatHack is a community-university collaboration that aims to collect the data that can help building owners, energy efficiency and heating consultants, and users understand how to make community buildings (especially churches and church halls) work to modern requirements. Jean Carletta explained to the attendees the goals of HeatHack through ‘hands-on’ demonstration and interactive display.

Finally, Jasmeen Kanwal and Jon Carr, two PhD students at the Department of Linguistics of the Edinburgh University, demonstrated the tools they use for paid crowdsourcing of work to run experiments and analyse data. They also discussed the value and challenges of this approach.

You can get an idea of the event by watching the short video below: