Annual Science of Team Science Conference

National Institute of Health, NIH Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute




The Community Science Expedition seeks to transform the relationship between science and citizens at large by enabling a new model of scientific inquiry and discovery to flourish. In today’s societies, science is organized in fairly formal hierarchical organizations in which disciplinary boundaries increasingly influence the scientific agenda. At the same time, there is increasing interest and ability of citizens to participate in science, donating their time and resources (computers and sensors) to scientific endeavors. However, “citizen science” is often limited to efforts directed and defined by scientists, at high cost. We seek to enable the next-generation symbiosis of science and citizens, creating science communities which enable citizens to influence the agenda of science, science funding agencies to better respond to citizens’ needs, and scientists to increase the relevance of their innovative research to society. This symbiosis requires advances in computer science (especially data science, semantics, and distributed intelligence) informed by a deep understanding of community dynamics. Our expedition builds on our team’s experience creating and analyzing participatory science technology, web-based communities, and virtual observatories. Our methodology utilizes integrative driving scenarios to develop, test, and disseminate the developed tools and to recruit and retain scientific communities around them. Our team includes the developers and scientists behind a novel top-down participatory science in astronomy (dark matter), the originators of a successful bottom-up online community with potential to contribute to a particular science (mycology), and the leaders of an emerging community focused a key environmental challenge (clean water ecosystems).

We will design and develop new tools, infrastructure, and methodologies to support engagement at all levels allowing for the broadest possible participation in science. This work will change the way disparate as well as coordinated communities:

(1) Propose, evaluate, and select hypotheses and scientific questions to form scientific communities around

(2) Discover, collect, access, integrate, and use data relevant to the target hypothesis/question

(3) Form/refine hypotheses informed by data

(4) Design, advertise, and carry out experiments potentially leveraging widely distributed resources

(5) Analyze results, gather and propagate feedback, and disseminate results

(6) Grow communities by discovering and matching interests between parties

This will allow many more scientists worldwide to enable participation in their science, allow any person to experience the thrill of scientific discovery, and leverage the capabilities of communities to innovate for the advancement of science.

This work will significantly increase the participation of non-scientists in the next generation of scientific discovery and will increase the impact of direct societal feedback on research conducted in the US. Now anyone with interests and ideas can be empowered to pursue scientific questions and more importantly to support and promote community formation and engagement in science. Citizen scientists may now engage in science, make contributions to the science questions they care about, and potentially hypothesis and experiment formation, thus potentially infusing their agenda into the science exploration chain instead of just carrying out someone else’s agenda. Education and dissemination of the scientific method is accomplished through participation. Community participation will be analyzed and best practices on topics such as engagement and retention will be developed and reused. To this end, our outreach includes working with Native American and Inuit groups, participation by New York state students, and tool development and dissemination.


Researchers Involved:

Noshir Contractor