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Jean Tate
2014-Oct-22, 01:15 PM
A sufficiently provocative title, I hope! :D

It comes from a sentence I wrote a few days' ago; a fuller context is (source (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?153505-Researcher-Shows-Black-Holes-Don-t-Exist&p=2249627#post2249627)):

Perhaps the most interesting areas to explore are the ones hardly any scientist is working on, areas open to today's citizen scientists, who have oceans of high quality data (free!), excellent tools (also free), and Maxwell-would-die-for computing power (not quite free) available to them pretty much instantly. There are plenty of examples, right here in the CosmoQuest Forum's threads ... dark matter as something other than 'essentially zero EM cross section mass' (from molecular hydrogen to some variant of MOND, with a dozen way stations in between), to take just one class of examples.

To close with a puzzle: with such a vast expanse of unexplored ocean, with so many fascinating things professional scientists are hardly likely to ever get around to, why is there essentially zero work being done by amateurs?

To set the scene for this thread - which I hope will be quite wide-ranging in its scope - let's read Gugliucci, N.; Gay, P.; Bracey, G. (2014) (http://aspbooks.org/custom/publications/paper/483-0437.html) "Citizen Science Motivations as Discovered with CosmoQuest":

CosmoQuest is a citizen science portal that has launched several projects that allow users to participate in mapping and discovery missions throughout the solar system. We are particularly interested in how citizen scientists move through the site and interact with the various tasks. We have piloted a survey asking citizen scientists for their motivations for using CosmoQuest and link that with their site behaviors. This is part of a larger project using online and real-life interactions to study citizen scientist behaviors, motivations, and learning with a goal of building a better community with researchers, volunteers, educators, and developers. Such research is important to understanding how to engage new and returning citizen scientists across a wide spectrum of projects.

Well, immediately one reason why essentially zero is being done by citizen scientists (I'll use that term from now on) raises its ugly head: you have to pay $9 to even read that paper! :eek: Looks like this CQuestian's observation (here (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?153505-Researcher-Shows-Black-Holes-Don-t-Exist&p=2249698#post2249698)), further down in the thread I linked to earlier, is correct, "I think the problem is that it is hard to make progress if you don't have a fairly complete set of skills."

Of course, if money is not a skill a citizen scientist possesses in abundance, perhaps persistence is ... maybe this paper is available here, in the CosmoQuest site?

Some sleuthing I did turned up just three hits:

A section titled "Motivations Survey", in an undated weekly update (http://cosmoquest.org/x/?wysija-page=1&controller=email&action=view&email_id=8&wysijap=subscriptions)
mention that the survey results will be presented at an AAS meeting (here (https://cosmoquest.org/x/blog/2013/04/where-in-the-world-is-cosmoquest/))
and reference to the paper, in a different paper, in a forum post (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?153391-Ideas-for-Citizen-Science-in-Astronomy-hot-off-the-arXiv-press)


None of those even remotely allow free access to the Gugliucci+ (2014) paper itself. :(

However, the third hit does contain enough to permit one to find this (check the forum thread for links to the source):

The authors point out that this is close to the US internet user age distribution, except for slight but significant excesses in numbers of post-50s males, post-retirement people of both genders, and a deficit in males under 30. The survey respondents also tended to be more highly educated than average US internet users, with most holding at least an undergraduate degree, and around a quarter having a masters or doctorate.

Now we're getting somewhere! :)

I'll let this sink in for a while ... significant excesses in numbers of post-retirement people of both genders ... more highly educated than average US internet users ... most holding at least an undergraduate degree ... around a quarter having a masters or doctorate.

In the next post I'll take a look at motivations, and then (or perhaps after some discussion and a few other inputs) turn to the question of why such a large bunch of people, with time and skills in abundance, do essentially zero 'hard astronomy' (as in research in astronomy that ends up being published in journals like AJ, MNRAS, or PASP).

NEOWatcher
2014-Oct-22, 01:43 PM
Some sleuthing I did turned up just three hits:

A section titled "Motivations Survey", in an undated weekly update (http://cosmoquest.org/x/?wysija-page=1&controller=email&action=view&email_id=8&wysijap=subscriptions)
mention that the survey results will be presented at an AAS meeting (here (https://cosmoquest.org/x/blog/2013/04/where-in-the-world-is-cosmoquest/))
and reference to the paper, in a different paper, in a forum post (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?153391-Ideas-for-Citizen-Science-in-Astronomy-hot-off-the-arXiv-press)


Perhaps with a bit more sleuthing, you could have found the survey results here on Cosmoquest (http://cosmoquest.org/x/blog/2013/10/who-how-and-why/).

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-22, 02:01 PM
Perhaps with a bit more sleuthing, you could have found the survey results here on Cosmoquest (http://cosmoquest.org/x/blog/2013/10/who-how-and-why/).
Wow! Thanks! :)

How did I miss it*? :o-default

I wonder, though, how that summary differs from the paper? And why, given the strong tilt in the demographics towards STEM and formal degrees, was there no link to the paper (or even reference to it)?

(I was going to write something stronger, to do with 'dumbing down' and audiences, but one lot of egg on my face is enough for today).

*My sleuthing was, more or less, as follows: Search on the three authors' names; use various combinations of the authors' names and key words from the paper's title. Curiously, the CQ page you found explicitly mentions the other paper I was going to cite (and an earlier one too), Raddick+ (2013) (http://aer.aas.org/resource/1/aerscz/v12/i1/p010106_s1)

Swift
2014-Oct-22, 02:29 PM
I don't know if any of the papers covered this, but I think it might be interesting to compare the motivations for on-line citizen scientists versus those who do non-on-line citizen science (for example, backyard bird counts or other field work), versus other types of volunteer activities.

I've been a volunteer for the majority of my life (nearly 40 years), and for a number of years worked on managing other volunteers (both through Sierra Club and through the local park system I volunteer with). Volunteer motivation is an interesting study, and often people's motivations for volunteering are less obvious than our first guesses about such things.

NEOWatcher
2014-Oct-22, 02:55 PM
How did I miss it*? :o-default
Sometimes it just takes a different way of thinking.


*My sleuthing was, more or less, as follows:
I just figured if cosmoquest was doing something, they would have mentioned it in the public outreach section of the forum. So; I found this thread (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?146537-Citizen-Science-User-Research).

NEOWatcher
2014-Oct-22, 03:04 PM
I don't know if any of the papers covered this, but I think it might be interesting to compare the motivations for on-line citizen scientists versus those who do non-on-line citizen science (for example, backyard bird counts or other field work), versus other types of volunteer activities.
You bring up a good point.


I've been a volunteer for the majority of my life (nearly 40 years), and for a number of years worked on managing other volunteers (both through Sierra Club and through the local park system I volunteer with). Volunteer motivation is an interesting study, and often people's motivations for volunteering are less obvious than our first guesses about such things.
I've been with a volunteer run organization all my life (and back at least 4 generations).
So; my motivations are a bit different than yours. But; I think that the personal contact of that makes it so much different than on-line.
I did Stardust and scored very highly. In that, I had different modivations as time went on.
1. Interest in doing something.
2. As I got familiar with the connections of what I was doing and how the research was going, I looked forward to actually hoping to be the first one to spot a speck.
3. The more hooked I got, the more I wanted to increase in the standings.
I guess it's mostly pride of oneself, but the incentive (a discovery, and some kind of competition) certainly made a big difference to me.

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-22, 07:40 PM
Having been a professional astrophysicist, I can tell you that it's a full time job. I find it unlikely that most people could put in the required work to contribute significantly to the field without being paid for their time. That's not to say that there aren't contributions that amateurs can make, but writing up articles for refereed journals, even if one limits themselves to publicly available archival data (instead of applying for time at observatories), takes quite a lot of time and effort. Furthermore, understanding what would be the expected quality for a research paper and being able to produce that quality (so as to ensure passage through the peer-review process) takes a lot of training. Even newly-minted PhDs lack a certain amount of experience and their papers will increase in quality with time. But, there's a lot of data, and there's going to be a lot more in the future, so I think if someone had the training and didn't need to rely on their own work for money to live on, there's no reason why someone couldn't do science. I know some astronomers who if they were to become independently wealthy would probably still do astronomical research.

Reality Check
2014-Oct-22, 08:10 PM
Well, immediately one reason why essentially zero is being done by citizen scientists (I'll use that term from now on) raises its ugly head: you have to pay $9 to even read that paper!

I would say that this is not a good reason against citizen scientists actually doing a bit of work (List of citizen science projects (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_citizen_science_projects)). People kind of expect to pay for published work :D.
In fact given the millions of people involved in these projects we can say that citizen scientists do an enormous amount of work. We could even include the millions who run network computing, e.g. BOINC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Open_Infrastructure_for_Network_Computing ), as citizen scientists.

Ken G
2014-Oct-23, 02:34 AM
There was just a recent paper that came out that established if you could get a thousand people in a square kilometer to participate, you could use their cell phones to search for ultra-high energy cosmic rays. If you could get a thousand pockets like that spread all over the world, you could do as good a job as our best instruments for detecting cosmic rays.

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-23, 09:17 AM
Thank you NEOWatcher, Swift, Amber Robot, Reality Check, and Ken G for joining my party. :)


I don't know if any of the papers covered this, but I think it might be interesting to compare the motivations for on-line citizen scientists versus those who do non-on-line citizen science (for example, backyard bird counts or other field work), versus other types of volunteer activities.

I've been a volunteer for the majority of my life (nearly 40 years), and for a number of years worked on managing other volunteers (both through Sierra Club and through the local park system I volunteer with). Volunteer motivation is an interesting study, and often people's motivations for volunteering are less obvious than our first guesses about such things.

I've just added a post to the Ideas for Citizen Science in Astronomy - hot off the arXiv press (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?153391-Ideas-for-Citizen-Science-in-Astronomy-hot-off-the-arXiv-press) thread. The Marshall+ (2014) paper* has quite a lot on exactly the question you ask (comparing the motivations for on-line citizen scientists versus those who do non-on-line citizen science), at least so far as astronomy-related Citizen Science projects are concerned. I haven't checked yet, but I think that, among the references (or what papers those references in turn cite), there are other papers which report results of relevant research. Also, the references on this page (http://www.volcrowe.org/references.html) may include some that you might find interesting; it's from the VOLCROWE site, a research project which "is generating new economic models and empirical evidence in response to the changing nature of volunteering in the digital economy and is helping to understand the motivation to volunteer for online citizen science initiatives."

*I strongly urge you to get the version which was submitted for review, rather than the v1; not only are there rather a lot of changes, but many of the changes are directly pertinent to this topic; also, it may end up being Marshall+ (2015) ;)

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-23, 09:25 AM
Sometimes it just takes a different way of thinking.


I just figured if cosmoquest was doing something, they would have mentioned it in the public outreach section of the forum. So; I found this thread (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?146537-Citizen-Science-User-Research).

Thanks.

It certainly does point to a different way of thinking! :) I had also searched on "Publications"; with over 3000 hits, it was a bit daunting to proceed. However, I did discover that there is - apparently - no high-level page which lists, or points to, CQ publications. There's one for Moon Mappers (here (http://cosmoquest.org/x/the-science/publications/)), which also has these words: "Coming Soon… A list of conference presentations, proceedings, abstracts, and papers about CosmoQuest education and public outreach." But that's it (that I could find, anyway). :(

So maybe it's a WIP (Work In Progress)?

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-23, 09:28 AM
Having been a professional astrophysicist, I can tell you that it's a full time job. I find it unlikely that most people could put in the required work to contribute significantly to the field without being paid for their time. That's not to say that there aren't contributions that amateurs can make, but writing up articles for refereed journals, even if one limits themselves to publicly available archival data (instead of applying for time at observatories), takes quite a lot of time and effort. Furthermore, understanding what would be the expected quality for a research paper and being able to produce that quality (so as to ensure passage through the peer-review process) takes a lot of training. Even newly-minted PhDs lack a certain amount of experience and their papers will increase in quality with time. But, there's a lot of data, and there's going to be a lot more in the future, so I think if someone had the training and didn't need to rely on their own work for money to live on, there's no reason why someone couldn't do science. I know some astronomers who if they were to become independently wealthy would probably still do astronomical research.

Cool! :)

It is just these sorts of things (issues, topics, whatever) that I hope this thread spends a lot of time examining, discussing, etc. I'll surely be coming back to your excellent post, Amber Robot, many times!

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-23, 09:52 AM
I would say that this is not a good reason against citizen scientists actually doing a bit of work (List of citizen science projects (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_citizen_science_projects)). People kind of expect to pay for published work :D.
In fact given the millions of people involved in these projects we can say that citizen scientists do an enormous amount of work. We could even include the millions who run network computing, e.g. BOINC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Open_Infrastructure_for_Network_Computing ), as citizen scientists.

Also cool! :)

What better way to start making some key distinctions? :clap:

The kind of 'work' I want to explore - of the citizen science kind - is not "please-use-my-computers'-spare-cycles-for-free" kind*. Rather, it's the sort which leads to independent research, results from such, and publications reporting such.

Perhaps a bit out of the sequence I had in mind, but might as well get this 'on the table' now.


Which leads me to ask, where the ladies at?! Okay, that’s not necessarily a well formulated research question, but as a female astronomer and a feminist, I’d love to have just as many women join us as there have been men. What is the reason behind such a disparity? This survey wasn't designed to ask that question, but it is something to keep in mind for the future, especially since CosmoQuest's core staff is overwhelmingly women.(source (http://cosmoquest.org/x/blog/2013/10/who-how-and-why/))

Pick a different demographic from the results - age over 54, say, combined with 'has a masters or PhD' perhaps - and consider publications; it may seem outrageous to even ask, but what is the reason behind the disparity between 'number of CQ-related publications, by core CQ staff, and CQuestians'? (poorly formulated question, to be sure). This is, sorta, a theme I'll be returning to (no, not any male/female/transgender/whatever one!)

Of course, we will surely encounter Open Access and Open Science many times in this thread; for now, don't you regard it as just a teensy bit odd (shall we say), Reality Check, that the citizen scientists who created the data (for want of a better word) must pay to read the papers which rely upon it? Papers which could not even exist but for the entirely free time and effort of just those people?

*except, perhaps, to illustrate how such projects actively discourage citizen scientists from doing the kind of work I want to discuss; see, for example, POGS (https://pogs.theskynet.org/pogs/) (and this thread (https://pogs.theskynet.org/pogs/forum_thread.php?id=297) in particular)

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-23, 10:14 AM
[...]

In the next post I'll take a look at motivations, and then [...]

Well, not exactly my next post, but yes, time to a look at motivations.


What motivates citizen scientists? The two demographic studies referred to above also covered this question; [...] A desire to contribute to science was found to be the dominant primary motivation, [...] The AAVSO demographic survey (Price & Paxson 2012) found similar results: over a third of variable star observers cited involvement in science and research as their primary source of motivation. [...] Both groups of citizen scientists are clearly quite serious in their reasons for taking part: their motivations are actually very close to those of professional scientists, as many readers of this review will recognize. ("The most up to date PDF file should be downloaded from this http URL (http://tinyurl.com/CitizenAstronomyReview)"*).

For the rest of this thread, I'll be assuming that these (primary) motivations reported are, in fact, correct; further, I am mostly interested in discussing what follows from that, for at least the subset of citizen scientists for whom these motivations are primary (or at least important). Particularly for those citizen scientists who have a couple of decades (or more) of work experience (many, perhaps most, of whom are/were directly or indirectly involved in STEMM), who have at least a bachelor's degree in science, etc (but not exclusively for that subset!).

And there's quite a bit more to draw on, from the Marshall+ (2014) paper (and those it cites), which I'd like to discuss, if only as background to getting to talking about why there is essentially zero work being done by citizen scientists (in astronomy at least).

* I cannot faithfully copy all the formatting; for example, "contribute" and "involvement in science and research" are italicized in the original

galacsi
2014-Oct-23, 12:00 PM
Maybe there is a contradiction between the real world, where real work is done and the virtual world where Cosmoquest lies. It is so much easier , being in your armchair , roaming the virtual world than engaging some research work. Even just observing stars with my telescope is a challenge for me because of internet. Yes , I am kind of an addict !

Cougar
2014-Oct-23, 01:34 PM
...I'll take a look at motivations, and then... turn to the question of why such a large bunch of people, with time and skills in abundance, do essentially zero 'hard astronomy' (as in research in astronomy that ends up being published in journals like AJ, MNRAS, or PASP).

Essentially zero, yes. But I do recall a couple of members from many years ago, after the 97-page thread (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?26365-More-from-Arp-et-al/page97) on Arp's conjectures, went off and did their own research on something or other and I believe got published. The PI would have been "dgruss" - David Russell, I think. A high school teacher at the time.

I think Amber Robot's point about astrophysics research being a full-time job is very pertinent. I'd love to dive into the mass of wonderfully free data that is out there and develop something that was previously unknown, but time is a highly limiting factor. Also, grad students are typically given worthwhile projects or problems to investigate by their adviser or mentor. Amateurs do not have the broad knowledge of the advising tenured prof to know what makes an interesting and worthwhile project to work on. I think they could really use a mentor.

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-23, 05:26 PM
Amateurs do not have the broad knowledge of the advising tenured prof to know what makes an interesting and worthwhile project to work on.

This is partly because it takes a lot of reading of papers in a field to understand deeply what new research is worthwhile. This kind of reading and learning of the current state of a scientific sub-field is pretty time consuming as well. Spending time and money to go to conferences and talk with professional astronomers is also a major way to develop ideas and forge collaborations. This last part is non-trivial too. Much of modern astronomical research is done by a collaboration of scientists, each with particular expertise and knowledge/experience. Finding cutting edge ideas is hard enough, let alone finding cutting edge ideas that can be done without the aid of other scientists. That's not to say that a professional astronomer wouldn't work with an amateur one, but if, as an amateur, you wanted to approach professionals with your idea, you'd really better have done a lot of homework first.

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-24, 10:34 AM
Maybe there is a contradiction between the real world, where real work is done and the virtual world where Cosmoquest lies. It is so much easier , being in your armchair , roaming the virtual world than engaging some research work. Even just observing stars with my telescope is a challenge for me because of internet. Yes , I am kind of an addict !

Too true, galacsi, too true.

And I'll use your post, if you don't mind, to say a few words about 'amateur observing'.

Amateur astronomers - with their own telescopes, cameras, etc - have a long history of doing far-from-zero-work, of the serious good-enough-to-be-written-up-and-published (in referred journals) kind. And that tradition continues today; here are a few examples [1]:


Harrington+ (2004) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004jpsm.book..159H) (Shoemaker-Levy 9)
Fletcher+ (2011) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2011Icar..213..564F) (fading of Jupiter's SEB)
Fossey+ (2009) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009MNRAS.396L..16F) (exo-solar planetary transit)
Stencel (2012) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2012JAVSO..40..618S) (epsilon Aurigae's eclipse)
Raiteri+ (2008) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008A%26A...480..339R) (Whole Earth Blazar Telescope monitoring of AO 0235+164)
Oksanen+ (2008) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008JAVSO..36...53O) (GRB optical afterglow)


Given the long history, no surprise to learn that there are well-established procedures (e.g. for reporting discoveries), communities (e.g. variable star observers), projects (e.g. Whole Earth Blazar Telescope), and quite a few pro-am collaborations.

But I'm with galacsi here; I'd like to focus on citizen scientists' 'hard astronomy' work, of the kind which can be done 'in your armchair'. And, in passing, a note about a sometimes-overlooked aspect of online databases, broadband internet connections, etc: these have enabled many people to become serious citizen scientists (of the astronomy kind), who could not have ever become 'amateur observers'. There are the costs and mechanical (etc) skills you need for serious amateur astronomy; there is the falling-away-of-barriers for those with disabilities; freedom from tyranny of the night (and bad weather); etc, etc, etc.

[1] Mousis+ (2014) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/doi/10.1007/s10686-014-9379-0) is quite informative on this topic (it'll cost you "$39.95 / €34.95 / £29.95" to get the original, but fortunately the 'accepted for publication' version is on astro-ph (http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3647)):

Instrumental Methods for Professional and Amateur Collaborations in Planetary Astronomy

Amateur contributions to professional publications have increased exponentially over the last decades in the field of planetary astronomy. Here we review the different domains of the field in which collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers are effective and regularly lead to scientific publications.We discuss the instruments, detectors, software and methodologies typically used by amateur astronomers to collect the scientific data in the different domains of interest. Amateur contributions to the monitoring of planets and interplanetary matter, characterization of asteroids and comets, as well as the determination of the physical properties of Kuiper Belt Objects and exoplanets are discussed.

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-24, 10:46 AM
Essentially zero, yes. But I do recall a couple of members from many years ago, after the 97-page thread (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?26365-More-from-Arp-et-al/page97) on Arp's conjectures, went off and did their own research on something or other and I believe got published. The PI would have been "dgruss" - David Russell, I think. A high school teacher at the time.

Jokimäki+ (2008) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008Ap%26SS.315..249J) [1]?


I think Amber Robot's point about astrophysics research being a full-time job is very pertinent. I'd love to dive into the mass of wonderfully free data that is out there and develop something that was previously unknown, but time is a highly limiting factor. Also, grad students are typically given worthwhile projects or problems to investigate by their adviser or mentor. Amateurs do not have the broad knowledge of the advising tenured prof to know what makes an interesting and worthwhile project to work on. I think they could really use a mentor.

Wonderful! Thanks Cougar; this expresses, very well, a central issue/concern/factor/etc! :)

I hope we can spend quite a bit of time (!) digging into these aspects ...

Before then, however, I'd like to give a few more examples of the difference between 'essentially zero' (in my OP) and 'zero'; i.e. more examples of (astronomy) papers, published in referred journals, whose lead author is (was) a non-professional citizen scientist. Based on work of the 'from the armchair' kind. Also, a somewhat deeper dig into capabilities and motivations, etc. This will also include discussing some of the things in Amber Robot's most recent post (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?153992-Why-is-there-essentially-zero-work-being-done-by-Citizen-Scientists-(amateurs)&p=2250599#post2250599) (another excellent one).

[1] My thanks to a fellow citizen scientist for reminding me of this!

Cougar
2014-Oct-24, 11:32 AM
Jokimäki+ (2008) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008Ap%26SS.315..249J) [1]?

Right. Ari Jokimaki used to participate on the Bad Astronomy forum as well. Apparently his collaboration with Russell was forged there--I mean here. ;)

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-24, 04:57 PM
Amateur astronomers - with their own telescopes, cameras, etc - have a long history of doing far-from-zero-work, of the serious good-enough-to-be-written-up-and-published (in referred journals) kind. And that tradition continues today; here are a few examples [1]:


Fletcher+ (2011) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2011Icar..213..564F) (fading of Jupiter's SEB)



I haven't reviewed your whole list, but I read the abstract for this one and it appears to be written by a professional astronomer using the VLT.

I haven't read the paper, so maybe it includes some data from an amateur astronomer and their telescope, but I think it would be interesting to know how many astronomers have first-authored an article for a major astronomical journal (i.e., ApJ, AJ, MNRAS, etc.).

ngc3314
2014-Oct-24, 07:44 PM
Yeah, pretty much what everybody said. (I slightly tiptoe through minefields here, having been all of the above at overlapping times, and being aware that in some positions what one says can have repercussions...)

The scientific publishing process is one with its own peculiar rules and customs, so that a publication that makes it through refereeing has a lot more in it than the data and conclusions would suggest in themselves. Many amateurs contribute significantly to such results; from the ones I've read in some detail, it is most common to have someone experienced in the academic arts shepherd the process along until someone who has the requisite drive gets enough experience to do it all solo. Another issue is that autodidacts easily risk missing a piece of knowledge that they didn't realize would be relevant (not having encountered it yet) and may be fish-slapped by the referee about this (hardly a problem confined to that situation, of course).

The quandary here is real - there are people who have the interest and capability to contribute to science, but there is a real argument that until their results are made public they cannot contribute to Science at large. It is a fair question to wonder what barriers here could be lowered.

(Relevant acknowledgements - my first publication was shepherded by the late Doug Hall as I described, while I was an enthusiastic 15-year-old looking at variable stars; and the OP here pointed me to the Jokimaki et al. catalog, which I've just about finished some followup imaging on the overlapping-pair subset from).

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-24, 08:18 PM
The quandary here is real - there are people who have the interest and capability to contribute to science, but there is a real argument that until their results are made public they cannot contribute to Science at large. It is a fair question to wonder what barriers here could be lowered.

I think it is important to note that some of these barriers are social in nature. There's no actual reason why an amateur couldn't contribute as much to the science of astronomy as a professional can. The contribution should be judged on its merit, not the history/training/education of the contributor. However, there is a definite expectation of what is considered a properly and thoroughly studied piece of work, and I would guess that most amateurs are not familiar with what that expectation is.

ngc3314
2014-Oct-24, 08:42 PM
(Nods in violent agreement). Yes, completely. That's what I should have said in more detail.

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-24, 09:58 PM
(Nods in violent agreement). Yes, completely. That's what I should have said in more detail.

I guess the point I was trying to make was that, unlike other fields, the *universe* is the final arbiter of "truth", not the astronomical community, so if an amateur or outsider can produce a quality piece of scientific work that holds up to the scrutiny of the universe itself (i.e., observational data) then it has to be respected by the professionals.

This is why when people come here with new-fangled theories in the 'against the mainstream' section, I always ask to see some plots. If you can show me how your theory fits the observables then I can judge its usefulness. If you can't at least fit what we do observe to be true, then you are not practicing science. For example, have an alternative theory of cosmology? Great! Show me your theory's prediction for redshift versus distance.

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-25, 08:21 AM
I haven't reviewed your whole list, but I read the abstract for this one and it appears to be written by a professional astronomer using the VLT.

Yes, you're right.

I am not very familiar with these fields, and my main interest was (and still is) in briefly covering the contributions of amateur astronomers (who have their own telescopes, etc) before getting onto discussing galasci's 'armchair' kind of citizen scientist.

Digging a bit deeper, it seems the community (or communities) has its own, well-established, protocols for publication of results. For example, AAVSO members publish in The Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (http://www.aavso.org/journal-aavso), amateurs who observe Jupiter (for example) publish to/through the International Planets Watch (IOPW) (http://www.ehu.es/iopw/), the Whole Earth Blazar Telescope (http://www.to.astro.it/blazars/webt/homepage.html) is organized around campaigns and observations by amateurs published accordingly, and so on.

Anyway, I don't think it's all controversial to say that amateur astronomers (own telescopes, etc) have done, and continue to do, considerably more than 'zero work in astronomy'. And having accepted that, I want to look at why it's not true for the 'virtual' kind of amateur astronomer (citizen scientist).


I haven't read the paper, so maybe it includes some data from an amateur astronomer and their telescope, but I think it would be interesting to know how many astronomers have first-authored an article for a major astronomical journal (i.e., ApJ, AJ, MNRAS, etc.).

Yes, me too.

But, with respect, look at what you just did here ... by implication (even if unintended), the only real work an amateur astronomer/citizen scientist is judged to have done is that published in ApJ (etc), and then only if they are lead author. [1]

Worth repeating the sentence I used to kick this whole thread off: "To close with a puzzle: with such a vast expanse of unexplored ocean, with so many fascinating things professional scientists are hardly likely to ever get around to, why is there essentially zero work being done by amateurs?"

[1] Yes, this is discussed, and clarified, further in later posts

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-25, 08:28 AM
Right. Ari Jokimaki used to participate on the Bad Astronomy forum as well. Apparently his collaboration with Russell was forged there--I mean here. ;)

Thanks for the confirmation.

This leads to an interesting question for Amber Robot: as all three authors of that paper are (or were, at the time; I've no idea what they do now) citizen scientists, does Astrophysics and Space Science count as "a major astronomical journal"?

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-25, 09:00 AM
Amber Robot's and ngc3314's posts are all excellent, and highly pertinent. :clap:

However, before discussing them, I'd like to follow-up on what I said earlier:

Before then, however, I'd like to give a few more examples of the difference between 'essentially zero' (in my OP) and 'zero'; i.e. more examples of (astronomy) papers, published in referred journals, whose lead author is (was) a non-professional citizen scientist. Based on work of the 'from the armchair' kind. Also, a somewhat deeper dig into capabilities and motivations, etc. This will also include discussing some of the things in Amber Robot's most recent post (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?153992-Why-is-there-essentially-zero-work-being-done-by-Citizen-Scientists-(amateurs)&p=2250599#post2250599) (another excellent one).

For the first, Jokimäki+ (2008) has been cited, and this (https://github.com/drphilmarshall/Ideas-for-Citizen-Science-in-Astronomy/issues/97) (an Issue in GitHub, on the Marshall+ (2015) paper) references two more:

Hui (2013) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2013MNRAS.436.1564H)
Liang+ (2104) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014MNRAS.439.3712L)


Related to Galaxy Zoo, here (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=281488.0) is a list of papers with citizen scientists as co-authors (at least up to December, 2013; there's at least one since). And Planet Hunters, Wang+ (2013) (http://arxiv.org/abs/1301.0644), Schwamb+ (2103) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/bib_query?arXiv:1210.3612), Gies+ (2013) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/bib_query?arXiv:1308.0369), and Schmitt+ (2014) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2013arXiv1310.5912S) (certainly not a complete list). I do not know if there are any such papers related to any CosmoQuest project (anyone?).

Given the demographics of amateur astronomers and citizen scientists, it is no surprise to learn that they have developed software specifically for processing data, either from their own cameras (e.g. Registax (http://www.astronomie.be/registax/)), or from publicly available surveys (e.g. AKO (http://letters.zooniverse.org/letters/16-introducing_ako), the Amateur Kelper Observatory).

I'll finish this post with a quote from Marshall+ (2014), and discuss it - together with posts by several CQuestians (especially those by Amber Robot, Cougar, and ngc3314) - later:


In this section we look at some cases where the process of enquiry, the science itself, has been led by citizens. [...] we focus on some collaborative projects where the asking of science questions by citizens is supported and guided by professionals.

In principle, this is an area of great potential. The constraints of funding proposals and management of research groups can often mean that professional scientists focus very narrowly on particular topics of research, specializing in particular techniques or datasets. Steering away from this course implies taking risks with time management, and allocation of resources to an ultimately fruitless research area can be detrimental to careers. Citizen scientists are largely free of these managerial and budgetary constraints, and are able to devote their attentions to whatever topics interest them. Moreover, we might expect outsiders to ask some unusual questions, and make connections and suggestions that highly focused professionals may not have thought of.

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-25, 02:05 PM
I think Amber Robot's point about astrophysics research being a full-time job is very pertinent. I'd love to dive into the mass of wonderfully free data that is out there and develop something that was previously unknown, but time is a highly limiting factor. Also, grad students are typically given worthwhile projects or problems to investigate by their adviser or mentor. Amateurs do not have the broad knowledge of the advising tenured prof to know what makes an interesting and worthwhile project to work on. I think they could really use a mentor.


This is partly because it takes a lot of reading of papers in a field to understand deeply what new research is worthwhile. This kind of reading and learning of the current state of a scientific sub-field is pretty time consuming as well. Spending time and money to go to conferences and talk with professional astronomers is also a major way to develop ideas and forge collaborations. This last part is non-trivial too. Much of modern astronomical research is done by a collaboration of scientists, each with particular expertise and knowledge/experience. Finding cutting edge ideas is hard enough, let alone finding cutting edge ideas that can be done without the aid of other scientists. That's not to say that a professional astronomer wouldn't work with an amateur one, but if, as an amateur, you wanted to approach professionals with your idea, you'd really better have done a lot of homework first.

Contrast this with the most recent post in this thread (other than my own):


I guess the point I was trying to make was that, unlike other fields, the *universe* is the final arbiter of "truth", not the astronomical community, so if an amateur or outsider can produce a quality piece of scientific work that holds up to the scrutiny of the universe itself (i.e., observational data) then it has to be respected by the professionals.

I don't mean to pick on you, Cougar (far from it!), but why *must* ideas for projects (etc) to work on (in astronomy) come from professionals? The wonderful mass of free data out there does not come with a EULA which declares that you must only dive in if you already have a worthwhile and interesting project in hand, preferably one signed off on by a prof! :p


The ability of the Zoo volunteers to carry out their own research, moving far beyond the mere "clockwork" required by the main interface, is best illustrated by the discovery of the Galaxy Zoo Green Peas (Cardamone et al. 2009). These small, round and, in SDSS imaging, green, systems are dwarf galaxies with specific star formation rates which are unprecedented in the local Universe, matched only by high-redshift Lyman-break galaxies. Volunteers not only identified these systems, but organized a systematic search and further review of them. This effort included the use of tools designed by SDSS for professional astronomers to acquire and study spectroscopic data.

You may be uncomfortable with the accuracy of this characterization, this version of history (something I'll have more to write about later), but it's certainly true that some citizen scientists (of the galacsi, 'armchair', kind) stumbled across Green Peas (as they quickly became known), and self-organized a 'citizen-led' inquiry into them. Of course, at the time, they had no idea that they are 'dwarf galaxies with specific star formation rates which are unprecedented in the local Universe, matched only by high-redshift Lyman-break galaxies' (though some may well have suspected something like that), but they certainly didn't let that stop them from researching them!

Note the phrasing, however, "the discovery of the Galaxy Zoo Green Peas (Cardamone et al. 2009)". From this, you might get the impression that Cardamone was a citizen scientist, or at least that the "et al." includes citizen scientists. Not so; citizen scientists are not to be considered equal to real scientists (at least insofaras writing scientific papers is concerned), their role is described thusly: "This publication has been made possible by the participation of more than 200000 volunteers in the Galaxy Zoo project. Their contributions are individually acknowledged at http://www.galaxyzoo.org/Volunteers.aspx" [1]

That there are peculiarities (for want of a better word) about the writing, submitting, and getting a paper published in a major astronomical journal is certainly well-known to astronomers, as the posts by Amber Robot and ngc3314 attest. But is such an end-point the only means citizen scientists have to make their work known? Is such publication the only means by which such work can be validated as "truth"?

In my next post (or a later one, at any rate), I'd like to look at a specific, citizen-led Galaxy Zoo project, one which is not described in Marshall+ (2014), or indeed in any paper published or submitted to an astronomical journal (major or not) [2], The Irregulars Project (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=273410.0).

[1] I expect - hope - that this will spark some discussion! :D
[2] At least as far as I know; I'd be delighted to learn that I'm wrong.

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-26, 12:19 PM
I guess the point I was trying to make was that, unlike other fields, the *universe* is the final arbiter of "truth", not the astronomical community, so if an amateur or outsider can produce a quality piece of scientific work that holds up to the scrutiny of the universe itself (i.e., observational data) then it has to be respected by the professionals.

This is why when people come here with new-fangled theories in the 'against the mainstream' section, I always ask to see some plots. If you can show me how your theory fits the observables then I can judge its usefulness. If you can't at least fit what we do observe to be true, then you are not practicing science. For example, have an alternative theory of cosmology? Great! Show me your theory's prediction for redshift versus distance.

In a previous life, I must have been a butterfly; I am very easily distracted by any new, bright, shiny thing! :p

So, The Irregulars Project can wait a bit longer; I was somewhat puzzled by what you wrote, Amber Robot, so I went to the ATM section, and browsed around a bit [1].

OMFSM! :eek: What, in Zwicky's name, are those people thinking!! Surely none of them can be from the demographic Nicole described: significant excesses in numbers of post-retirement people of both genders (OK, that's consistent) ... more highly educated than average US internet users (probably best to not comment on this one, except, perhaps, to say 'cat videos') ... most holding at least an undergraduate degree (not, one would hope, in any branch of science, certainly not a 'hard' science) ... around a quarter having a masters or doctorate (one would hope that the intersection is the null set!).

Perhaps I did not browse long enough, but I found exactly zero of the ATM ideas proposed to be supported by any research (work) of the kind I want to discuss in this thread. No ATM proponent seems to have even heard of the fantastic wealth of high quality observational data (from surveys, and more), available for free, much less downloaded any of it, and conducted their own analyses using it. I guess I should have known; as a long-time fan of, and reader of, Tom Bridgman's Dealing with Creationism in Astronomy (http://dealingwithcreationisminastronomy.blogspot) (he's a CQuestian, self-identified as CrankAstronomy) and Stuart Robbins' Exposing PseudoAstronomy (http://pseudoastro.wordpress.com/) (he's the PI of the highly successful CQ citizen science project, Moon Mappers (http://cosmoquest.org/projects/moon_mappers/)), I should not have been the least bit surprised to find no serious data analyses ("look at this photo!" doesn't count, obviously).

So, for any reader who has been hanging out in the ATM section for a while, the kind of 'hard astronomy' work/research I'm discussing in this thread is about as different from what you've encountered in the ATM section as it is possible to imagine. Curiously, the dgruss Cougar mentioned may be the dgruss23 who is the author of the OP of the stickied thread, Background - Advice for ATM theory supporters (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?16242-Background-Advice-for-ATM-theory-supporters). Did any 'ATM theory supporter' even read that advice? There certainly seems precious little evidence any of them actually took any of it to heart!

OK, I think that should satisfy my inner butterfly; now, about The Irregulars Project ... ;)

[1] Sorry, Cougar, I know you also pointed to that section; however, I already had what I thought was the paper you were referring to, so I didn't even click on the link to that 97-page thread

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-26, 02:12 PM
I think Amber Robot's point about astrophysics research being a full-time job is very pertinent. I'd love to dive into the mass of wonderfully free data that is out there and develop something that was previously unknown, but time is a highly limiting factor. Also, grad students are typically given worthwhile projects or problems to investigate by their adviser or mentor. Amateurs do not have the broad knowledge of the advising tenured prof to know what makes an interesting and worthwhile project to work on. I think they could really use a mentor.

The quandary here is real - there are people who have the interest and capability to contribute to science, but there is a real argument that until their results are made public they cannot contribute to Science at large. It is a fair question to wonder what barriers here could be lowered.

There's no actual reason why an amateur couldn't contribute as much to the science of astronomy as a professional can. The contribution should be judged on its merit, not the history/training/education of the contributor.

I guess the point I was trying to make was that, unlike other fields, the *universe* is the final arbiter of "truth", not the astronomical community, so if an amateur or outsider can produce a quality piece of scientific work that holds up to the scrutiny of the universe itself (i.e., observational data) then it has to be respected by the professionals.

I kinda vaguely remembered that there was a thread, or something, on providing something like the advice (etc) Cougar mentions, but I couldn't find it.

But, given how many CQuestians hold masters or PhDs, and how many are, or were, professional astronomers, I thought, "well, maybe the CQ forum can stand in for 'advising tenured profs'?" So I went and created this thread: Fascinating Research Ideas For Citizen Scientists ... (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?154057-Fascinating-Research-Ideas-For-Citizen-Scientists) :D

Ken G
2014-Oct-27, 12:55 AM
Another issue to bear in mind, beyond published papers, is going to professional meetings. I have seen some amateurs make contributions at meetings, and that is often a good way to get one's discoveries known, or one's method followed by others. Typically, amateurs can't afford the high costs of meetings, but if they happen to be in the area, and have done some observations that the rest of the community might be interested in following up on, it can jumpstart a collaboration. But in answer to why amateurs don't contribute more significantly, I think being unable to fund a trip to a meeting out of some kind of grant is a big factor. Maybe there needs to be special funds for sending amateurs with promising results to professional meetings?

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-27, 11:03 AM
In my next post (or a later one, at any rate), I'd like to look at a specific, citizen-led Galaxy Zoo project, one which is not described in Marshall+ (2014), or indeed in any paper published or submitted to an astronomical journal (major or not) [2], The Irregulars Project (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=273410.0).

[2] At least as far as I know; I'd be delighted to learn that I'm wrong.

As this project was launched from the Galaxy Zoo forum (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php) (now frozen/closed (http://blog.galaxyzoo.org/2014/07/09/thanks-to-the-forum-and-farewell/)), and as waveney (Richard Proctor) a regular, the development of the project can be followed fairly well. I'll quote just a few of the thousands of posts by waveney to illustrate (in every case, "source" is a link to the actual post, which often is longer than the extract I quote):

"The Irregular galaxy project is a zooite run project, blessed by Chris. What is it about, how can you help? [...] There are thousands of irregular galaxies out there, some small and insignificant, others brights and dazzling. We have gathered them here in the forum, but none of the professional astronomers behind the Zoo is currently looking at them. This is a large group of galaxies, can we find anything about them? The largest study of irregulars to date looked at 161 of them, we have thousands... [...] Data will be released so anybody and everybody can look at it and try their own analysis. [...] I have integrated the draft data with SDSS (under CasJObs) so advanced searches can look at both what we have found and the original SDSS data on the objects (e.g. colour and size info).[...] Do this well, and we will have a proper scientific proper paper with Zooite names as authors 1,2,3... Chris says he is happy to act as supervisor. [...] This topic is for news about the project, " (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=273410.msg234875#msg234875), December 09, 2008; "Chris" is Chris Lintott)

This is the OP (opening post) of a thread entitled Do It Ourselves Science - The Irregulars Project. It looks - to me - like a terrific project description, almost good enough to be professional [1]. Admirable, too, is the explicit commitment to Open Science, from Day One.

"Its about 700MLy away (200 Mpc), about 3x10E9 solar mass, Metallicity about 8.7, Forming stars at a rate of 5 x 10E-10 Stellar mass per year per solar mass of the galaxy (about 1.5 stars a year). It does not have an AGN." (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=272717.msg439186#msg439186), March 07, 2010). "I just used the data for that galaxy and pushed it through the same anaylsis as I am subjecting the Irregulars to..." (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=272717.msg439354#msg439354), March 07, 2010).

15 months' or so later, these posts hint that waveney had a pretty good handle on how to access relevant online datasets, and understood what they mean.

"The results of your clicks here is the starting data I am using for my research. This started as Do it ourselves Science, now I am taking this seriously and have applied to do a PhD. I have used the results of the first 5,500 objects that have had 10 clicks. In another 4000 clicks the next set of data will be useable (this will include most with spectra)." (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=273410.msg519199#msg519199), January 06, 2011)

Another 10 months' on, and waveney seems to be following the path no doubt many a citizen scientist before (and after) him traveled: strong interest+self-study -> enroll in an advanced degree program at a university. No mention of Chris being supervisor, nor of releasing the data; but that doesn't mean anything, right?

"Note you are welcome to click on the images, but I am not currently collecting the results, watch for further announcements... (The clicks are recorded so I could go back and collect them if and when I need to or the number of new clicks justifies it)" (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=273410.msg611294#msg611294), July 24, 2012)

Nearly 18 months' later; this is waveney's last post in the Do It Ourselves Science - The Irregulars Project thread. ~3.5 years from "go to woe". Why "woe"? Here's waveney again, in a different thread:

"I was completely screwed up by the OU at the end of last year, where what they said verbally did not match their burocratic actions. This lost me all interest in everything. To recap: According to what I had been told I had pased the criteria to start the PhD. But they had also changed the criteria, to a higher requirement (which I should have met - I don't know why the mark was as low as it was), then I was told there was another way, and I would be sent details - I am still waiting... I have spent some time doing other things, but having been away on holiday, and having had a nice relaxing time (and prompted by an email from bill), I am going to do this again somehow." (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=6950.msg610901#msg610901), July 19, 2012)

There's a bit of back-and-forth - the thread is called "Just Chat..." ;) - too much to copy, but this post (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=6950.msg610926#msg610926) is worth a read.

Just about the last three posts waveney wrote in the GZ forum - that seem to be related to this piece of citizen-led research - imply he really did get some interesting results:

"Plot - that is what I expected :)
Plot - I supose that is consistent (but it has a lot of noise) :-\
Plot - this tells me very little, but does not contradict anything :-\
Plot - Eh! Why is there a relationship here! I was not expecting one... :o :o ???" (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=6950.msg614018#msg614018), August 27, 2012)

Perhaps, originally, he had posted four images, of plots; however, there's nothing there now. :(

"The actual relationship is between low mass and low metals. The fainter low mass irregulars are lost due to distance - leaving just the larger ones at distance. Larger ones, have higher metals Thus the apparent relationship is caused by the loss of detection (or at least having their spectra taken) rather than anything else." (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=6950.msg614175#msg614175), August 29, 2012)

"Plot, plot, plot, plot - ooh thats pretty! ;D (Ploting physical size of galaxies against mass using log scales)" (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=6950.msg614512#msg614512), September 03, 2012)

The end.

From the public record, it seems that waveney - assisted by many zooites (citizen scientists) - did some original research (into Irregular galaxies), which could have been good enough for a PhD thesis. However, nothing was ever published (that I know of), and waveney did not get a PhD. Certainly the data was not released ("so anybody and everybody can look at it and try their own analysis") - at least, not that I know of.

Again from the public record, I don't think we can draw any firm conclusions, ones that would help us to understand why there is essentially zero work being published by ('armchair') citizen scientists, but we can certainly say that at least some work was done.

Also, we cannot possibly know - alternate history is not science - but the contrast with the Green Peas seems stark: on the one hand, a relatively short but intense online citizen scientist-led search (and discoveries) is followed by a published paper with 17 professionals as authors [2]; on the other, lengthy, sustained online citizen scientist-led research ends up nowhere. Scientifically, the two 'works' are, possibly, of comparable value, to our understanding of the "truth".

[1] Or not; perhaps Amber Robot or ngc3314 could comment?
[2] I have an important addition to make to my earlier post on this; later

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-27, 03:35 PM
You may be uncomfortable with the accuracy of this characterization, this version of history (something I'll have more to write about later), but it's certainly true that some citizen scientists (of the galacsi, 'armchair', kind) stumbled across Green Peas (as they quickly became known), and self-organized a 'citizen-led' inquiry into them. Of course, at the time, they had no idea that they are 'dwarf galaxies with specific star formation rates which are unprecedented in the local Universe, matched only by high-redshift Lyman-break galaxies' (though some may well have suspected something like that), but they certainly didn't let that stop them from researching them!

Note the phrasing, however, "the discovery of the Galaxy Zoo Green Peas (Cardamone et al. 2009)". From this, you might get the impression that Cardamone was a citizen scientist, or at least that the "et al." includes citizen scientists. Not so; citizen scientists are not to be considered equal to real scientists (at least insofaras writing scientific papers is concerned), their role is described thusly: "This publication has been made possible by the participation of more than 200000 volunteers in the Galaxy Zoo project. Their contributions are individually acknowledged at http://www.galaxyzoo.org/Volunteers.aspx" [1]

[...]

[1] I expect - hope - that this will spark some discussion! :D

Well, I got some 'private communications', as they say in the peer-reviewed papers; being private, I will not quote from them.

This particular paper - published in MNRAS - is not behind a paywall (yay!), so anyone with the URL (and an internet connection) can access it; click here (http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/399/3/1191.full.pdf+html) for the PDF version.

Here are two extracts:

The volunteers rapidly assembled over a hundred of these objects in a dedicated discussion thread.3

3 We wish to thank the 'Peas Corps' for 'giving Peas a chance', including Elisabeth Baeten, Gemma Coughlin, Dan Goldstein, Brian Legg, Mark McCallum, Christian Manteuffel, Richard Nowell, Richard Proctor, Alice Sheppard and Hanny van Arkel.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We wish to thank the ‘Peas Corps’ for all their hard work, including Elisabeth Baeten, Gemma Coughlin, Dan Goldstein, Brian Legg, Mark McCallum, Christian Manteuffel, Richard Nowell, Richard Proctor, Alice Sheppard, Hanny van Arkel and Alice Sheppard for their help in gathering information about the discovery of the Peas in Galaxy Zoo.

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-27, 05:24 PM
But, with respect, look at what you just did here ... by implication (even if unintended), the only real work an amateur astronomer/citizen scientist is judged to have done is that published in ApJ (etc), and then only if they are lead author.

I did not do what you think I did. I hope that I have, in this thread, given the impression that I believe that amateur astronomers can contribute greatly to the field of astronomy. So, it is wrong to say that I think "the only real work" is that which has been published in the ApJ. However, it is also true that the leading edge of scientific research in astronomy and astrophysics is what is getting published in the mainstream journals and that is where it will get noticed and discussed. The reason why I single out the first author is because unless you know the group of scientists publishing a paper it can often be difficult to know the level of contribution being made by co-authors. I, for example, have written a paper with at least six co-authors, only one or two of whom contributed much to the paper at all. All of the analysis and virtually all of the writing was done by me, and some of the data preparation was done by one of the co-authors. There is a lot of politics that goes on in determining author lists. To get a paper published in one of these journals takes a lot more effort (for better or for worse) than the typical amateur is able (or willing) to put in. Professionals go through this effort because it is what allows for the advancement of their careers.

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-27, 05:40 PM
This leads to an interesting question for Amber Robot: as all three authors of that paper are (or were, at the time; I've no idea what they do now) citizen scientists, does Astrophysics and Space Science count as "a major astronomical journal"?

I am not familiar with Astrophysics and Space Science, so I can't really comment on its qualification as "major" or not. I will note that this paper, according to the NASA ADS database, has only one citation in the six years since its publication (though I admit that the ADS doesn't track all citations).

Actually, I just took a look at their website and I note that in their most recent issue one of my close colleagues (who is certainly a reputable scientist) has published a work, though it does appear to be a special issue on a particular field and so he may have published there as a response to a call for papers on that subject. But given his publication (and some from others who I know) I would say that it should qualify as a major journal. Often the choice of which journal to publish in rests on many factors.

Looking at the contents for a couple of other issues (standard issues) I note a couple of things: the topics are varied (thus I cannot get a sense of the journal because I'm unfamiliar with the names of scientists in these other fields) and it seems many (if not most) authors are not from the United States. Again the choice of journal rests on many things and there may be a reason why non-US scientists are using this journal more than others and why US scientists use the ones they do.

I do think that amateurs can publish in major journals, but for those journals that are peer-reviewed the bar is set high and it takes a lot of time and effort to produce work of the quality that will pass the peer review, and many, if not most, amateurs do not have that kind of time available (at least if they're not getting paid for it -- if they were they'd be professionals).

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-28, 02:20 PM
As this project was launched from the Galaxy Zoo forum (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php) (now frozen/closed (http://blog.galaxyzoo.org/2014/07/09/thanks-to-the-forum-and-farewell/)), and as waveney (Richard Proctor) a regular, the development of the project can be followed fairly well. I'll quote just a few of the thousands of posts by waveney to illustrate (in every case, "source" is a link to the actual post, which often is longer than the extract I quote): [...] (my bold)

And, almost inevitably, I missed many that are of ~the same importance as the ones I quoted. Even given the narrow scope of my post. :( Again, my thanks to (private communication). Here are some key ones, covering 'the middle period' (pretty much the year 2011):

Waveneys PhD Blog (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=278798.0) is, as you'd expect, full of details of his decision to apply, and what happened subsequently. From the OP (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=278798.msg522360#msg522360) (January 16, 2011; formatting compressed): "I have applied to do a part time PhD taking the irregular galaxy study a lot further, doing it properly. Kevin has suggested I blog it here, so you can see what I am doing, question me on it. Posts will be made intemittantly... What I have done so far is: Before the PhD Jules, Aida, Alice and I started the Irregular Hunt (http://www.wavwebs.com/GZ/Irregular/Hunt.cgi) two years ago to look at the irregular galaxies found in the forum. I wrote a website to get them sorted into irregulars and non-irregulars. See the Do It Ourselves Science - The Irregulars Project (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=273410.0) topic. We have nearly 20,000 candidates, 5,500 of which have been classified so far. Jules has written a paper on their distribution, I have written papers on colour properties of irregular galaxies, their metallicity, masses and star-forming rates, hunted for AGNs (none found so far in irregulars), the equivalent width of the [OIII] 5007Å line, and the non-applicability of Photo Z algorithms to irregulars. I am currently studying galaxy density around irregulars, and am looking for clusters of irregulars." [1]

I do not know what he means by "Jules has written a paper on their distribution, I have written papers on ...", but I cannot find any such papers, anywhere in the GZ forum, nor referenced in ADS. This is, obviously, a great pity. I'll see if I can contact Jules to find out more.

The Galaxy Zoo blog has a post on waveney and his PhD: Taking Citizen Science Seriously (http://blog.galaxyzoo.org/2011/01/18/taking-citizen-science-seriously/) ("Today’s post is from forum member Waveney who is embarking on his own science project:", January 11, 2011) This is very well worth reading, and highly pertinent to this thread; a detailed account of exactly what it is like for a citizen scientist to try to do independent work. I'll quote just one small part "What is being found should be published – how does one do it? When the project had Chris as a supervisor the route was clear, I need to work with somebody in academia so I can present results, bounce ideas off, get ideas from and work with. Relying on the spare time of Zookeepers is not a satisfactory option" [1] On February 05, 2011 waveney was asked "what question are you asking in this PhD?" His answer (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=278798.msg528604#msg528604), less than an hour later, seems to me like he intended to do some good science, well worth being published.

"While waiting for the results of the OU unit I took earlier this year, and the formal course start in Janurary, I have not been idle. I have spent most spare hours in the last 10 days reworking a lot of the research I did a couple of years ago and being a lot more rigorous. I started by [...] All together this has shown that irregulars for many properties sit between Spirals and Peas. I am now writing this up in MUCH more detail than I did before. I have not yet used the sub classifications - this will come. Once I have finished this write up I will be pulling multi-spectral data in from every survey I can to build up a large pile of data from Radio to X-ray to take the analysis a lot further." (source (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=278798.msg569886#msg569886), November 20, 2011)

We know, from a later post that I copied in my earlier post (above), that not long after this waveney's PhD program came to a crashing end. From the GZ forum posts, and blog (and comments thereto) we know he had a great deal of support, from both ordinary citizen scientists and professionals [2] , both moral and practical. Yet it was all for nothing. :boohoo:

I'd like to close this post by mentioning two things: 1) ~three years' of hard work, by hundreds of people (citizen scientists) has been lost; waveney published no papers, and the data he collected - from the zooites' clicks - is not public. 2) Hundreds, possibly thousands, of citizen scientists witnessed waveney's, um, experience No doubt their enthusiasm for doing independent research dimmed somewhat.

[1] "Kevin" is Kevin Schawinski, a 'Zookeeper'. Chris is Chris Lintott, also a zookeeper. The zookeepers were (these terms are no longer used, now that the forum is closed) the seven (?) original members of the Galaxy Zoo Science Team
[2] In the posts I've copied, there are just a few mentioned; in the ones I didn't copy you can see just how extensive his support, from professionals, was

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-29, 04:20 PM
Thanks Amber Robot.


I did not do what you think I did. I hope that I have, in this thread, given the impression that I believe that amateur astronomers can contribute greatly to the field of astronomy. So, it is wrong to say that I think "the only real work" is that which has been published in the ApJ.

Sorry, yes, I was perhaps a bit too provocative (though I did say "by implication (even if unintended)"). This is an area I'd like to explore in much more detail, but also not just now.


However, it is also true that the leading edge of scientific research in astronomy and astrophysics is what is getting published in the mainstream journals and that is where it will get noticed and discussed.

Not wanting to put words in your mouth (these then are my own words), the reality of astronomy, as a science, is that it's hierarchical; there are 'leading' journals, there is 'leading edge' research, and so on; there are 'good but second tier' journals, there is 'good, but second tier' research, and so on; etc.

As has already been articulated, in this thread, by you and ngc3314, there are very considerable barriers in the way of (independent) work done by citizen scientists [1] being published in such journals. Some of those barriers are certainly closely tied to the actual science; some have, just as certainly, essentially nothing to do with the actual science.


The reason why I single out the first author is because unless you know the group of scientists publishing a paper it can often be difficult to know the level of contribution being made by co-authors. I, for example, have written a paper with at least six co-authors, only one or two of whom contributed much to the paper at all. All of the analysis and virtually all of the writing was done by me, and some of the data preparation was done by one of the co-authors. There is a lot of politics that goes on in determining author lists.

Thank you for this. I can't say it's entirely an eye-opener for me, but it seems very much inconsistent with what I think is a widespread view of how science (in general) works. Well, a view held by non-professionals, who do not also have close friends or relatives who are professionals. It might be interesting to find out just where in the first-degree/masters/PhD progression the politics of paper writing and publishing becomes known, understood, and accepted [2]


To get a paper published in one of these journals takes a lot more effort (for better or for worse) than the typical amateur is able (or willing) to put in. Professionals go through this effort because it is what allows for the advancement of their careers.

Pretty darn off-putting, sure. If you love doing astronomy (research), if you think life is short [3], and if you know just what a huge time-sink getting your (perfectly good, science-wise) results published will be, why should/would you bother?

Maybe the answer to my question (Why is there essentially zero work being done by Citizen Scientists?) is "it's not so much that citizen scientists don't do (good, scientifically-sound/valuable) work; rather it's that they don't often try to get it published"?

[1] of the galacsi 'armchair' kind; as already discussed, the amateurs with their own telescopes, cameras etc often have their own, well-established channels for getting such work published.
[2] there are some obvious parallels with what Nicole wrote in her blog post, Who, How, and Why? (http://cosmoquest.org/x/blog/2013/10/who-how-and-why/) And also, no doubt, an awful lot of research on how certain cultural norms (let's say) later viewed rather negatively (let's say) were tolerated and accepted at the time
[3] look at all those retired citizen scientists, per Who, How, and Why? (http://cosmoquest.org/x/blog/2013/10/who-how-and-why/) After a full career, why would any of them want the stress that is obviously involved in getting independent research published in a peer-reviewed journal (leading or not)?

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-29, 04:56 PM
Not wanting to put words in your mouth (these then are my own words), the reality of astronomy, as a science, is that it's hierarchical; there are 'leading' journals, there is 'leading edge' research, and so on; there are 'good but second tier' journals, there is 'good, but second tier' research, and so on; etc.

This is likely true in a sociological sense. What is considered "leading research" is often a mixture of what the scientific community believes is "important" and how funding is being distributed. Once a certain sub-field starts becoming 'important' and money starts going its way (e.g., exoplanet research) then a lot of scientists start moving in that direction. "Follow the money" -- professionals still need to get paid. If anything, amateurs have more freedom to explore whatever science interests them than professionals do.




As has already been articulated, in this thread, by you and ngc3314, there are very considerable barriers in the way of (independent) work done by citizen scientists [1] being published in such journals. Some of those barriers are certainly closely tied to the actual science; some have, just as certainly, essentially nothing to do with the actual science.

I hope that I'm not being too negative about the prospects of amateurs getting published. The barriers can all be overcome, it just takes significant effort. For example, go click on any random paper on astro-ph and read the introduction paragraphs. You'll get a sense of what kind of knowledge and understanding of a given topic one has to have in order to be able to approach a particular scientific question with the appropriate level of context.




Thank you for this. I can't say it's entirely an eye-opener for me, but it seems very much inconsistent with what I think is a widespread view of how science (in general) works. Well, a view held by non-professionals, who do not also have close friends or relatives who are professionals. It might be interesting to find out just where in the first-degree/masters/PhD progression the politics of paper writing and publishing becomes known, understood, and accepted [2]

I'm sure this greatly depends on the nature of the work being published, the source of the data, the makeup of the group of co-authors, etc. I think eventually once you write enough papers and hear stories about what's happening with other people's papers you start to realize this.



Pretty darn off-putting, sure. If you love doing astronomy (research), if you think life is short [3], and if you know just what a huge time-sink getting your (perfectly good, science-wise) results published will be, why should/would you bother?

The amount of work to get published can vary greatly depending on the nature of the research being done. If, for example, an amateur has a telescope setup that allows a high degree of photometric stability and is studying variable stars that no one else is looking at, I could imagine getting that research published without too much difficulty. Often it's a matter of keeping the scope of a paper limited in such a way as to not require the deeper understanding and background knowledge that a professional might have. In theory, a paper should be published based on its content and its value to the field. Even simple observations without much linkage to a big picture can pass that bar.



Maybe the answer to my question (Why is there essentially zero work being done by Citizen Scientists?) is "it's not so much that citizen scientists don't do (good, scientifically-sound/valuable) work; rather it's that they don't often try to get it published"?

The flipside to what I just said is that there's a particular language and vernacular that is used in scientific publications and one would have to learn that and become not necessarily fluent but educated enough to know how to write a reviewable paper.

Anyway, I'm sure I could talk about this kind of stuff for a long time. I think it's important to keep science and scientific research as consumable by the general public, and especially "citizen scientists", as possible. I think that, for standard human reasons, this can often be difficult, or at least not handled in the best manner by those doing the scientific research.

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-30, 02:00 PM
Thanks Amber Robot; I've now got two very good posts of yours to respond to. :clap:

Which I will, but probably not today; in this post I'd like to mention an interesting Pro-CS (professional-citizen science) alliance, the SpaceWarps project (http://spacewarps.org/#/home).

It's a project whose aim is to identify good gravitational lens candidates from images taken by the likes of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, using citizen scientists' superb pattern recognition skills. The project has both a blog (http://blog.spacewarps.org/) and a discussion forum (http://talk.spacewarps.org/), and is included in Marshall+ (2014) [1] in Section 3.2 ("Classification Analysis"). It was publicly announced in June 2012 (http://blog.spacewarps.org/2012/06/08/lens-zoo-is-coming/), and went live in May 2013 (http://blog.spacewarps.org/2013/05/07/space-warps-cfhtls/); however, papers on the project are still "in prep." (as far as I know; that's what is says in Marshall+ 2014).

What makes this project unique - so far, as far as I know - is that the Science Team includes several citizen scientists; see the blog post A Postcard from Zurich (http://blog.spacewarps.org/2012/07/) and the list of team members (http://spacewarps.org/#/about) in the project website itself! :clap: How did Phil Marshall, the project PI, select these citizen scientists? I do not know, and as far as I know there's no public information on that topic, but they all seem to have been very active in the Galaxy Zoo forum thread, Possible strong gravitational lenses (http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/index.php?topic=6927.0), prior to June 2012.

As there's nothing published yet, from this project [2], we don't know who the authors will be.

There is, however, a curious mention in Marshall+ (2014), related to the project and an independent citizen-scientist-led activity; I'll discuss that in my next post.

[1] Check this thread (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?153391-Ideas-for-Citizen-Science-in-Astronomy-hot-off-the-arXiv-press) for details of how to access this. Somewhat off-topic question: the v1 arXiv 'publication' is definitely 2014; however, the peer-reviewed version is unlikely to be published until 2015. Does this mean there are two publications? or just one? And if the latter, how should it be referred to?
[2] That I know of anyway. The project website doesn't mention any publications, nor does the 'parent' Zooniverse Publications (https://www.zooniverse.org/publications) one.

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-30, 06:14 PM
I, personally, have not been involved in any big data astronomical projects, so I'm not familiar with the efforts of a lot of these projects to which you refer. I don't even know much about Galaxy Zoo, though I do know some people who have been involved.

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-30, 07:15 PM
Somewhat belatedly returning to this excellent post by Amber Robot.


I am not familiar with Astrophysics and Space Science, so I can't really comment on its qualification as "major" or not. I will note that this paper, according to the NASA ADS database, has only one citation in the six years since its publication (though I admit that the ADS doesn't track all citations).

Actually, I just took a look at their website and I note that in their most recent issue one of my close colleagues (who is certainly a reputable scientist) has published a work, though it does appear to be a special issue on a particular field and so he may have published there as a response to a call for papers on that subject. But given his publication (and some from others who I know) I would say that it should qualify as a major journal. Often the choice of which journal to publish in rests on many factors.

Looking at the contents for a couple of other issues (standard issues) I note a couple of things: the topics are varied (thus I cannot get a sense of the journal because I'm unfamiliar with the names of scientists in these other fields) and it seems many (if not most) authors are not from the United States. Again the choice of journal rests on many things and there may be a reason why non-US scientists are using this journal more than others and why US scientists use the ones they do.

I do think that amateurs can publish in major journals, but for those journals that are peer-reviewed the bar is set high and it takes a lot of time and effort to produce work of the quality that will pass the peer review, and many, if not most, amateurs do not have that kind of time available (at least if they're not getting paid for it -- if they were they'd be professionals).

I was curious about the three authors, Ari Jokimäki, Harley Orr, and David G. Russell. We know - I think - that none of them were (at the time) professionals, and that they published a paper in Astrophysics and Space Science (Ap&SS).

Did any of them also publish other papers? In the same journal, or others; before, or later.

ADS tells me Ari Jokimäki has just one astronomy paper to his name, and Harley Orr also likely just one [1]. For David G. Russell, however, it's a very different story.

That's a relatively common name, so it's not that surprising that ADS gives 41 'hits'. Among them, though, are several which do seem to have 'this' David G. Russell as an author: [2]


Arp&Russell (2001) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-data_query?bibcode=2001ApJ...549..802A&db_key=AST&link_type=ABSTRACT), ApJ, "A Possible Relationship between Quasars and Clusters of Galaxies" 21 cites
Russell (2002) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-data_query?bibcode=2002ApJ...565..681R&db_key=AST&link_type=ABSTRACT), ApJ, "The H I Line Width/Linear Diameter Relationship as an Independent Test of the Hubble Constant" 25 cites
Russell (2004) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004ApJ...607..241R), ApJ, "Morphological Type Dependence in the Tully-Fisher Relationship" 11 cites
Russell (2005) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-data_query?bibcode=2005Ap%26SS.298..577R&db_key=AST&link_type=ABSTRACT), Ap&SS, "Evidence for Intrinsic Redshifts in Normal Spiral Galaxies" 6 cites
Russell (2005) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-data_query?bibcode=2005Ap%26SS.299..387R&db_key=AST&link_type=ABSTRACT), Ap&SS, "Further Evidence for Intrinsic Redshifts in Normal Spiral Galaxies" 3 cites
Russell (2005) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-data_query?bibcode=2005Ap%26SS.299..405R&db_key=AST&link_type=ABSTRACT), Ap&SS, "Intrinsic Redshifts and the Tully-Fisher Distance Scale" 4 cites
Russell (2009) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-data_query?bibcode=2009JApA...30...93R&db_key=AST&link_type=ABSTRACT), Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy (JApA), "The Ks-band Tully-Fisher Relation — A determination of the Hubble parameter from 218 ScI galaxies and 16 galaxy clusters" 1 cite


It would seem that David Russell, an independent researcher, was able to publish several papers in peer-reviewed journals, including the leading ApJ.

[1] There's another by an H. Orr, but I think it's a different person.
[2] This list is not necessarily 100% accurate or complete; also, ADS does not have every published astronomy paper in its database

Amber Robot
2014-Oct-30, 08:16 PM
I know that the modern work by Arp and colleagues is mostly related to attempting to disprove the cosmological origin of high-redshift quasars. But I think you should look at their publications as showing that even the 'against the mainstream' folks could get published if they tried to follow the standard publishing "etiquette".

Jean Tate
2014-Oct-31, 02:43 PM
Finally a chance to lead with a quote from ngc3314's excellent post! :)


The scientific publishing process is one with its own peculiar rules and customs, so that a publication that makes it through refereeing has a lot more in it than the data and conclusions would suggest in themselves. Many amateurs contribute significantly to such results; from the ones I've read in some detail, it is most common to have someone experienced in the academic arts shepherd the process along until someone who has the requisite drive gets enough experience to do it all solo.

Many, perhaps nearly all, CQuestians reading this thread will have heard about 'SOHO comets' [1]. It's informal citizen scientist work with predates just about all other web-based astronomy ones, a kind of amateur astronomer's paradise, but where the data come from dedicated solar observatories in space, such as SOHO. A great many of the comets discovered have been found by citizen scientists, who have downloaded videos, and used their own eyeballs to find moving objects; for some, home-grown video processing software augmented the eyeballs.

A great many of these comets belong to the Kreutz groupWP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kreutz_Sungrazers), thought to have once been a single object which fragmented; spectacular members of this group include Ikeya-Seki (1965).

However, not all the 'SOHO comets' belong to the Kreutz group; in particular there a few 'sunskirting' groups, so-called because the perihelion distances are considerably greater than those of the sungrazers. Two such groups were discovered by amateur/citizen scientist Rainer Kracht; he has his own website (http://www.rkracht.de/), on which you can read a detailed timeline of his discoveries (http://www.rkracht.de/soho/kracht1.htm).

But are the groups which bear his name simply to honor his discovery of the first group members? Or did he do more? Sekanina&Chodas (2005) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2005ApJS..161..551S) "Origin of the Marsden and Kracht Groups of Sunskirting Comets. I. Association with Comet 96P/Machholz and Its Interplanetary Complex" paints an interesting story [2]:

"Next, R. Kracht suggested a loose association between two other SOHO comets, C/1999 M3 and C/2000 O3, whose lines of apsides agree to within ~3° (Marsden 2002c), even though their nodal lines differ by nearly 20°. Kracht also argued that there is a relationship between the Marsden group and the pair of C/1999 M3 and C/2000 O3. Then, Marsden (2002d) remarked on a possible association of C/1999 N6 with C/1999 M3 and Kracht pointed out that C/2001 Q7 may be a yet another member of the Marsden population (Marsden 2002e). At that time, in 2002 March, Marsden suggested that C/1999 M3, C/1999 N6, C/2000 O3, and C/2001 Q7 belong to the Kracht group (Marsden 2002e), three more members of which were reported some four months later (Marsden 2002f)."

These "Marsden 2002c-f" references are Minor Planet Electronic Circulars; for example, 2002e is MPEC 2002-F43 (http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/mpec/K02/K02F43.html), where the term "the Kracht group" is used. Kracht's own description of the discovery reads (see link above):

"2002 Mar 19 turned out to be a very special day: While working with the 1999 August SOHO images I found three new comets (one Meyer and a pair of Marsden group comets) and later noticed that the apparent track of my first SOHO comet (C/2001 Q7, found in realtime images of 2001 Aug 21) was close to the track of C/1999 M3. I wrote about this to Maik the next day. He confirmed that C/2001 Q7 could have an orbit between C/1999 M3 and C/2000 O3. Maik gave some useful hints on how to derive an orbit and I could find a new orbit for my first comet on Mar 21. I computed the new orbit, Brian Marsden accepted the orbit and wrote "Indeed, we could say that these four comets belong to the Kracht group"".

Kracht certainly had help - particularly from Brian Marsden - but not only was he first to spot the comets which later would be called members of the Kracht group, but he computed the orbits himself. :)

The broader context then: while 'armchair' citizen scientists had not previously done any observing of sungrazing/sunskirting comets, they quickly embraced SOHO images and videos, and discovered the majority of such objects. Further, some discovered new groups, through their own analyses. This seems to have happened seamlessly because a framework for such discoveries and analyses already existed, and because an especially dedicated and energetic professional astronomer, the late Brian Marsden, enthusiastically supported them. Just as ngc3314 said.

[1] Sungrazer Project (http://sungrazer.nrl.navy.mil/) is a website which provides a good introduction and many details.
[2] The peer-reviewed journal which this appears in is ApJS; the published paper is not behind a paywall

Jean Tate
2014-Nov-01, 05:20 PM
[...] but I think it would be interesting to know how many astronomers have first-authored an article for a major astronomical journal (i.e., ApJ, AJ, MNRAS, etc.).

The scientific publishing process is one with its own peculiar rules and customs, so that a publication that makes it through refereeing has a lot more in it than the data and conclusions would suggest in themselves. Many amateurs contribute significantly to such results; from the ones I've read in some detail, it is most common to have someone experienced in the academic arts shepherd the process along until someone who has the requisite drive gets enough experience to do it all solo. Another issue is that autodidacts easily risk missing a piece of knowledge that they didn't realize would be relevant (not having encountered it yet) and may be fish-slapped by the referee about this (hardly a problem confined to that situation, of course).

The quandary here is real - there are people who have the interest and capability to contribute to science, but there is a real argument that until their results are made public they cannot contribute to Science at large. It is a fair question to wonder what barriers here could be lowered.

I had a look at MNRAS, A&A, and AJ, which I think are three of the leading peer-reviewed astronomy journals; in particular, I looked at their requirements for submission of papers, and charges.

My impression is that citizen scientists most certainly do face barriers which professionals do not (or at least the same barriers for the latter are much lower)! One such is cost; with the limited exception of A&A [1], a citizen scientist' authored paper would cost ~1 laptop (a convenient currency; that's about the cost of data acquisition). And it would have to come from their own pocket, unlike for professionals where the money would come from grants or their institution.

Again on this: "easily risk missing a piece of knowledge that they didn't realize would be relevant (not having encountered it yet)"

At least for extra-galactic astronomy, it seems that most relevant papers can be obtained for free, or at least there are preprints (which are free); so hunting for these missing pieces of knowledge costs little more than time. However, it seems that in some other fields in astronomy, citizen scientists are not so lucky.


[...] However, not all the 'SOHO comets' belong to the Kreutz group; in particular there a few 'sunskirting' groups, so-called because the perihelion distances are considerably greater than those of the sungrazers. Two such groups were discovered by amateur/citizen scientist Rainer Kracht; he has his own website (http://www.rkracht.de/), on which you can read a detailed timeline of his discoveries (http://www.rkracht.de/soho/kracht1.htm).

But are the groups which bear his name simply to honor his discovery of the first group members? Or did he do more? Sekanina&Chodas (2005) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2005ApJS..161..551S) "Origin of the Marsden and Kracht Groups of Sunskirting Comets. I. Association with Comet 96P/Machholz and Its Interplanetary Complex" paints an interesting story [2]:
[...]
[2] The peer-reviewed journal which this appears in is ApJS; the published paper is not behind a paywall

A possibly very significant paper which cites Sekanina&Chodas (2005) - and so very relevant if you're researching the Kracht group(s) - is Lamy+ (2013) (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2013Icar..226.1350L), "Sunskirting comets discovered with the LASCO coronagraphs over the decade 1996–2008". There is no arXiv preprint (or at least not one in ADS), and at least this Icarus paper is not free, to citizen scientists. It wouldn't take many Icarus-like papers before the cost of your paper reached ~2 laptops. :p


Here we will list the science papers and abstracts that are published based on your work with Moon Mappers!
[...]
Stuart J. Robbins, Irene Antonenko, Michelle R. Kirchoff, Clark R. Chapman, Caleb I. Fassett, Robert R. Herrick, Kelsi Singer, Michael Zanetti, Cory Lehan, Di Huang, Pamela L. Gay. 2014. The variability of crater identification among expert and community crater analysts. Icarus, 234, 109. Read the preprint on ArXiv (http://arxiv.org/abs/1404.1334). Read it in Icarus (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103514001080) (subscription required).
[...] (source (http://cosmoquest.org/x/the-science/publications/))

Yep, that's right; a paper based on CosmoQuestians' freely given clicks (and impossible without them) cannot be read, by those citizen scientists, unless they have a subscription. :eek: (though the arXiv preprint is free).

[1] "Page charges are not requested if the first author is affiliated with one of the countries (http://www.aanda.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=101&Itemid=105) that sponsor A&A."

Swift
2014-Nov-03, 05:37 PM
Some newly published work done with the help of Citizen Science Planet Hunters

Yale Press Release (http://news.yale.edu/2014/10/29/yale-finds-low-density-planet-won-t-stick-schedule)


For their latest discovery, Yale astronomers and the Planet Hunter program have found a low-mass, low-density planet with a punctuality problem.

The new planet, called PH3c, is located 2,300 light years from Earth and has an atmosphere loaded with hydrogen and helium. It is described in the Oct. 29 online edition of The Astrophysical Journal.

The elusive orb nearly avoided detection. This is because PH3c has a highly inconsistent orbit time around its sun, due to the gravitational influence of other planets in its system. “On Earth, these effects are very small, only on the scale of one second or so,” said Joseph Schmitt, a Yale graduate student and first author of the paper. “PH3c’s orbital period changed by 10.5 hours in just 10 orbits.”

That inconsistency kept it from being picked up by automated computer algorithms that search stellar light curves and identify regular dips caused by objects passing in front of stars.

Luckily, Planet Hunters came to the rescue. The program, which has found more than 60 planet candidates since 2010, enlists citizen scientists to check survey data from the Kepler spacecraft. Planet Hunters recently unveiled a new website and an expanded scientific mission.

NoisyAstronomer
2014-Nov-03, 10:32 PM
I am reminded of a thing that the late radio astronomer Don Backer used to say to us in the field when we were griping over how HARD everything was: "If it was easy, it would have been done already." This came up in a recent discussion of professional astronomers, educators, and amateur astronomers trying to come up with an idea for a good radio astronomy, tech-focused citizen science project. Unfortunately, most of the low-hanging fruit, observationally, has been picked, so to speak.

Now, I think you're talking about something else, that is, using the data that is already available from all these big telescopes to do science and engage citizen scientists in every step of finding the research question, designing the analysis, doing the analysis and, yes, even helping to write the paper. ngc3314 and others bring up excellent points already about academic publishing being super-weird to navigate, and the whole process of research being one that takes training. But I think a lot of people in the citizen science community (at least a few I've talked to) want to include citizen scientists in all those stages, as certainly there are some who would and could take on that kind of work.

I don't know if there's an easy answer, but co-publishing platforms like Authorea provide at least the tools to do so. A dedicated communicator and manager is needed, I think, to keep the project moving and incorporate all the input from members. I admit I've only thought about it on my "off times" but it's something worth working towards.

Jean Tate
2015-Feb-02, 03:28 AM
Improving the efficiency of SDRAGN discovery, an open discussion (http://radiotalk.galaxyzoo.org/#/boards/BRG0000004/discussions/DRG00009y1) is a thread I started recently, over in Radio Galaxy Zoo Talk (http://radiotalk.galaxyzoo.org/).

Here's the OP:




How can ordinary zooites and professionals (RGZ science team members, and more) organize themselves to do 'SDRAGN research' more effectively?

Background: In RGZ, SDRAGNs ('spiral double radio active galactic nuclei') are one of the big, ordinary zooite-led, discoveries, along with giants, hybrids, and more. Ray Norris' post - OP of the Hourglass sources associated with spiral galaxies (http://radiotalk.galaxyzoo.org/#/boards/BRG0000003/discussions/DRG00000rz) thread - 13 months' ago kicked this off. Many candidates have been posted, and some have been investigated.

Motivation: However, the hunt is not very open, nor particularly systematic; there are few goals (beyond the vague 'find candidates'), etc. And if I were to be run over by the proverbial bus tomorrow, much of the work would be lost (I've posted far less to Talk than I have in my offline databases, for example).

Action: I'd like to kick off a conversation on how we could do better. And that's what this thread is.

Goal? To have something concrete to start discussing, how about, as a goal, an at least provisional agreement on how to 'publish' what's been discovered (and researched) so far, re SDRAGN candidates (and to what extent that publication should be open, or not)?

One additional point of interest, for this as a goal, is that it might bring into the open some of the peculiarities of how astronomy-as-science is actually done, and also encourage greater involvement.

Thoughts?

It's pretty relevant to this thread, and my fellow CQuestians may enjoy reading, perhaps even joining in, the discussion.

(I did think of posting this to some thread on Open Science; however, it seems there is no such thread, in the CQ forum (or did I miss it/them?).)