04 February 2014, Geneva, Switzerland -   On 20-22 February 2014 London will host the 3rd Citizen Cyberscience Summit, an initiative of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre founded by CERN, UNITAR and University of Geneva, together with the University College of London and other innovators in the field of collaborative thinking and on-line science volunteering.

UNOSAT, which is behind UNITAR involvement in the research of volunteer cyberscience for humanitarian and disaster risk reduction goals, is presenting a challenge on the occasion of the Summit designed to generate new ideas and useful applications in the area of crowdsourcing and emergency response. UNOSAT is calling on volunteers at the Summit and on-line to “help come up with ideas for disaster response crowdsourcing applications”.

UNOSAT is not new to collaborative computing and volunteer thinking to produce maps and analysis for emergency response and impact assessment. The Programme spearheaded a number of projects, including popular examples like Forestwatchers  and Geotag Libya. CCC partners and UNOSAT have built a successful open-source web application based on PyBossa named CrowdCrafting that can involve more volunteers in more organised tasks, bringing out the real potential of crowd sourcing. In addition UNOSAT is one of the partners in a dynamic crowdsourcing research project that is achieving success through practical demonstrations of the technology applied to learning and collabroative thinking.

UNOSAT experts are developing a platform to crowdsource the analysis and geo-tagging of  information sources during disasters. This information can be very useful when associated to remote sensing imagery especially where difficult ground conditions prevail. Pictures and other media from the field are used to complete and validate the analysis done by UNOSAT experts in Geneva. UNOSAT is trying to harness this type of information and convert it to data that is categorized and georeferenced.

In the spirit of the Citizen Cyberscience Summits, which are innovative events involving crowd sourcing specialists and even hack fests, UNOSAT is challenging volunteers to two tasks: Challenge #1 is about new ideas for analysing photos of crisis events by answering questions like: What sort of information can we get out of photos that would help the disaster management and response effort? What sort of expertise do we need to teach the crowd to perform these analyses? Challenge #2 is about geo-tagging and is specially addressed to volunteers with web development and design skills.

The 3rd Citizen Cyberscience Summit happens at an important juncture when the CCC partners UNITAR, CERN and University of Geneva are discussing the next phase of their collaboration over the next 5 years. Francois Grey, who has been a key motivator and coordinator of the CCC work says “I am sure this year’s Summit is going to be as eclectic as the previous ones, with a plus: the applications that can run on our new citizen science platform, Crowdcrafting, are more evolved and the work scientists can do together with volunteers using this platform is now having impact in fields as diverse as nanotechnology and deforestation monitoring”.

Francesco Pisano, who oversees research at UNITAR, says that UNITAR has invested in the early phases of citizen cyberscience precisely in view of this moment: “We knew this had to grow into more than the first attempts at basic crowdsourcing, which were much celebrated but essentially technology driven. I think the citizen cyberscience approach is different and more sophisticated in that it lays the basis for scientifically based collaborative thinking to solve problems instead of cataloguing them”.


Images courtesy of Citizen Cyberscience Summit and UNOSAT