Popular citizen science platform launches in Australia

The local version of US citizen science platform SciStarter has launched from South Australia, with hopes of increasing participation in citizen projects around the nation.

May 01, 2024, updated May 01, 2024

The website will provide a new place for people to publicise informal and formal science projects and allow others to join and contribute to these projects.

SciStarter is a citizen science platform that was originally born in 2010 from a master’s project by Professor Darlene Cavalier, who was a University of Pennsylvania student at the time.

The US SciStarter has over 1000 projects currently running – from “Project Squirrel” to better understand the Tree Squirrel to “Project Sidewalk” that looks at sidewalk accessibility issues in the US.

Frank Grützner, the Australian project co-leader from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences and the Environment Institute, said the idea to launch the platform in Australia was inspired by how effective the resource in the US has been.

The citizen science community in Australia has heavily relied on word of mouth and media coverage and was in search of a better way to connect participants to projects.

“We really hope that the community project leads in citizen science but also participants engaging,” Grützner said.

“The SciStarter platform in the US, which is already featuring projects in Australia, is probably world leading in really getting projects and participants together.”

Project co-lead Professor Rachel Ankeny, who works in the University of Adelaide’s School of Humanities, said the project will also provide information on how citizen journalism is being conducted.

“The SciStarter Australia platform will allow us to investigate how citizen science is being done and initiate more efforts to diversify participation so that all Australians can collaborate on these important scientific activities,” Ankeny said.

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Cavalier, who now works as a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, said she is excited to see the SciStarter launching in Australia.

“We are very excited to deploy this customised instance of SciStarter to help accelerate important research and build knowledge about the projects and participants powering this movement in Australia,” she said.

“This collaboration aims to leverage the technological infrastructure of SciStarter to help efficiently and effectively connect Australians to citizen-science research that needs their help.”

Whilst things are only in early stages, Grützner said there is a lot of potential to grow with a team working hard to get content out.

There are currently 129 projects listed on the Australian site, ranging from EchidnaCSI to a bird survey in the wetlands near Sydney Airport.

“They’ve got a team together that is now working with their citizen science community to really fill up that content and to refine the platform to really suit the Australian citizen science landscape,” he said.

The advisory board for SciStarter includes members from the University of South Australia, the Australian Science Association, the Atlas of Living Australia, the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, Flinders University and SciStarter (USA).

SciStarter received a $160,000 grant from South Australian government’s Citizen Science Fund to kickstart the platform.

“Now that we have the platform, we really encourage people to look at it and give us feedback”, Grützner said.

The broader science community is also being encouraged to add a project.

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