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ScienceAtHome

ScienceAtHome is an online platform for collaborative volunteer research, where people are invited to play scientific games, have fun and contribute to real discoveries on quantum physics, and human thinking. The team behind the project consists of scientists, game developers, designers and visual artists based at Aarhus University of Denmark and creates scientific games, with the aim to revolutionise scientific research and teaching by game-play.
The goal of the dissemination is to engage citizens to the project objectives, hence to create a community around the games developed, to maximise the input of results gathered from users’ gameplay.

Who?

Dissemination activities have been initiated by Dr. Jacob Sherson, the project leader of ScienceAtHome Target audiences are researchers, teachers and citizens in general.

What & How?

ScienceAtHome project uses various methods to communicate its objectives to wider audiences and to engage citizens. Its main focal point is set on the use of social media. It has a very active presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, where it disseminates project updates and news from the science community. Especially the YouTube channel is used to upload videos series about citizen science, quantum physics and game demos and animated videos explaining the concept.
In addition, an important aspect of the ScienceAtHome dissemination activities is the use of gaming elements which lead to the users’ engagement (e.g. leaderboard, scoreboard). Another useful tool that the project uses is the Blog. Weekly posts are written by a team of people that is specialised in online community engagement or the official account of ScienceAtHome. Moreover, the project has two Wikipedia references, which also increases its visibility to the general public. The first reference is under the topic of citizen science and the second one under the entry “Quantum Move”, an online citizen science simulation video game, which is part of the ScienceAtHome project. Additionally, physical project presentations like the TED talk at the TEDxAarhus 2016 and the presentation at the NIWeek 2016 contribute successfully to the outreach of ScienceAtHome to wider audiences.
The project has produced a plethora of dissemination outputs such as images, video series, audio material, software (simulation games), blogs, press references, scientific data and articles.

When?

The year of 2012 was a benchmark for the initiation of dissemination activities of the project. ScienceAtHome took a turn with the first game, Quantum Moves and the team published six (6) scientific papers and started the social media presence (Facebook). Hence, it is observed that the first phase of dissemination, as well as the ones that followed, can be defined in parallel to important milestones of the project lifecycle phases:
1st phase (Feb 2012): the team started running the first tests of the game in an educational context, in several Danish high schools. The interface was very basic, but there was a very positive initial response.
2nd phase (June 2012): radio appearances and advertisement in aim to recruit volunteers and run a large beta test. 100 volunteers were recruited. The testing results indicated that only a few volunteers succeed in installing the program, and they actually later dropped out because of the complicated interface and the lack of tutorials and informational material.
3rd phase: An effort in systematically testing design hypotheses and assumptions to improve the game experience. The results were made publicly available, in aim to engage more citizens.
4th phase: community management & establishing an online presence. With these activities, the team managed to attract 2,000 players to the games. They played the Quantum Moves games roughly 300,000 times.
5th phase: After the first success, the team is ready to tackle the challenge of new scientific problems such understanding general human problem solving (HPS) in order to develop novel artificial intelligence algorithms departing from the Big Data paradigm. So far, cognitive scientists, psychologists and even linguists have joined the ScienceAtHome family.

Relation to Open Science

Research outputs and publications are openly shared via the project website followed by a link to the scientific journal that published the article and a link to arXiv.org where a pdf format of the research article can be found. Interestingly, dissemination material and outputs (scientific posters, photographs from events, game images etc.) are available to the general public via a public shared google drive folder (named ScienceAtHome Press Kit) and can be accessed through the project’s website. 

Effort

The ScienceAtHome project has followed different dissemination approaches aiming to enroll engageable players. Initially, the team has released a respectable number of YouTube videos, using a diverse quality of resources; for instance, the project has produced two high-quality videos presenting the aim of the project, a number of animated videos illustrating the games and some non-professional explanatory videos giving insights into the subject of Citizen Science. Additionally, young team members enrich the website content with interesting blog posts. The costs of these dissemination activities can be estimated as medium (< EUR 50,000). Besides these activities, the games produced can be also considered to be taking part in the dissemination efforts of the project; the careful design and interface of the games plays a significant role in the scientific outreach and public engagement. The development cost is estimated to be high (EUR >=50,000)

Impact

Followed by press, radio broadcasts and social media, ScienceAtHome made national and international headlines. Specially, the game Quantum Moves has been played over 8 million times by around 150,000 players around the world with impressive results. After the first success, the scope of the project has expanded to additional scientific disciplines and cognitive scientists, psychologists and even linguists have joined the team.

Gender

The project team is divided into 5 groups based on the scope of each team (outreach, didactics, development, design and technical development). Despite the fact that ScienceAtHome is a project with a very strong presence of male scientists and faculty (only 25% of team members are female) the Head of outreach is a female scientist. In addition, two female members are responsible for the community management and creating content for online channels. Communicating scientific results and activities to the public is also initiated by other project members as well, creating multiplier effects of the dissemination activities.

Highlight

Method: Game elements

Initiating crowdsourcing can be difficult. ScienceAtHome cleverly used games to overcome this obstacle. People like to participate in a science project but above all, they like games. Using a gaming environment and gaming elements helped ScienceAtHome to gain people’s attention and engage with them. A measurable result is that the Quantum Moves games were played 300,000 times (appr.) during their first steps and reached 150k players worldwide. 

Link

For a more extensive analysis of the ScienceAtHome case study, please follow the link: http://openup-h2020.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/OpenUP_D4.1_Practices-evaluation-and-mapping.-Methods-tools-and-user-needs.pdf

Additional Info

  • I am a: Young scholar, Researcher, Project manager, Funder, Policy maker, Open Science advocate, Publisher
  • Domain: Scholarly Dissemination, Gender Equality
  • Type of resource: Case studies
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