There’s a new ‘smartphone’ application for scientists and others who aspire to collect data and send it on to a database. From the news item on Physorg.com,
… researchers [at the Imperial College of London] have developed an application for ‘smartphones’ that allows a scientist or member of the public to collect and record data, photos and videos – for example to document the presence of an animal or plant species – and then send this information to a central web-based database. The website records the user’s location, using the phone’s GPS system, and it can then display all of the data collected on this topic across the world, using Google Maps.
You can read more about it here. It’s interesting to contrast this development in the UK with some comments that Rob Annan made (in this blog’s Sept. 17, 2009 comments section) about science communication needing to be participatory.
In fact, yesterday’s posting has motivated me to look at science communication in Canada. There are three programmes in education institutions (do correct me if I’ve missed a programme), a graduate diploma from Science North and Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario and two summer programmes at Banff Centre for the Arts: a three day workshop for senior scientists and a 12-day workshop for anyone else. That’s as much as I can find for formal education for anyone interested in communicating science. There are informal education opportunities available in science and technology centres (e.g. Science World and the HR MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver) but these tend to be oriented to children as is the National Science and Technology Week which is coming up in October. There are some in-house programmes as I found out and there’s a Cafe Scientifique series in many cities around the world, including Vancouver (although they don’t appear to have been active for some months).
Nothing I’ve found (as little as there is) begins to approach the idea of engaging members of the public to participate in science and full discussion about science (as opposed to asking questions at the end of a presentation). The education programmes at Banff (here for senior scientists [there is mention of a two-way communication process but the projects for students are one-way] and here for anyone else [they give no details about their approach to interactive science communication and the faculty come from traditional sources, i.e. a university lecturer, some broadcasters, print journalists, etc.]) and Science North (check module 3) are focused on communicating science to the public.
There is a public engagement community in Canada but that tends to be social scientists working in the biotechnology field. There was a huge uproar about biotechnology, stem cells, and genetically modified food which resulted in a number of public engagement exercises in Canada (and elsewhere). Typically, the engagement is in the form of a ‘town hall’ where policy makers, scientists, affected individuals, and the general public have discussions which are recorded and used as data to inform policy decisions. In Canada, this type of public engagement has pretty much remained within the biotech/genome community. There are other types of public engagement or public consultations but these don’t seem to generate data for policy making although short-term political decisions may be influenced. (Note: if I’m mistaken in my understanding, please do correct me.)
Now on to Scribblenauts! From the Fast Company article by Kevin Ohannessian,
… Scribblenauts may be the first game to use your vocabulary as the interface. Jeremiah Slaczka, the Lead Designer at the title’s developer 5th Cell, describes the game as, “An action puzzle game where you can literally write anything to solve the puzzle. You can write ladder and it will appear, or flamethrower and use that.” The user handwrites the name of an object and it appears on screen.
Please do read the article, this sounds like a great game and an antidote to all those folks who keep predicting the end of literacy (I confess, sometimes I’m one of those folks).
ETA: Don’t forget the Perverse incentives: The untold story of federal subsidies for fossil fuels tomorrow (Sept. 18, 2009)starting at 9 am (EST) in Washington, DC. There will be live webcast which can also be accessed a day or two later when it’s posted online. You can find links to the event on my Sept. 11, 2009 posting.