Researchers from Washington University, the University of Arizona, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Vermont were awarded collaborative grants to develop tools that support deeper integration of citizen scientists with a broad range of biological imaging projects. Our specific aims are to develop tools:
1. To make it easier for volunteers with smart phones to capture calibrated imagery supporting quantitative data measurements
2. To facilitate volunteer contributions to image analysis tasks with better interfaces and formal methods to validate and create consensus estimates from many responses
3. To foster long-term motivation and engagement within virtual communities through online environments that combine aesthetics, social networking and visualization tools.
These tools will have an initial focus on problem domains including monitoring of urban re-forestation efforts and analysis of 3D biological and neurological imaging data at many different scales. It will produce a set of smart phone and web apps that will be available to the broader biological research community that require calibrated image capture and analysis, and will create an experimental web portal to engage virtual communities of volunteers and scientists collaborating to work on imaging problems.
The ImageQuest project will make it simpler for volunteers and scientists to engage in a much broader set of biological imaging research. Providing tools which enhance a volunteers ability to capture and analyze images relieves a technical burden on biologists trying to develop citizen science approaches. Making these tools smarter and more interactive encourages volunteers to contribute meaningfully to novel research questions, and building a virtual community around the volunteers and the scientists helps to recruit, motivate and retain long term participation of the public in scientific research.