Recent Posts

Reverse The Odds… On Cancer

Reverse the Odds

Screenshots courtesy of Cancer Research UK

Lots of us play computer games; indeed, according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), 67% of US households play video games, and the average gamer spends 8 hours a week playing them. Given how addictive and compelling some games can be, it’s nice to know there are lots of citizen science games available to make enjoying your screen time less of a guilty pleasure.

On that note, Cancer Research UK has just released a new game called Reverse the Odds. Available on iOS, Android, and through Amazon, your goal is to help the Odds – cute little creatures who happen to live in a world that is falling apart. You play by completing puzzle games and upgrading their world to restore order.

How does this help cancer research? The game designers have integrated cancer analysis into the game play. You’ll be shown images of magnified samples of real tumour tissue donated by former patients. As you answer questions about what you see, you help researchers learn more about cancer.  According to the game’s site, the questions will include:

  • How many cancer cells do you see?
  • How many cells are blue?
  • How strongly are these cells glowing?

By playing this game, you will be helping Dr. Anne Kiltie of Oxford research biomarkers for bladder cancer. Dr. Kiltie wants to know what biomarkers could indicate whether a patient will respond better to surgery or radiotherapy. Since something as radical as bladder removal treatment will have a major impact on a patient’s quality of life, while not being aggressive enough will affect survival rates, the decision is a crucial one.

As with all citizen science projects, there is training provided, and the data you provide will be checked several times by other players, so even if you get a few questions wrong, it will not hurt the project.

You can learn more about the science here. While you’re at it, check out 10 Persistent Cancer Myths Debunked.


Guest Lecture: University of Miami

umiami_prime_revblack72Late last month, I had the pleasure of speaking to the fine students at the Exploration Science Program Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami. In a wide-ranging discussion about citizen science, led by the center’s director, Keene Haywood, Ph.D, we explored the state of citizen science and what may be in its future. The talk has been posted online at the Exploration Science Program’s site, and you can listen to the whole thing via SoundCloud.

Hang Out With Penguins (Hot Chocolate Optional)

What you lookin' at? "Falkland Islands Penguins 63" by Ben Tubby - Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

What you lookin’ at?
Photo credit: Ben Tubby  via Wikimedia Commons

Project: Penguin Watch

It’s cold in Antarctica. I mean really cold. The mean temperatures of the coldest months are −20 to −30 °C on the coast and −40 to −94 −40 to −70 °C in the interior; the best summer time temperature you can hope for on the coast is around 0°C. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy place to do research; in addition to the extreme temperatures and remoteness, it’s also very ecologically sensitive.

That’s why scientists want to make the most out of information collected from the region, and why they need your help. Luckily, you can do so from the warm comfort of your own home.

In a new project, Penguin Watch, you’re being asked to look at and annotate images taken of the area. You’ll be asked to identify eggs, baby penguins, and adult penguins. You will also mark other animals nearby, so that researchers get a good idea of how often they interact.

The photographs come from a network of 50 satellite-linked cameras along the Antarctic Peninsula, near colonies of Gentoo, Chinstrap, Adélie, and King penguins. In addition to providing annotations for researchers to work on in the short term, your efforts here will help train image-processing algorithms, so that computers will be able to do this job in the future.

This is a Zooniverse project, so if you have already participated in things like Ancient Lives, Whale FM, or Old Weather, you already have a login. If not, register here to go get some happy feet, and not cold feet!