Citizen Science for Skeptics

Alice Sheppard

Wednesday, February 27 2013 at 7:30PM

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Alice Sheppard

What's the talk about?

Astronomy has been the subject of wonder and speculation for as long as historical records exist. As with all science, people got some things right – and, even with the best methods available, other things wrong.

Since 2007, Alice Sheppard has run the Galaxy Zoo Forum, the discussion area for an online astronomy project with 300,000 members worldwide. Galaxy Zoo has so far produced 21 papers, whose authors and acknowledged contributors include several ordinary citizens. Some of its findings were a direct result of questions or collections of objects created by the users, who became “Citizen scientists”.

Alice takes us through some of the best and worst of astronomical history, and what ancient and modern mistakes are made today. We will hear the questions people have come to Galaxy Zoo with, the ways in which biases were found and dealt with by the scientists and participants, the beautiful and inspiring projects created by untrained people and the scientific thinking they learnt for themselves to apply.

We also take a look at citizen science in general, how Galaxy Zoo taught large numbers of people to understand and use science, and explore what this might mean for skepticism.

Alice co-founded Cardiff and Hackney Skeptics in the Pub and Galactic Orchids, a fundraising astronomy talk series. In her past life she was thrown out of a teaching career for being too interested in science and not interested enough in exams. She’s currently in London doing an MSc in Astrophysics – all Galaxy Zoo’s fault, obviously.

In the meantime, you can classify a few galaxies for yourself at