CELL IMAGES ANALYSIS AS A CASE OF CITIZEN SCIENCE FOR ADVANCED EDUCATION LABORATORY AND SCHOOL, BACK AND FORTH
We present here a complete Citizen Science scenario being deployed for secondary school teachers and students who will be able to take active part of the biotechnology research process. It intends to be a successful use case to demonstrate the mutual benefits of the integration of this kind of collective intelligence on the education field.
As a consequence of the quick advance in computational resources, scientists have found a significant bottleneck in the management and analysis of the huge data they face. Besides computing can cope with some aspects of this issue, human brains continue being extremely good at pattern recognition. Therefore, Citizen Science has emerged as a solution for these researchers as well as a way to involve general public in the creation of science. Applied to advanced education and selecting the proper field of study, this approach means a fruitful bidirectional interaction channel. Students help researchers in the analysis of their data sets, while being trained on the specific field.
The proposed experiment deals with the analysis of pictures taken from real cells under treatment in cancer's drug discovery research. Students receive in their computers real images taken from a microscope used at BIFI labs. They can also visit the laboratory facilities virtually. Some training is provided in order to understand cell biology phenomena to be analyzed in the pictures. After that, they are able to distinguish live from dead cells, cell proliferation, or the mechanism by which they die. They move from the book to the lab getting in touch with a real case of what they are studying. Our framework compiles the feedback from the participants, merging them and presenting the data to the researcher in a useful way to understand what happened in each of the wells of the cell culture plates over time.
Students gain knowledge about biotechnology and pharmacology research processes. Each solution for each image is archived and compared so that performance can be evaluated. At the same time, top level research facilities are made accessible to any student connected to Internet. We also address to collective behavior and emerging intelligence for image analysis, ensuring amateur inputs to be remarkable for scientists and the crowd sourced contributions relevant to improve the research work.
In the pilot phase of the project, sixteen secondary schools participate with almost a thousand students analyzing cell images. This initial phase is deployed jointly between the BIFI-Unizar and the Department of Education from the Aragon Regional Government with the support of the Ibercivis Foundation and Ciencia Viva. It is scheduled to be deployed at European and Brazilian level as a part of the objectives of the FP7 project called SOCIETIC during 2013 and 2014. The virtual excursion, where students can visit the laboratory and get direct training from scientific research is carried out under a distinct FP7 project called Global Excursion.