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Gamification of participatory science for training and education purposes

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GAPARS (Gamification of participatory science for training and education purposes)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-06-30

Creating effective ways for citizen science is immensely important. Scientists in all fields increasingly rely on active public participation for experiments and analyses of complex and/or massive data, and the outreach and education possibilities of citizen science are enormous. Yet there are three key issues for any citizen science project:
(i) reach out to a sufficiently large audience
(ii) lower the threshold to participation as much as possible,
and (iii) provide incentives to continue participant engagement.
We created Massively Multiplayer Online Science to connect scientific research and video games as a seamless gaming experience. Research tasks completely integrated with game mechanics, narrative and visuals can open up a new channel between the gamer and the scientific community. Converting a small fraction of the billions of hours spent with playing video games will bring an enormous contribution to scientific research, and in the meantime will change how video games’ expertise is perceived.
The goal of GAPARS project is to develop and validate the reference platform enabling the injection of scientific tasks into on-line communities, such as gamers. To do so, we gathered a unique team of prestigious participants and one major game editor, all with a track-record of excellence in management and in their respective domain of expertise.
This project will put Europe on the map with a new genre of serious games.
The main achievements of the first 18 months of activity of the GAPARS project are
1. A new citizen science integration into EVE Online (Project Discovery Exoplanet 300'000 participants, 111 mio classifications, a milestone in the history of citizen science);
2. The development of the software platform able to serve multiple citizen science project;
3. The foundation of a new startup AYARU by 2 participants of the consortium (MMOS and Uni Geneva);
4. A significant outreach and dissemination effort, reaching more than 1.5 mio EU citizens.

The achivements per WP are:
WP1: we used a questionnaire developed by another H2020 project and customised it to allow future CS projects clarify the situation with data privacy and assess potential risks
WP2: we learned how to and successfully filed 2 amendments
WP3: we studied several avenues for the behavioural and nudges studies and identified the most promising one: the data analysis of the contributors of Project Discovery Exoplanet
WP4: we prepared several sets of data with interest for the Citizen Science
WP5: we developped, deployed and operate a multi purpose, robust platform able to serve and agregate up to 1 task per sec
WP6: we launched and operated the most successfull Citizen Science project in terms of the number of tasks collected
WP7: we reached out more than 1.5 mio EU citizens
In our original proposal, we asked this mandate and support with the following paragraph involved:
“However, now that our first project has received so much attention, which will not have gone unnoticed in companies in the rest of the world, it will be crucial to efficiently consolidate the European lead on this unique and novel concept. The extra funding that this EU call can provide us at this point of time will provide us with the much-needed support that is needed to maintain, and further develop, this highly innovative and unique European advantage”
We are at the middle of the funding period, but we can already state that the position of this unique idea has been more secure than ever before. With Project Discovery Exoplanets we have proven that it is one of the most viable setup in citizen science – the first two weeks broke the record activity set by Galaxy Zoo 10 years ago (
On the other hand, our continuous presence on international game developer conferences and events – either as presenters or as participants – and all the articles and interviews gave us the visibility necessary to further this success. Whereas a couple of years ago we always had to start with a 10-minute introduction describing the project, now oftentimes it is enough to say one sentence, and get the response: “Oh you are those guys who… I read about you” This is especially crucial in the US market which is one of the biggest in terms of game development.
With an ongoing collaboration with Gearbox Software (one of the major US game developer companies with a reach of tens of millions of players and a non-funded external supporter of the GAPARS consortium) and with other very promising leads we can confidently say that the next big success in this field will be carried out by the members of the GAPARS consortium:
- It will show the world that this idea can be implemented in more popular genres of games
- We anticipate an even bigger activity than the already historic high of Project Discovery Exoplanets
- A successful cooperation with a US based company is going to raise awareness of the project at the level of the highest names and figures in the industry
With all this we’ll have a chance to manifest our vision: to create a “utility service” for science, a virtually limitless human or hybrid computation engine with tens or even hundreds of millions of players providing the brainpower.
When we talk about citizen science on different forums we always emphasise that it is not only about an efficient way of crowd-sourcing scientific data analysis. Equally important is the science outreach work, the educational aspect. To our current knowledge there is no more engaging form of science outreach then citizen science: when participants has the possibility to have a hands-on experience of working with scientific data. But it is even more remarkable, as with citizen science we don’t need to put words in citizens mouth, we don’t need to force our agenda – we let them interact with the data, we provide them with facts and let them discover the connections (for example let them see that climate change exist by analysing decades of images of glaciers themselves) So this setup provides ones of the most unbiased way to transmit scientific knowledge. And the strategic importance of this knowledge transfer cannot be underestimated.

We don’t think that citizen science is a silver bullet and will solve all problems in science, but the many facets of this participatory interaction with scientists provide many benefits. Before the launch of Project Discovery we recorded messages from several scientist to the gamer community. Let me quote one of these by Francois Grey, professor of the University of Geneva and a well-known member of the citizen science community: “…never before have I thought that this would be possible to get gamers like you involved in science. Now a lot of my colleagues in science think that this is all about getting some kind of free workforce to do a lot of work for them. But I see it quite differently. This is about getting you guys involved in real science, doing science, contributing to science, participating in changing how science is done worldwide. And my dream, my dream is that one day I’m gonna meet a young EVE Online gamer, who is gonna tell me: Look, I now am a scientist. You know I went to university because I played EVE Online, got really interested in science and hey, this has changed my life.”
We share this dream of Professor Grey.