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Citizen science project Zooniverse make data available on figshare

7th February 2012
By mark-hahnel

It has been a couple of weeks now since figshare
relaunched and the public uploads have been coming thick and fast. It is truly fantastic to see researchers opening up their unpublished data, be it confocal images of the larval brain hemispheres, or a complete unpublished chapter of a PhD thesis. My personal highlight is the sharing of data from the Zooniverse project. Uploaded by Robert Simpson of the University of Oxford Physics Department, he suggested that there may be a need for group accounts, a feature that is in the figshare


For those who dont know, the Zooniverse is home to the internet’s largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects.

“The Zooniverse began with a single project, Galaxy Zoo, which was launched in July 2007. The Galaxy Zoo team had expected a fairly quiet life, but were overwhelmed and overawed by the response to the project. Once they’d recovered from their server buckling under the strain, they set about planning the future!”

For this reason, it was really encouraging to see that the Zooniverse team wanted to share their large datasets with the wider world in a citable manner, through figshare. The context for the datasets is described below: 

The original Galaxy Zoo project ran from July 2007 until February 2009, before being replaced by Galaxy Zoo 2 and then, in turn by Galaxy Zoo: Hubble. Volunteers were asked to classify SDSS galaxies as belonging to one of six categories – elliptical, clockwise spiral, anticlockwise spiral, edge-on galaxies, ‘star/don’t know’ or merger. These files contain the resulting classifications of nearly 900,000 galaxies drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. 

Ths sucess of Galaxy Zoo inspired the Zooniverse team to open up the platform and there are currently 11 different projects that are being investigated, or have reached completion. Currently over half a million members are helping with projects ranging from ‘helping marine researchers understand what whales are saying’, to ‘help understand how stars form’. The latter goes by the name, ‘The Milky Way Project’.


“The Milky Way Project aims to sort and measure our galaxy using infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Understanding the cold, dusty material that we see in these images, helps scientists to learn how stars form and how our galaxy changes and evolves with time.”

The results of this project are now in, and as well as posting the pre-print publication in Arxiv, the team realised the benefits of sharing the raw data through figshare


Seeing the diverse fields from which users are sharing their objects illustrates just how widespread the inefficiency of scientific publishing is. In order to continue the good work being done, please continue to let you colleagues know about how they can get credit for all of their research on figshare

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