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Crowd-sourcing of data collection (Fukushima, Japan)

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#1 Orpheus


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Posted 11 November 2011 - 08:04 PM

It's not just some anti-establishment streak that makes me favor crowdsourcing of data collection. Science has always relied on "amateur" data collection -- and still does, in fields from astronomy to meteorology to geology to biology.

Indeed, many of science's (currently) laughable failures, from slavish Aristotelianism on points any peasant could disprove in an afternoon or lazy summer, to the Royal Academies denying the existence of meteorites in the 1700s, came from the scientific establishment disregarding data/observations collected by "the masses".

Don't get me wrong: when "ivory tower" academic scientists have conflicted with common wisdom, they've been more right than wrong, but a dismissive --or worse, proprietary-- view of data, which *still* predominates in science, is among its greatest weaknesses. Raw data should be available for all to examine, and ALL data should be analyzed.

Today's technology allows for the inexpensive construction of sufficiently powerful (and perhaps more importantly: standardized) sensors and recorders which could take crowdsourcing --and science-- to new heights.

Here's how this is playing out in the collection of radiation data in the region around Fukushima in Japan.

#2 Mark

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 11:57 PM

Mark: Yeah, imagine what sort of data-collection is becoming possible via the RFID chips we're all being secretly bugged with inside our credit cards, driver's licenses, and gift cards? Has Wal-Mart started putting chips inside some of their clothing products yet? I know there are many groups protesting that potential action by that big business. Those groups are stating that these RFID chips could be used simply by driving by where we live, and the readers of those signals would know instantly what we'd purchased, and who it actually belonged to. Even things containing RFID chips we've thrown in the trash outside our homes could be used to trace our personal use and disposal of those products so-equipped. When combined in the trash bin with our other discarded chip-equipped items, a pretty good personal profile could be built by whomever had interest, for whatever reasons. Big Bro has arrived, and he's not just interested in putting chips inside our pets, or expensive personal items (guitar manufacturers have begun using RFID chips to help I.D. stolen guitars). With radio frequency detection systems becoming increasingly sensitive and portable, it may soon be possible (if not already) for someone to read our data chips from outside our homes, and use it to commit crimes against us.

It's not really funny anymore. People need to wake up, and let our government know we don't want this to happen to our privacy, and security.
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#3 Orpheus


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Posted 12 November 2011 - 12:37 AM

Oh, I despise the privacy-invading "market research" that seeks to characterize us to within an inch of our lives.

Crowd-sourcing is, in many way, the opposite. If retail RFID tracking is like police surveillance of public areas, crowd-sourcing is like the Rodney King video or the cell-videos of police that make the news weekly these days. In crowd-sourcing *we* are the crowd, and our data collection is a voluntary choice to contribute to a communal effort. The idea is often (as in Japan) free data collection/sharing independent from the choices/control of "the authorities".

Even working scientists often have a very mistaken impression of how available the raw data is in most fields, unless they actively publish papers themselves. The journals don't ask to see the raw data [unless there are credible charges of fraud], the referees who judge who judge the quality of the papers for publication don't get to see the raw data; even friendly colleagues working in the same narrow field, who visit each others labs, correspond regularly and go out drinking at every conference, often hesitate and stall (for years) in sharing their raw data, archives, etc.

It's not always that way, of course, but in practice no one faults a scientist for keeping his data private. Some publicly funded research has proviso equiring release (but they are rarely enforced], private funding often gives the funder (not the scientist) control of the data (with shocking consequences in medicine), and major professional organizations (e.g. the IEEE - Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) and almost all major journals assert that *they* and not the researcher own all rights to the papers -- not only do they not pay the authors, but charge them fees and reprints, and won't let them post their own work on their own personal, corporate, or university webpages! (note: journals don't fund research, and don't even pay referees)

There is starting to be some "pushback" in the form of "Open Source" journals like PLoS (Public Library of Science) journals. I understand that Princeton has take the major step of forbidding their academic community to publish their [university-related] research in any journal that demands the copyright on submitted paper (i.e. most of them!)

I, for one, don't like making life and death decisions based on what some researcher, pharmco or journal thinks it is "suitable" for me to know.

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