It’s been a while since I wrote! For which I am quite ashamed. However, I’m pleased to say that for the most part it is with good reason as we have been extremely busy relaunching the FWW platform, carrying out research using the data the FWW community has collected (see: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00489697/vsi/10LXJ6J513J, and a second special issue on its way), and looking ahead to see how FWW can better meet user requirements amongst other things.
In this blog, I just wanted to let you know about a recent Freshwater and Citizen Science ‘hackathon’ event which we ran at Oxford Brookes University; an event supported by the British Ecological Societies Citizen Science Special Interest Group. Hackathons, or Research Derby’s are intensive research events where people come together to carry out research related to a particular theme over a time-limited period. In this case the hack ran from 5pm 25th May to 2pm on the 27th. We brought together 19 people in total, of which five represented NGO’s (Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Earthwatch Institute and a River’s Trust), four represented the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and 10 represented a variety of different Universities and applied research institutes.
The theme for the event was Freshwater and Citizen Science; however, this was broken down further in to participants who would rather focus how people have engaged with FreshWater Watch over time, whilst the remainder looked at what the FreshWater Watch data could tell us about global water quality. We had three main aims for the event: 1) Highlight the opportunities and challenges to freshwater ecology and citizen science, 2) Carry out a preliminary analysis using citizen science data that could lead to a peer-reviewed publication, 3) Provide a networking opportunity for early to mid-career freshwater ecologists and practitioners.
The manner in which everyone conducted themselves and committed to the task was commendable. By the time the presentations came around at lunch time on Saturday, each group had managed to successfully navigate the data (now over 18,000!) and reach some preliminary conclusions. At the same time there was plenty of conversation between the participants, with suggestions for ongoing collaborations. Perhaps the biggest lesson learned for all involved was both the challenge of working with such large-scale datasets such as FreshWater Watch, but also what opportunities lie in wait for those who can find them - I’m excited to see where we can go to next.
For more information on Hackathon events see: https://elifesciences.org/content/4/e09944 and http://ojs.library.queensu.ca/index.php/IEE/article/view/4931/4899