citizen science

BashTheBug has won an NIHR Let’s Get Digital Award!

The National Institute for Health Research hold an annual competition, called Let’s Get Digital, to “recognise those people involved in NIHR research using video, photography, websites, infographics and online communities to promote research”.

I was encouraged to enter BashTheBug back in June 2017 and was pleased to see in August that we had been shortlisted in the Online Community category with four other projects. This in itself was an achievement since 165 projects had entered. There was then a public vote and BashTheBug won!

Since the Citizen Science project launched on the Zooniverse platform in April 2017, i.e. just five months ago, over 6,300 people have signed up and, between them, have classified over 350,000 images of M. tuberculosis growing on 14 different antibiotics at a range of dosages.

Expert judge Verity Cardenas, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Programme Manager at Google, said:

“I really like the active engagement of users on the website with a step by step understanding of what is required of a volunteer. This gives me a feel for what it is like to be involved in clinical research”.

For more information about the prize, please see the press releases on the NIHR and the Oxford BRC websites. To find out more about BashTheBug in general head over to its blog, Twitter feed or Zooniverse project page.

BashTheBug.net Beta Testing Results

Zooniverse have finished beta-testing my BashTheBug citizen science project. To verify that the task is easy to do and the tutorial and help text understandable, the first version of the project was sent to a number of experienced Zooniverse beta-testers.

Over a period of two weeks, 672 volunteers made 34,791 classifications which is, on average, an astonishing 51 classifications each. The volunteers were emailed at 5pm on Wednesday 22 March and 40% of those classifications (14,157) were made by midnight! In addition around a quarter (176) of volunteers left detailed feedback on how easy the task was to do and how it could be improved. I’m currently making the changes they recommended and plan to launch in the first week of April 2017. Watch this space.

bashthebug.net alpha launch

I’m planning to launch a citizen science project, bashthebug.net, in 2017 which has two distinct ways anyone can help combat antibiotic resistance. I’ve revamped and relaunched what will ultimately become the public-facing project website – please have a look.

The first strand is closer to the light of day and will help the international Tuberculosis consortium, CRyPTIC. This global group of researchers, of which I am a part, will be collecting over 100,000 samples from patients with TB. Each sample will be tested to see which antibiotics are effective as well as having the genome of its M.tuberculosis bacterium sequenced. In practice, because each sample is measured at least three different times, that means looking at 300,000 96-well plates. Step forward Zooniverse! This type of large-scale image classification is exactly the sort of thing Zooniverse Citizen Science projects excel at. I hope to launch this project in early 2017.

The second citizen science project is more complex and I have recently applied for funding. As described in my Research, I am developing methods that can predict whether novel or rarely-observed mutations cause resistance to an antibiotic (or not). These require a lot of computer resource and the idea is to build a volunteer computing project, like [climate prediction.net](http://climate prediction.net), using the BOINC framework, so that volunteers can download a program onto their laptop or desktop. When they’re not using their computer, the program will retrieve part of a problem and run the simulations on their machine before returning the results over the internet. These type of project is more complicated and requires more infrastructure to be setup, but with some luck, I’d hope to have a soft launch late in 2017.