Trust & Transparency in Human-Machine Integration on the Zooniverse Crowdsourcing Platform - A Citizen Science Showcase

1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EDT

Register for this event online via Zoom.

June 16, 2021

1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EDT


Following the Spring Symposium on The Promise and Pitfalls of Citizen Science, the APS is presenting a series of virtual discussions on Citizen Science projects around the nation. The second program in the series is with Samantha Blickhan.

Public engagement with, and contribution to, research—often referred to as ‘citizen’ science—is an increasingly popular option for researchers and institutions hoping to process large datasets while simultaneously engaging audiences in real research projects. In recent years, the resulting data from these projects is being used with increasing frequency as training data for automated processes.

In this presentation, Samantha Blickhan will highlight methods of human-computer interaction (HCI) for online crowdsourcing projects being implemented on Zooniverse (, the world’s largest platform for online ‘people-powered’ research. In particular, she will discuss how these methods are helping to optimize volunteer time, and ways that this type of work can—and should—be done ethically, through transparency and informed consent.

Additionally, she will share lessons learned in our implementation of HCI methods in online crowdsourcing, such as the framing of machine contributions (as well as of human contributions to offline machine learning processes), the potential for monotony in machine ‘verification’ tasks, and the potential loss of serendipitous discovery when relying too heavily on machine learning.

The aim of this presentation is to use the experiences of Zooniverse projects as a way to shift the conversation around crowd-generated data use in machine learning methods from optimization and research output to volunteer experience, power dynamics, and building trust among volunteer communities.

The event will take place on Wednesday, June 16 at 1:00pm EDT via Zoom. The event is free of charge, but registration is required to attend. 

Samantha Blickhan is the Humanities Lead for Zooniverse ( and Co-Director of the Zooniverse team at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Her duties include guiding the strategic vision for Zooniverse Humanities efforts and managing development of new tools and resources, which have been supported by funding from the Institute of Museum & Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council. She is currently co-I of the Collective Wisdom project, which will produce an authoritative book on the ‘state of the art’ in cultural heritage crowdsourcing in 2021.