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17 December 2010


When you have a million Galaxies to classify and only a handful of researchers working on the project, you need to think laterally. So how did Galaxy Zoo team up with JISCMail to help them exceed even their expectations and put Citizen Science firmly on the map for future research activities?

JISCMail - Communication for Engagement By Caroline Ingram

Through the use of email and the web, JISCMail, a National Service for Academia, supplies specialist online groups and tools, and thereby supports knowledge sharing between the academic community and its external partners. JISCMail is an essential collaboration tool within the academic community. The groups can be used for general discussion between the various partners who make up the community, so that geographically distant members can be in closecontact with their colleagues, or they can be used to send announcements or newsletters. The challenge for JISCMail JISCMail hosts a variety of groups devoted to each of the strategic BCE areas. These allow staff involved in external engagement to liaise with appropriate business or other external contacts. JISCMail hosts over 7000 online groups, delivering between 18 and 20 million messages monthly. Via these messages, group members are able to discuss, debate or share information and learning, and, in terms of developing communities across institutional and external partners, mailing groups are ideal for lending a


sense of community to distributed members. To date, much of JISCMail’s analysis of the use of groups, in particular for BCE purposes, has been quantitative rather than qualitative. Since joining JISC Advance in 2009, JISCMail staff have become more involved in JISC’s programmes, including the BCE programme, and having noted and adopted the drive to improve institutions involvement in BCE, JISCMail has recently been highlighting public groups related to the main themes of BCE through its newsletters. Facilitating Engagement Galaxy Zoo is an interactive project that allows users to participate in a large-scale project of galaxy research. JISCMail aids the project by providing online groups to its more than 200,000 subscribers. The organisers of Galaxy Zoo discovered that many members of the public have a real desire to contribute to research and needed to find different ways with which to engage with them on a community level. Initially a Galaxy Zoo JISCMail list was used to link people into the network of participants, and to ask them to participate in the research. Once the community had kicked off its research, the

group could then be used for feeding back the results and successes to everyone, and further, to indicate what would happen next. Galaxy Zoo is an excellent example of “citizen science” through which scientific data is being processed by the general public rather than professional scientists. As is often the case, the use of more eyes results in the generation of more results which it would not be possible to achieve within the usual confines of research funding. JISCMail facilitates the linkage of a large community of distributed users so that their time, ability and energy can be harnessed for the research question at hand. As Chris Lintott, astronomer and ‘zookeeper at Galaxy Zoo, has said, “It's not an exaggeration to say that Galaxy Zoo wouldn't have succeeded without JISCmail”. Continued overleaf...


UK. They look at entrepreneurial case studies and spin-off business At the other end of the spectrum, opportunities. BUSINESS-BRIDGE is a group of about 60 individuals who promote The challenge for BCE and disseminate ideas and models BCE challenges come from of best practice between academia many familiar areas such as and industry with particular funding, growth sustainability and emphasis on work placements and impact. There are key issues live project work. The members of affecting BCE, particularly in the the group come from a diverse set software design and open source of organisations, such as the arena. Businesses using open Association of Business Schools, source solutions need to have various universities, and Universities confidence in the product, and in its Continued...

robustness and security and those developing open source need to understand the risks of using software that may not yet conform to standards and enterprise-grade policies. This has started to be addressed by bodies such as the Open Software Foundation and others who are helping lead the way whilst fostering engagement and advancement in this area.

Chris’s Favourite Image The reflection of light from a black hole captured in the process of turning off. Hot evidence that little green men exist in outer space or where kermit goes for his holidays.


JISCMail - JISC Advance Case Study