December 25, 2007

Orange County Register

'Citizen scientists' offered role in Newport Bay watershed

By Gary Robbins

A Web site that scientists and engineers use to share information about the environmental health of the Newport Bay watershed is being opened to “citizen scientists” who wish to post their own findings about one of Southern California’s most beloved ecosystems.

By early January, calswim.org will feature a wiki, or Web pages that can be edited by the public in the same way that it’s done on wikipedia.org.

Users will be able to post information and call up data that government agencies and water districts share on such things as the level of nutrients, pathogens and bacteria in the watershed.

The wiki is being created by Cristina Lopes, an informatics professor at UC Irvine, who says: “We want to make it easy for people to share knowledge. This could be used by everyone from high school teachers to retired scientists to environmental groups.”

The project is part of a larger effort by Lopes to study whether wikis are an effective way to share reliable science information.

Wikis allow people to quickly post information. But they can be edited or removed by others with access to the same site.

Lopes says: “The reliability of Wikipedia has been called into question by the scientific community. The CalSWIM wiki will have a monitoring software that follows each contributor’s actions on the wiki, and tries to automatically determine the level of reliability of the contributions.”
'Citizen scientists' offered role in Newport Bay watershed