How Open Source Technology is Democratizing Science


Ocean data and technology often remains inaccessible and cost-prohibitive, limiting access to well-funded researchers. At AusOcean, we're changing this. 

A key aspect of our operations involves students engaged in our student-led citizen science program Network Blue. By leveraging low-cost, open source technology we aim to bridge the gap between science, students, non-profits and communities to redefine what it means to be a scientist.

As part of Network Blue students construct, deploy and maintain a low-cost sea surface platform or what we call a 'Rig". You'd be surprised to know if you head down to your local hardware store you can purchase almost everything you need to construct one for around $700, this is significantly cheaper than commercially available research buoys. Rigs are connected to the Internet, and therefore form part of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). By virtue of being connected, rigs are remotely manageable via AusOcean's cloud service. This allows students to remotely monitor rig functions such as battery voltage, sea surface temperature (SST) and humidity, and gather any ocean data of interest e.g. salinity, turbidity, pH etc. This data is transmitted straight to the “cloud”, where it is stored, shared and analysed in real-time.

Portside Christian College students deploy their rig in the Port River

Rather than a competitive approach, the program encourages all participating schools to collaborate, consolidate their resources and share information. Schools partner with nonprofits which encourages information exchange and opens up avenues for cross-disciplinary collaboration. While Network Blue complements school science and tech (STEM) programs, it is intended to appeal to a broad range of students, which include those that may not have an initial interest toward STEM. For example, non-technical learning opportunities span leadership, community engagement, collaborating with other schools, projects to raise awareness, fundraising and so on. Through exciting and affordable projects we aim to bridge the gap between real-world science and schools to reinvigorate students' learning pathways in STEM. 

Immanuel College students train Yankalilla Area School

Citizen science is gaining more traction, ambition and network enabling scientists to extend their reach through contributions of data. We are a firm believer in the power of citizen science and believe the Network Blue program can equip students, organisations and community members with the necessary skills and tools to be empowered to take direct action to monitor their local waters and better understand issues they are passionate about.

AusOcean is a not-for-profit ocean research organisation that supports open source practices. Open source approaches to tackling environmental issues means embracing collaborative tools and workflows which enables processes and progress to be fully transparent. A critical aspect of working open is sharing data not only with your immediate team but with others across the world who can learn, adapt and contribute to collective research. By contributing to, and supporting open practices within the scientific community, we can accelerate research and encourage transparency. All tech assembly guides can be found at https://www.ausocean.org/technology

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for more photos, videos and stories.


Comments