IRAS Lecture: Navigating Crises and Bridging Cultural Divides with Citizen Science

Featuring: Astronomer Grace Wolf-Chase, exploring a process of Understanding Scientific Discovery through Citizen Participation

Initial Respondent: Dr. Constance Bertka, Co-Chair, Broader Social Impacts Committee, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s Human Origins Program

Presentation Overview:
Promoting better understanding and cooperation across our divided society is arguably the most urgent issue of the 21st century. In the translated words of Goethe, “The one who wants to understand the poet must walk into the poet’s land.” This quote expresses the idea that we learn about others by participating with them. r. Wolf-Chase directs a project that engages people in conversations about our experiences as scientists, and empowering them to claim ownership in the process of exploration and discovery through citizen science. Citizen science enables research that would be intractable without the help of many volunteers. In turn, it welcomes people of all ages and from all walks of life “into the scientist’s land,” enabling them to participate in the process of exploration and discovery. In this session, she will include a demonstration of how participants can contribute to a wide array of internet-based research projects, and facilitate discussion among participants on developing strategies to engage their religious communities in meaningful ways within their respective traditions.

Presenter Background:
Dr. Grace Wolf-Chase (A.B. Physics, Cornell University; Ph.D. Astronomy, University of Arizona) is a Senior Scientist and Senior Education & Communication Specialist at the Planetary Science Institute. In 1994, she was awarded a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship to pursue star formation studies at NASA Ames Research Center, and in 1996, a University of California President’s postdoctoral fellowship to continue these studies at U.C. Riverside. She is an Affiliated Member of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science; and Vice President of the Center for Advanced Study in Religion and Science CASIRAS). She spent 22 years integrating astronomical research with public education at the Adler Planetarium, has published dozens of scientific papers, contributed to several books, and currently leads an initiative to engage faith-based communities in research experiences via the Zooniverse citizen science platform.