Crowdsourcing research: the uBiome example.

Sequence your microbiome with µBiome.

µBiome attracted my attention the other day since it’s a perfect example of how crowdsourcing and citizen science principles can work to the advantage of research. The Californian startup offers anyone to explore the composition of their personal microbiome. The microbiome is the community of bacteria living on and in you. This represents billions of bacteria living in symbiosis in our skin and gut for example, largely outnumbering in number of our own cells. interestingly, the microbiome seems to be related to many medical conditions such as depression or diabetes. Doctors could target your microbiome as a treatment or use it as a diagnostic tool to predict risks of diseases. That’s were µBiome comes in.

µBiome recently launched a project on the crowfunding site indiegogo, offering participants to take part in their scientific adventure. Not only do donors fund the scientific project but they also help validate the technologies by sampling their own microbiome. Using the data generated by the early adopters, µBiome will correlate information on the donors lifestyles or medical conditions with the composition of their microbiome. µBiome says that the crowdsourcing the task will allow them accomplish more than any other previous scientific study since they have access to limitless pool of samples. µBiome claims that with 50,000 users they will be able to correlate specific the microbiome characteristics with diseases such as autism and cervical cancer with .

This is perfect example of how in one blow, using the right tools a the right stage of their development  a company funds its project, validates its technology, and brings a new scientific area to the public’s (i.e costumers) attention.


A quick digression: Crowdsourcing for science! 

uBiome’s use of crowdsourcing is a great example of how powerfull online tools and communities are.  Researchers get most of their funding through private or public agencies, they publish in journals tailored for specialists and usual communicate their research exclusively with peers. Seeking help from the public to fund or help generate is pretty much a foreign concept for researchers. However, some are starting to adopt crowdsourcing to access computation time, personnal information or even funding. And they do it for a good reason, since crowdsourcing allows:

  • Easy access to a resource that is untapped, large, responsive and diverse.
  • To involve and inform the general public about your research.
  • To do all this for for a low cost.

New tools specifically designed for crowdsourcing research are developing rapidly. For example, here are a few funding-based crowdsourcing sites (crowdfunding):

Crowdsourcing is has a bit more history in computing since it comes from very direct technical necessity. Several well-known programs crowdsource CPU time for example:

These will be added to the static page regrouping a list of useful tools for researcher. You’re welcome to help by contacting me out if you know of other research orientated crowdsourcing sites.

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