Best Paper at BOBCATSSS 2013!

The big story was winning the best conference paper award for my presentation, co-authored with my adviser Suzie Allard, on libraries and citizen science. The basic argument of the paper was that libraries are poised to assist the general public with citizen science projects. A citizen science project is a scientific research project where professional scientists recruit non-scientist to assist with data gathering or analysis. E-bird is a popular and widespread example in the United States. Anyone can create an account on E-bird and then enter ornithological observations - such as time and sighting of a particular species. Scientists can then use these sightings throughout the country to create maps of species distribution, migration, and more.

The mission of libraries is to be integral parts of their community and to build information literacy. Citizen science projects are already occurring in many communities. Libraries could support these efforts by providing resources, such as space or research equipment. They could also invite scientists to become public liaisons in the library. Science literacy is also closely related to scientific literacy and could be included without much difficulty.

The whole project is important because science and technology have become integral parts of modern life. Understanding these subjects is crucial to participating in a democracy and making decisions as a citizen.

The conference was held in Ankara this year, at Hacettepe University. Three of my colleagues from the University of Tennessee attended. We were the largest U.S. delegation.

Ankara is the second largest city in Turkey and the capital as well. I left Tennessee on Monday and arrived late Tuesday afternoon after 15 hours in the air and 7 hours in layover. I flew from Knoxville to Newark, to Munich, and then to Ankara. After landing at Esenboga airport I took a taxi with Frances, one of my fellow students, to our hotel in Kizilay, a district in the center of the city. The trip takes almost a half hour because the airport is 28 kilometers from the city.

I found it hard to get a sense of the size or geography of the city as we rode in the taxi. The city is located in a valley between mountains so it is hard to grasp the scope of 5 million people living in the area. On my final day, after the conference, I visited the Ankara Citadel which sits in the middle of the Old City and has a beautiful view of the whole city spreading out into the surrounding valleys.

The conference venue was 15 kilometers from our hotel, on an isolated hillside within the campus of Hacettepe university. A bus traveled from the center of the city to the conference hall each day. Although we missed it on the first day and had to rely upon the kindness of our native guide, Arsev, to help us navigate through the subway, taxi, and bus service to get to the university.

The conference started with two keynotes by Lorcan Dempsey and Ragnar Audunson. Both of them spoke about the library of the future and some of the current challenges to libraries.

BOBCATSSS 2013 - Suomela, Allard - Libraries as Centers for Science Literacy and Public Science from tsuomela