During the latest evidence session for the Science as a Public Enterprise project, we had the opportunity to speak to some leading experts working on open data in the fields of astronomy, meteorology, and e-Research. Dr. Anthony Holloway, Dr. Sarah Jackson, and Professor Anne Trefethen kindly agreed to share some of their insights on camera – take a look at the clip of Antony’s contribution below or read what he had to say.

Anthony is Head of Computing at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics and the Jodrell Bank Observatory, operated by the University of Manchester.

Astronomy has always been a popular field with amateur scientists. Even the simplest home telescope is many times more powerful than those used by Galileo and Newton. Astronomers are also at the forefront of opening up data from their large telescopes, enabling amateurs to help advance the field as citizen scientists.

SETI@home is one of the leading projects in astronomy outreach. Everyone can join the SETI community and take part in the hunt for extraterrestrial life by downloading a simple program. The enormous amount of data collected by SETI’s radio telescopes is analysed by almost a quarter of a million users.

The Virtual Observatory project (see e.g. European Virtual Observatory) aims to bring together datasets from different observatories around the world. This allows professional researchers and amateur astronomers to process data on a PC at home. GalaxyZoo is a virtual observatory project from the UK that draws on data from the SLOAN Digital Sky Survey  and images from the Hubble telescope.

Amateur astronomers acting as citizen scientists can make real contributions to science: humans are much better at classifying the shape of galaxies than computers are. More than 30 scientific papers have now been published based on data from GalaxyZoo citizen scientists’ work.

The successes of open data in astronomy show how science as a public enterprise can help researchers tackle the challenges of the large amounts of data produced by watching the skies.

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