Citizen Science: opportunities and hazards in a patented world

Brian White

Come behind the scenes of the early days of Windowfarms as “Superforest” Jackson works briefly with the project, suggests and demonstrates a novel solution and saves the entire project from an expensive crisis. Skip forward a couple of years, the Windowfarms project (hydroponic vegetable growing in your windows) is a worldwide success in open source co-operation and Jackson is unaware that he is a hero of the windowfarm movement and mentioned in 2 TED Talks! (I know because I told him). How can we keep brilliant quirky citizen scientists like Jackson interested and working to improve our lives? Let’s find more Jacksons, and nurture them to help us all grow! I will show a few pictures of windowfarm vegetables which are mindblowing and economically disruptive. Also a few pics of neat innovations which came from the worldwide community. I will dip into the “bee walls” projects that originated in central Europe. Pollinators worldwide have suffered catastrophic decline and these produce habitat for pollinators. I will also delve into citizen science solar cooking research and compare the unique problems and opportunities that face citizen scientists with those that face “real” scientists.

About Brian White:

Brian White is a stonemason in Victoria and a trained as a lab technician (applied biology) in Ireland, works as a stone mason and invented the pulser pump in the late 1980s which is now being researched in Queens University.

My mum imparted her frugal beliefs and my father gave me much more time to learn and play with my projects than any overworked father should have.

Laziness is a great motivator. I wanted an automatic watering system for my garden. How do I get the water out of the stream and around the plants without using energy and without having to haul it myself? A tiny ram pump that I made failed after half an hour due to dirt in the clack valve.

Ducks kicking up dirt!

The quest for a “no moving part “duckproof” pump” led from coffee jar suction pump to the “what the hell is this?” which I later renamed pulser pump. 20 years later, it has been replicated in England and a tiny research project in Queens University, Ontario validated the concept. But nobody yet knows their full capabilities.

My solar projects are progressing slowly. Interest comes from Stirling engine enthusiasts, aid workers etc. If I had more technical wherewithal, they would be done now.

Thanks to my family and friends, and ducks and those who encourage and argue for getting me this far.

I am a citizen scientist too!

My “pulser pump” went on Wikipedia last year, and my video about it is the most watched “airlift pump” related video on the internet. According to youtube, it is seen in more than 150 countries every month.

I am also involved in the linen project. (Growing flax for food and fibre), making habitat for solitary bees, and I made a “2 storey compost bin” that is in an e-book from instructables. I have also made several solar cooker innovations.

I have never succeeded in getting funding for the projects, (which slows things down a lot).

On the plus side, I have never been curbed by the strings attached to funding, which can stop things altogether!

More details about the tracking solar accumulator and the clam shaped solar cookers can be found on the wiki.

2012 IdeaWave