Crowd-sourcing, crowd mapping, networked science….
…whatever you call it, the principle of the hub is that collaboration not only combines our collective intelligence, knowledge, imagination and energy, but amplifies it so the whole really is far greater than the sum of our parts.
A catalyst for problem solving
The island of Borneo is an enormous place, with millions of people and thousands of businesses, organisations, NGOs, research teams, community groups and journalists working to protect the unique cultures, habitats and species that exist here.
But how easy is it for those groups and individuals to discover each other? How many times has the wheel been reinvented as NGOs have the same great idea but have no way of finding each other and sharing their learning? How many scientists are put off visiting Kalimantan because they can’t find people to work with and research facilities to use?
What would it mean if remote communities could find each other, share information, and speak to business and government with one voice? How would we change our programs if we could see at a glance where the most vulnerable areas are in relation to protected areas, communities, concessions and bounderies?
The Borneo Hub is a simple idea that could have a huge impact across the island. It will act as a platform to showcase and map the various projects, expeditions, field centres, community action groups, and individuals working on the island. It’s a simple extension of ideas and technologies that are already out there and being used to great effect around the world.
What will it look like?
We imagine the main interface as mapped information, built up in layers that can be toggled on or off. Layers would include habitat type and land use information, concession boundaries and their various stages of development, known species ranges, logging roads, forest fires, watersheds, expedition locations, research centres, and so on. This is standard stuff, although not yet available in one place for the island of Borneo.
The really interesting part will be deeper than this initial map. We really want to bring as much data and information as posible under one roof, so if you are looking at the map and viewing information on clouded leopard research, you could not only see where research has been or is being undertaken, you should be able to click the icon to bring up all the information relating to that project, including links to publications, the authors funding bodies, and hopefully even the raw data, where the owners agree.
Clicking on the author’s name would take you even deeper, to a profile page listing their interests, research and publications, blog posts, discussions, pictures and videos because yes, this is a collaborative venture. These profile pages and company/charity pages will allow the formation of groups and sub-groups around areas of specific interests, increasing collaboration and inspiration.
Google Fusion Tables Beta v.1 – Research Stations in Borneo
(click the red dots to see more information)
Why do we need it?
So much work is duplicated, so many failures repeated, so much learning never shared. We owe it to donors and to our beneficiaries to do better, and this is how we do it.
But beyond avoiding the worst of our duplications, we can make the good things we do even better. Those videos could be picked up and used by dozens more NGOs, researchers could draw on generations of experience to focus on areas and topics that really need to be studied and use trial pioneering techniques that were dreamt up in the forums. We can make our findings, pictures, and reports available to a much wider audience in a really engaging way, and we can empower the advocates, campaigners, journalists, indigenous communities, protest groups and politicians who are translating all of this work into political and systemic change.
What happens next?
We are compiling data on a few simple topics to begin with ( such as research stations in Borneo) in order to demonstrate how this might work. We’re trialling Google Fusion Tables as the tool to crowd source and then visualise the information. Embedded here is a Google Map of the data we have on research stations so far. It should be absolutely up to date, so that if changes are made to the data by a user, the map is updated the next time you visit or refresh the page.
Once we’ve trialled this workflow enough, and found a little bit of funding to support someone to progress it, we’ll open up a few more data tables in order to trial a wider crowd-sourced effort. Fusion Tables are great in that they allow you to filter the data that goes into the output (such as the map of research stations here), and if made public anyone can filter and visually export the data they are interested in. But we want to have that filtration and layering of data happening easily, visually, and intuitively at the ‘front-end’, so the next stage will be to combine the data tables we have into one awesome database that sits on it’s own platform somewhere, and that is so fast and easy to use that anyone can use it.
So if you are interested in getting involved at this early stage, please join our Linked In Group here and help us turn this transformational idea into reality, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to register interest or find out more.