Keplr is a website that empowers anyone to receive free education in exchange for donating time to science research.
Think Kickstarter, but with people contributing time instead of money and receiving educational incentives instead of physical objects.
As rewards for doing online microtasks like labelling microscope images of cells, identifying features in astronomy photos, or transcribing speech for linguists, contributors can post questions for scientists, request video lessons, suggest contributions to online resources like Wikipedia, bring scientists to local schools, receive lab tours, encourage researchers to blog, and much more. We're turning the time that researchers spend on routine tasks into time spent educating the world.
(And since we know that researchers are busy, we plan to make the process of setting up and posting a task as easy as filling out a Microryza page. Trust me, I'm doing it now and it's pretty easy.)
We've interviewed over a dozen scientists at universities such as MIT and Stanford who spend hours per week doing work that doesn't require professional scientific training and in fact could be interesting for non-scientists. Instead of annotating computer images, scientists could be spending their time doing public outreach, closing educational gaps in science and directing their intellectual capital to underprivileged communities.
Here's another reason that Keplr is important: If every public high school student in America spent 1 hour per week volunteering for science, the value that they produce would be 110% of the yearly National Science Foundation budget (at a conversion rate of $10/hr). Not everyone has money to donate to science, but almost everyone has time.
We plan to use the funds to pay for our team of 4 developers to build and launch a beautiful working site in roughly 3 months, including the cost of hosting for large data sets. But wait, Keplr isn't just a website. Because community development is crucial to our project, we'll be visiting schools and working with teachers to include Keplr in their curricula starting yesterday. We'll also collaborate with researchers to identify crowdsource-able tasks in their fields and connect them to local schools. (This also encourages us to build some neat in-browser tools for science tasks like phonetic labelling, so distributed data analysis is easier for everyone in the future.)
And yes, the tools that we build for researchers will be free and open-source because that's how we like our world.
Our budget goes to living expenses for our team of 4 developers, server costs, and transportation costs.
Yan: Dissatisfied with my science education in high school, I dropped out at 16 and ended up at MIT. There I got a B.S. in Physics, worked for MIT Admissions as a blogger, started the MIT Society for Open Science, and did odd things like implement RSA in Scheme due to peer pressure. After 4 months as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at Stanford in experimental cosmology, I left and became a self-taught freelance web developer. Thinking about machine learning, transparency in research, and ways for science to leverage the human connectivity of the Internet keeps me up at night.