iSPEX team wins 2012 Academic Year Prize
The iSPEX team ‘Measuring particulates with your smartphone’ in which Leiden University is a participant, has won the 2012 Academic Year Prize. The team beat their two competitors, both from Groningen, at the finale on 25 October in Leiden's Concert Hall.
The aim of the Academic Year Prize is to make science more accessible for a broad public. The prize of 100,000 euro will make it possibl for the team, headed by astronomer Frans Snik, to produce 10,000 attachments for a smartphone and a related app. And then 10,000 people will be able to take part in the biggest Dutch citizen science experiment ever carried out.
Snik explains: ‘In 2013 we intend to have 10,000 people carry out measurements on particulates, all at the same time. It will be one of the world's biggest citizen science experiments ever. We are convinced that having people make measurements themselves so that they are contributing personally to science is the way forward. We now want to take the first step in that direction. All this means that iSPEX is a true experiment. We will for the first time be applying measuring techniques from astronomy and space research using smartphones. It is also the first time that we will not be making the measurements ourselves. If it is a success, we will take it further. We then aim to support more initiatives to have such measurements carried out, including in other countries.'
The devices and apps can be used on the iPhone 4(S) and will be distributed throughout the whole of the Netherlands. The Asthma Foundation is supporting the project and will play a major role in the distribution of the devices. The devices can also be ordered via the website: www.iSPEX.nl.
Once all the iSPEX’s have been distributed, a nation-wide measurement day will be fixed, in May or June 2013. Individual measurements will be sent via the app to a central database. All the measurements will then be analysed by the iSPEX team.
All the iSPEX measurements will be combined to produce a map of the particulates in the air above the Netherlands. As Snik explains, this will be the primary outcome: ‘We want to be able to contribute information to the particulates measurements currently carried out by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). As well as this, we want to focus on education by offering different experiments with smartphones and iSPEX. The best way of finding out what science is, is to actually do it yourself.'
Using smartphones is a good example of applying technology from astronomy in society.
The iSPEX team is made up of researchers and students from Leiden University, NOVA, SRON, KNMI and the RIVM. The iSPEX technology is already being applied in atmospheric research by astronomy institutions.
iSPEX is also supported by Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers, who was recently able to observe the earth's atmosphere from outside during his time at the international space spation (ISS). Kuipers: ‘It is fantastic that 10,000 Dutch people together will be measuring the atmosphere of our amazing planet.'
The Labyrinth Public Prize went to Frozen wilderness, the survival of the North Pole, submitted by a team from Groningen University. Leiden University also won the Academic Year Prize in 2011, then with Antibiotics wanted! In 2010, the first time the Labyrinth Public Prize was awarded, it went to the Ferrari team of the LUMC for their project Kies de aanval.
Fundamentals of Science is one of the key themes for research at Leiden University.