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Ahoy there! Oldweather.org uses Crowdsourcing to transcribe archives and support scientific and historical research

As part of an exciting new Crowdsourcing project Oldweather.org is asking members of the public to help transcribe information in the naval logbooks of Royal Navy warships from the WW1 era. This will make information about past climate and historical events widely accessible.


From the website:

Alastair Dunning, programme manager at JISC which is funding the project, said: “Solving complex scientific problems used to be restricted to the laboratories of the university campus. But with sites like Old Weather, the general public can play an important role in uncovering the data that underpins the arguments behind climate change. Hopefully, Old Weather can spark a whole range of similar cyber science projects, engaging the public in the grand scientific issues of our time.”
Read the full Press Release

Getting Started Tutorial

This online tutorial shows beginners how to get started and gives a quick look at the transcription process. Zoom in over the handwritten text and record the information you find. It looks like good fun!

Links to other articles about oldweather.org

Category: Digital 2.0
  • Iain Stuart says:

    This is great! I really love these projects – I hope they are around when I retire.

    I was at the annual ESRI future of Geographical Information Systems seminar where they were demonstrating their new version ArcGIS 10. One big thing was “Web 2.0″ and “Crowdsourcing”. To them this was using various apps to allow people to become spatially aware – where is the nearest good restaurant and that sort of thing.

    BUT – that isn’t crowdsourcing IMHO. Crowdsourcing would be allowing the users to edit and add to the base maps. This would require a bit of a change in ESRI’s mindset I think.

    IainS

    October 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm
  • Fiona Sullivan says:

    The concept of surrendering control is a tough one for all of us when looking at potential applications for Crowdsourcing.

    The weather.org project appeals to me too. I’m going to sign up and give it a go (in my spare time). I wonder how long I’ll last?

    October 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm
  • Melissa says:

    What a fascinating project. Thanks for the link to it!

    October 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm
  • Fiona Sullivan says:

    Fascinating, time consuming and very addictive as I have discovered to my peril! Looking at the interface its main emphasis is on the weather readings although there is some scope to record events.

    October 18, 2010 at 10:21 am
  • Bob Meade says:

    Very interesting. I just had a look at the site.

    The OldWeather project is in support of the broader ACRE Project (Atmospheric Climate Reconstructions over the Earth).

    And there is plenty of potential from records in the NSW State Records Authority to be used in this project.

    When analysing and reporting on climate change in Australia our own Bureau of Meterology currently uses Australian data going back to only 1910 (e.g. http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/timeseries.cgi?graph=tmean&area=aus&season=0112&ave_yr=T )

    Of course, there has to be potential to use the metorological observations recorded under the mandate of the Government Astronomer at Sydney Observatory since 1855 and around the State of NSW

    [ ref. http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Agency\113 ]

    Or for example, the Daily Weather Report [ Newcastle] from 1873 to 1908: http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Series\4691

    Not to mention in the Commonwealth archives, the Ships’ Logs for Royal Australian Navy ships of World War One.

    Enough for decades of transcription work.

    October 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm
  • Fiona Sullivan says:

    You’re right, there is definitely a lot of potential there! When I read the “About” page at OldWeather I was very impressed by the number of co-operative partnerships involved from a wide range of organisations. I would love to read something about how the project came together and what the driving forces were.

    The human support infrastructure behind it must also be significant. When I was browsing through the forums I saw a post reassuring users not to worry about not being able to correct their mistakes, as the edit function was temporarily disabled, because eventually their transcriptions would be viewed by at least 5 different people. Whether these are paid or volunteer positions I don’t know.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm
  • Gordon Smith says:

    Hi,
    I’m handling the naval history side of the Old Weather project. Can’t tell you how excited I am about this – an almost revolutionary approach to naval history research, and the enthusiasm of those taking part is catching.

    A number of RAN ships are included, and a fair amount of the voyaging covered is in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

    Hope you join us.

    Gordon

    October 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm
  • Fiona Sullivan says:

    Hi Gordon,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment – I know this must be a very busy time for you! Congratulations on what is a very exciting project. We will certainly be following its progress and wish you great success.

    October 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm

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