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Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Nearly $3M for a Blue Chip Citizen Science / Crowdsourcing Series from NSF! Coming to WCSFP Vienna…

The Crowd & The Cloud is a hot project for next week’s World Congress of Science & Factual Producers in Vienna.

Citizen Science is a trending topic:

  • Regular folks are using their mobiles and other devices to collect data and contribute to cloud-based solutions to big science challenges.
  • The Crowd & The Cloud tells their stories.
  • It’s a global movement, supported by conferences and new associations in country after country.

The project is remarkably well-funded:

  • The National Science Foundation (U.S.) contributed $3 million.
  • The main deliverable is a four-hour television series.
  • A vigorous social media campaign addresses the strategic priority for broadcasters to create digital solutions for their documentary projects.

Television Series

  • Each episode tells 4-6 stories, woven together with narration from series host, Waleed Abdalati, former NASA Chief Scientist.
  • Locations include: India, Uganda, Kenya, England, Spain, China, Canada, and across the USA: California, New York, New Mexico, Kentucky, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and more.
  • Completion date: Summer 2016
  • U.S. airdate: Spring 2017


Here is a recent promo…


  • 20,000 volunteers across North America report extreme weather and save lives.
  • In India a Heat Action Plan uses WhatsApp and cuts fatalities.
  • DIY scientists use balloons and kites to track oil spills after Deepwater Horizon.
  • But who should own Big Data, and how can we protect privacy?


  • In West Oakland, California citizens counted trucks and changed laws, helping everyone breathe easier.
  • In Louisville, Kentucky sensors on asthma inhalers crowd-source real time maps for patients, physicians and disease detectives.
  • Street knowledge like this was critical in a medical breakthrough, John Snow’s 1854 map of cholera fatalities, and – today – eradicating mosquitoes in Germany and Brazil.


  • Citizen scientists track air and water pollution on windswept Wyoming plains and in East Coast trout streams.
  • Major league cheerleaders work with students and teachers to ground truth a NASA mission helping farmers.
  • “Armchair mappers” worldwide assist in earthquake recovery in Nepal.
  • Chinese citizens use government data and a mobile app to report environmental crimes.


  • Counting birds, conserving species, tracking the seasons…
  • Protecting against humanity’s extinction from asteroid impacts…
  • Clean kitchen stoves combating black carbon pollution…
  • Citizen science as part of a global movement for sustainability, social justice and to support research.

A Global Phenom Revealed

It’s increasingly clear that citizen science is a global phenomenon.

The U.S. Citizen Science Association held its first national meeting in San Jose in February 2015.

It was followed by the inaugural meeting of the Australian Citizen Science Association, and then the European Citizen Science Association in Barcelona.  Delegates came from Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, and around a dozen other countries.

Citizen Science links the human desire to contribute data with science projects using their mobile phones and access to low-cost sensors.

The outcome?  You’ve got a revolution in how science is being done, and how anyone, anywhere can contribute!

Geoff Haines-Stiles

NSF Funding

  • “Innovations in Development” project for the NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program.
  • Submission date: January 2014
  • Approval: August 2014
  • Project budget: $2.99 million
  • Each television hour is budgeted “at the  level of a NOVA-type special.”
  • The balance of the funding is split between an online and social media campaign, and the objective, external evaluation process.


  • Four 1-hour television programs distributed in the U.S. by American Public Television.
  • Online videos to support partners, including the Audubon Society, USGS, NOAA, NASA, National Wildlife Federation, CoCoRaHS, Trout Unlimited, NRDC, SciStarter, and more.
  • Social media campaign.
  • A 2nd screen app designed to “help turn View-ers into Do-ers” by helping them find Citizen Science projects in which they can participate.
  • Evaluation by an External Review Panel.

The Team

Geoff Haines-Stiles and Erna Akuginow are co-EP’s.

  • They completed a major NSF-funded PBS project, “Earth: The Operators’ Manual”
  • Haines-Stiles has been a leading science producer since his work on Carl Sagan’s classic 1980 COSMOS series, which won three Emmys and the Peabody Award.
  • He and Ms. Akuginow were joint winners of American Geophysical Union’s 2013 Robert C. Cowen Award for “Sustained Contributions to Science Journalism.”
  • Haines-Stiles recently created a special for NASA-TV on the New Horizons spacecraft’s thrilling encounter with Pluto.

Dr. Waleed Abdalati is host of the U.S. series and a co-Principal Investigator.

  • He was NASA Chief Scientist in 2011-12.
  • He is now Director of CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, and Professor in the Geography Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Bruce Lewenstein chairs the project’s External Review Panel.

  • He is Professor of the Communication of Science at Cornell and serves as a Senior Advisor.


International Versions

The television series and the online/social media package will be versioned with local partners in key markets

In Vienna at WCSFP, contact:

Peter’s Last Word

There’s another reason why I think this project really matters:

  • The tide is running fast away from government-funded, research-based television and media programs.
  • Premium documentary production increasingly involves celebrities and billionaires.
  • That’s not necessarily bad: Television’s primary role is to entertain.
  • But The Crowd & The Cloud reminds us of the importance of maintaining the public conversation about how government agencies can make unique and prized contributions to ambitious, research-based TV content.