Posted By Pamela on Jan 16, 2012 | 3 comments


For the past several years, my cohost and friend Fraser Cain has been talking about wanting to change how we do astronomy – change access, change the embargo system, change even peer-review. He’s not the only one: All across the internets we’ve seen open science projects of various types crop up and slowly take root. This summer, I finally let Fraser infect me with the idea of creating a wall free environment for learning and doing science; an online community where people come together to attend astronomy lectures, to participate in star parties, to talk about the science they are working to do in their own backyard, and the science they are working to do in their own web browser.

This ideal is what we’re going to try and build with CosmoQuest.

In October we announced our plans at the “European Planetary Science Conference” ; we started looking for partners, and we started building websites. The first 80% was done by Dec 25 (I love my team of programmers).

For the past several weeks, I haven’t slept very much as we worked to finish. On Dec 31, we had the first 95% done, and launched in beta. That last 5% though – the evil details of error checking, and caching, and user design, and… and all the niggling details – it has been keeping us up at night.

Finally, I think I’m ready to share in beta. This is a community project, so we’re asking you – our wished for community – to help us look at the beta and figure out what can we do make this someplace you want to hangout online? We want this to be some place you want to hangout.

And I’ll be hanging out on Google Plus listening to what you have to say. I’ll open a google hangout periodically just to chat. Join me? Let’s build a place to do science together.



  1. Hi Pamela,
    I love the idea! Have been listening to Astronomy cast since inception and Frasers efforts prior. Love the google+ star parties and hope to get my own small Celestron involved if I can. Might well be the impetus to get the 11″ I’ve been eyeballing for some time now! This community effort is the most exciting thing to come along online as a way to get to know other geeky indeviduals and continue satisfying the thirst to learn. Thanks for your efforts! I especially love listening to the depth of knowledge you impart in Astronomy Cast and very happy to be a part of this community.

  2. I’d not significantly change peer review, but, perhaps some tweaking is in order.
    As one example, a geologist noticed a round pond in Italy that had a raised rim around it. He suggested it was an impact crater.
    He documented differences in the ambient magnetic field at the proposed impact site. He documented “burned clay”. He documented historic reports of “a burning cross” in the sky.
    He published his findings.
    Said findings had a peer come out and find the opposite finding, no evidence of a crater. Indeed, when random sampling of the surrounding area was undertaken, other similar ponds were found. Ambient magnetism of the soil also had disturbances, even far from the ponds. The bedrock was found to be limestone and at every location the circular ponds were found, natural depressions were found in the limestone, permitting water to pool.
    The history of the region was replete with civil wars at the time in question.
    Natural caves were found under quite a few of the ponds and in the pond first studied as a potential impact site. Indeed, seismological studies showed the cave under the pond appeared quite similar to what is found under many limestone bedded sink holes.
    In this case, peer review worked. But, I’ve also read papers that were essentially personal attacks, without full examination of the proposed finding, without experimentation, without any real study. In short, denouncement of heresy. THAT has absolutely no place in science.
    For, I also remember the dearth of study to prove the link between gastric ulcers and H. Pylori, with an absolute preference for denouncement. When someone FINALLY got around to performing a proper scientific study, it was learned that gastric ulcers can most often be successfully treated with antibiotics.

  3. I have got 1 idea for your weblog. It seems like there are a number of cascading stylesheet issues when launching a number of webpages in google chrome and internet explorer. It is working fine in internet explorer. Possibly you can double check that.

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