So, you think you can science? The search for the next CitSci study!

Fat-rich Thanksgiving preparations have got me thinking an awful lot about my first citizen science study, Butter Mind, in which participants ate half a stick of butter, the equivalent in coconut oil, or nothing, and then performed a simple math test.

Butter Mind ran from October 23rd to November 12th. Unfortunately, we were unable to determine in this three week period whether butter or coconut oil improved math performance – the “practice effect” was too large.  However, I did find that butter helped me wake up feeling more refreshed!  Now, I’m looking for something to try next… pork belly, perhaps?

For me, Butter Mind was worth it simply to interact with other fun, curious folks. A total of 42 participants and 2 study organizers signed up. We did math, ate butter together (so to speak), and chatted about topics such as Seth Robert’s Shangri-la Diet, food allergies, and what our favorite butter/coconut oil recipes were.  I feel there is a lot more room for people to benefit from sharing lifelogging details.

In that vein, I’ve created a forum on Genomera for ex-Butter Mind participants to share their thoughts and experience self-tracking.  [Genomera is still in beta; if you would like to access the forum, email] I will also be holding a tweet-up in the Bay Area (date tbd) to meet and chat with our local participants.

Now, for the big announcement! Genomera is holding a competition for “Next Citizen Science Study.” (Details after the jump.)  The lucky winner will have their study hosted on the Genomera platform and will receive a 23andMe Complete Edition ($499 value).*


  • Genomera currently operates in private beta, but the site will be open to study participants.
  • You have the freedom to attract as many participants as you want.
  • Stating the obvious: studies should have the best interest of potential participants in mind.
  • We prefer studies that encourage participant discussion and interaction – studies that let them be “Citizen Scientists.”
  • There are no length requirements for submissions. Half a page is fine as long as you get the point across.
  • Include a write-up of your citizen science study idea and email in MS Word or Google Doc format to
  • Submissions must include a study ObjectiveDescriptionParticipant Tasks & Requirements, which will be used on the study page throughout the study.
  • Study must be designed so that participants have an active role to play (e.g. they have an exercise to complete every day or monitor certain changes in their lives).
  • All submissions must be received by December 15, 2010.
  • Pick a study you would enjoy participating in. Pay attention to your lifestyle and hobbies. For example, let’s say you drink a double espresso before every long bike ride. You’ve always wondered if this affected your performance. <- This could make a great study!
  • Make the study easy to participate in, dollar-wise, by, for example, not requiring expensive gear, supplements, etc.
  • Ask questions of us!

* This is the version of the kit not requiring a yearly membership fee.

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3 Responses to So, you think you can science? The search for the next CitSci study!

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention So, you think you can science? The search for the next CitSci study! | Quantified Self --

  2. Matthew Cornell says:

    A big congratulations to you and your cohort, Eri! The discussion itself showed the excitement involved. I’m curious: What are your thoughts on using the discussion board format for the experiment? Also, what tools did your participants use, and how did they integrate with the board, and with your analysis? Good work.

    • Eri Gentry says:

      Matthew — Hi! And thanks! I’m all for encouraging discussion, but I wonder how it would work using two platforms simultaneously (i.e., Genomera’s study discussion wall + QS ning community).

      For Butter Mind, we used a simple math test (simple, as in all problems had single digit answers) that required participants to achieve 32 correct answers. The test recorded reaction time for each correct answer, in milliseconds. The math test was linked to Genomera’s platform and the study itself, though we hope to have the math test available for all in a month or so.

      The math test also recorded what participants ate (butter, coconut oil, or nothing). I used the “ate” data plus reaction times in analysis, and recorded other data – how many participants dropped out, for example.

      The study wall was simple, free-form discussion. I used this for posts of various topics, ranging from Halloween butter recipes to asking what type of at-home cholesterol test worked best for those who’d tried them.

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