Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Weird Citizen Science

Can’t wait to tell you about the upcoming study that will certainly be the high point of my career as a Citizen Scientist.  I hadn’t ever heard that term until recently -- maybe it’s new?  Saw it first in connection with Cornell’s backyard bird count, felt proud.
But first, a brief summary of my scientific career so far:
Norm’s mother died (much too young) from complications with shingles.  So years ago we volunteered for a study seeking a shingles vaccine.  At the initial interview, I was asked if I’d ever had chicken pox. “Never did,” I replied.  “Oh, yes you did.  Everyone does, only sometimes it’s so mild they don’t even realize it.”  Found myself wondering why they bothered to ask the question.  But anyhow, study ended, vaccine developed and approved.  Turns out Norm had received it, I’d been in the control group so I got a free shot.
     That felt so useful I started volunteering for all sorts of studies.  It’s always delightful to talk about oneself, play games, answer questions.  I'm in one looking for a marker for Alzheimers (study ended up in the New Yorker, still going on).   From that one I sneaked enough information so that every time I blunder I can reassure myself -- I don’t have the big A;  I’m just getting old.
      Another “cognition” (yet another new word) study involved  grad students coming to the house to put computer games on my machine – I seem to remember busting balloons with numbers on them for “exactly 25 minutes each day.”  Never could find out if that increased my score on the before-and-after cognition tests at the University.
     Weirdest study involves interviewers coming to the house (that’s a plus already) and, as Boswell writes so happily in his journal “we then talked about ME.”   “In the past three weeks how often have you…” and then, subtly hidden among  the questions, things like several versions of “thought about suicide?”   The study turned out to involve the assignment of an Artificial Friend who visits, invites out to lunch, telephones.  Later the interviews evaluate the effects of treating loneliness.  Thank God I’m evidently in the control group.  I'd have quit before being assigned as Friend or Friendee.  As it stands,  I just get to talk about ME.
     (Off-topic:  just googled looking for "friend images" and found hundreds of illustrations -- puppies, children, teenagers --NOT A SINGLE ONE SHOWING ANYONE OLDER THAN 21.)
     But anyhow, the oddest study of all is coming up.  Several weeks ago I received a phone call:  Would I like to participate in a study at Wegmans’ supermarket evaluating orange juice?  Two weeks later, a phone interview to see if I qualified, and evidently I passed.  Just received a letter confirming my session on January 31 (you can be sure I’ll tell you all about it.)  Map included, showing directions to the meeting rooms above the store I always shop at anyhow.  In the meantime, two confirming emails.  This “Adelman Research Group” seems a lot more organized than those grad students.
     I’ll be given a $75 Wegmans gift card for my trouble.  Do you think this ends my amateur status as a Citizen Scientist?  


  1. Watch out for Wegmans changing the OJ it offers based on the results of the test. I expect they knew you buy a lot of it from data collected when you use your Wegmans discount card. Happy sipping.

  2. Participants in many research studies are given modest compensation for their time and effort, so I don't think your amateur status is imperiled by the gift card. In fact, I'd take anything Danny Wegman offered me that would shave a few $$ off the grocery bill. (I even check the coin machines in the entrance at my local Wegmans. My best find was a 1947 King George VI shilling.)

  3. How interesting for you..and what fun! "keeps the blood boiling" as my dear Aunt Ethel would say.
    Cheers to you Edith

  4. So satisfying, that volunteering. And you learn so much....I got a LUSH gift card the other week, for being a secret shopper. Not quite the same, but still....Keep those posts coming, Edith....

  5. Not sure sipping OJ for Wegmans counts as "Science", but it sounds like fun. Whoops! It probably WOULD count as Science up here in Harper Land! CMS

  6. btw, i think that your "friends" images were skewed because of the television show "friends" which would take up fully 50% of the slots and was de facto about a bunch of friends in their 20's...