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Interview with Davis Masten: Quantified Self Labs

The recent White House Citizen Science Forum, Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People showcased the work of many amazing people whose work we consider part of the citizen science spectrum. We wanted to get to know some of these individuals better so we asked a few of them to tell us a little more about themselves and how they engage others in public participation in scientific research. We hope you may learn from their experiences and find new connections to the work you do.
We also consider this the launching point for a new, ongoing series of blog posts about people who are working to design, manage, and/or research efforts along a spectrum of citizen science. Watch for more posts throughout the year!
Here we spoke with Davis Masten, Co-Chair of the President’s Circle of the National Academies and Chair of the Advisory Board of Quantified Self Labs.
The Quantified Self movement is a collaboration of users and tool makers who promote gaining knowledge through self-tracking. QS Labs serves the movement community by producing meetings, forums, and content to guide the use of self-tracking tools, empowering people to get meaning out of their personal data.
CSA: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
Davis: We sold our company in 2007 so I have time to do many things including citizen science. I am the Co-Chair of the Presidents’ Circle of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and as I am a new resident of Lake Tahoe I like to spend my time hiking, paddle boarding and taking photographs.
CSA: What’s the biggest challenge you see for Citizen Science and Quantified Self?
Davis: Getting the right questions. It is sometimes impossible to understand an individual (n=1) without knowing others like that person. (n=10, n=100, or n=1,000 or n=1,000,000). With digital tools like smart phones, wearables, biosensors, social networks, the cloud, etc. we can start asking fresh questions. In health, traditional Citizen Science issues like air and water play important roles, but so does a person’s biome, their genome, their epigenome and a host of other things (some of which are not yet discovered). Getting the right questions will help us get to better answers.
CSA: What is the appeal to you of the Quantified Self?
Davis: I believe that in a connected world, with billions interacting, some curious inventors will see their world differently and do something about it. They typically will do something for themselves. And if it works for them, maybe it’ll be useful to others. Some may even reinvent their local community and the rest of the world along with them. It’s my bet that some of these inventors will be successful because they make science relevant to the meaning of everyday people’s lives. This is what draws me to the Quantified Self and helps me continue to stir the pot. The opportunity to do good at scale has never been greater.
CSA: Thanks for taking a moment to share your story with us Davis. It sounds like we’ll be hearing a lot more about the Quantified Self movement in the future!
Follow the Quantified Self on Twitter @quantifiedself

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