2010 Annual Science Report

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: Google Summer of Code: "Impact Probe"

Project Progress

The MBL (Marine Biological Lab) was selected as a mentoring organization by Google for 2010, and NAI team member Peter Mangiafico was selected as a mentor. We proposed a project that would collect real-time Internet metrics to assess the impact of outreach activities. Our project received 10 student proposals, one of which was selected and funded by Google.

Over the summer, we developed a prototype system to demonstrate the feasibility of the approach and have sought further funding from NASA to continue development of the system. The concept is to build a system (see Figure 1) that monitors Twitter, Google searches, listservers, Facebook, and other specified online data sources over time and in real-time, collecting statistics around a given ontology. The data is then compiled and presented in graphical form for program managers and principal investigators who are trying to assess the impact of broad-based outreach or other specific events. For example, it could be used by the Advent of Complex Life team to assess the impact of a new online Webquest, although the prime target is to assist the NASA Astrobiology Institute with metrics that will document the impact of selected outreach activities. This will provide critical feedback that will improve future outreach activities.

The project was coded in PHP and MySQL and was released using the GPL v3 license on GitHub (http://github.com/peetucket/ImpactProbe). The current system has the following features:

  • any number of projects can be set up with any number of keywords
  • currently using Twitter and RSS feeds as sources)
  • plot trend lines, overall or restricted by keywords, to visualize activity over time
  • cluster results to see how similar or different the results are and adjust clustering threshold

Peter Mangiafico attended the Google Summer of Code 2010 Mentor Summit on October 23-24 in Mountain View, CA.