Precision medicine hackathon and curation coming

Preliminary analysis or your work on the Relationship Extraction task

We have been working on a preliminary analysis of the relationship extraction data generated by our fantastic Mark2Curators. This analysis is in the process of being written up into an academic paper and if your data was used for this paper, you will be given option of being credited on a page on our site dedicated to the contributors for this paper. We expect to have an email notifying contributors to the data set out by early next week, so keep an eye out for it.

San Diego Hackathon / Curation Jamboree

If you are in San Diego the week of October 14th, and have a background in software development, engineering, computational biology, bioinformatics, pathology, oncology, genomics, or biocuration--there is a hackathon/curation jamboree happening on October 15th-October 16th. The event is a joint event between the Griffith Labs, Su and Wu Labs and will cost $25 to register. Mark2Cure is a project of the Su Lab focusing on biomedical literature curation; while, the hackathon is focused on the CIViC resource from the Griffith labs. CIViC is an open access, open source, community-driven web resource for Clinical Interpretation of Variants in Cancer which aims to enable precision medicine by providing an educational forum for dissemination of knowledge and active discussion of the clinical significance of cancer genome alterations. You can learn more about this event at:

World Alzheimer Day

In case you missed it, September 21st is World Alzheimer’s day, and our friends at EyesOnAlz will be holding a world-wide Catchathon. Our very own TAdams organized a local team to participate in a previous Catchathon. If members of the Mark2Cure community are interested in teaming up and contributing with other Mark2Curators for this Catchathon, we would be happy to organize a Mark2Cure team for the event. Otherwise, if you are interested in contributing to Alzheimer’s research from the comfort of your own computer on an individual basis, we 100% encourage you to do so!

Science by the people and for the people—introducing a new Citizen Science project from the Knight Lab at UCSD

If you’ve ever wished that there was a citizen science project for answering questions about how nutrition and other habits affect health and other outcomes—there’s now a new platform to address your questions. This platform, Galileo, comes from the Knight Lab at the University of California, San Diego—the same lab that is responsible for the American Gut project!

Here’s how it works:
gutinstinct Learn more at

Happy Citizen Science Day Hero Badge Hunting!

Citizen Science Day was April 14th this year, and Mark2Cure partnered with the San Diego Public Library to host a local Citizen Science Expo. Of course, many of our wonderful contributors are not in San Diego and could not attend the event. For those of you who wish to get in on the Citizen Science Day excitement, we've joined the EyesOnAlz Citizen Science Day Hero challenge.

The challenge will run until 9am ET, April 21st and anyone interested in the challenge will have the opportunity to earn digital badges for just trying out (ie- registering or logging into) different citizen science projects. As Mark2Curators, you only need to log into your Mark2Cure account to earn a badge.

Learn more about this fun challenge at

Citizen Science Day 2018 is just around the corner!

San Diego Citizen Science Day Expo

Citizen Science Day is on April 14th, this year and many citizen science organizations (including yours truly) are hosting citizen science events. Here in San Diego, we've teamed up with the San Diego Public Library and the Wet Lab group to put on the 3rd annual San Diego Citizen Science Day Expo. There are a lot of exciting new entrants into the San Diego citizen science scene, and we hope you will join us in learning about them at the expo. If you're in San Diego, please join us! The details are as follows:

Who: Anyone who wants to do science
What: San Diego Citizen Science Day Expo
When: Saturday, April 14, 2018. 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Where: North University Community Library (8820 Judicial Dr, San Diego, CA 92122)

Please note that the location has changed from the previous ones due to the limited availability of parking spots at the La Jolla Library. The North University Community Library has plentiful free parking, so please visit come if you're in the area! For the most up-to-date information about this event, visit

If you're not in San Diego, there is probably an exciting Citizen Science Day event happening near you! To find a Citizen Science Day Event near you, visit

San Diego March for Science

The March for Science is also happening on April 14th in San Diego. It starts at the Waterfront park at 10:00am and ends at 1:00pm (right before our event!). If you want to show your love for science consider joining the march! If you want to DO science, be sure to join a Citizen Science Day event near you (or contribute to Mark2Cure, of course!).

Current Status of Mark2Cure

Development status and workarounds

Unfortunately, Mark2Cure no longer has a full time developer working on the project, so a lot of the issues and bugs that have been reported probably will not be fixed for a long, long time. We are very sorry for the frustration our system has caused our users and extremely grateful for the patience, graciousness, and encouragement our users have returned to us. Mark2Cure is really made up of a wonderful bunch of individuals, and we are thankful that this project has introduced us to you. Fortunately, many of you really put the science in the term citizen science and have systematically found ways to contribute productively in spite of all the issues in our system. You are all too amazing!

NER module issues: The most frustrating one has been the inability to highlight certain words, and the random highlighting/un-highlighting of words when users try to mark something. This has been reported by many users (many, many thanks to those of you who took the time to report this issue). Fortunately, one of your fellow volunpeers has found a workaround that appears to be quite robust. To get around a lot of these highlighting issues, AJ_Eckhart highlights the entire paragraph to remove the preannotations. These preannotations seem to be an important factor in this problem, and he has tested this workaround for the 'cannot-highlight-a-specific-term' bug, the 'highlighting-a-term-un-highlights-something-else', and the 'highlighting-a-term-highlights' something else' bugs.

RE module issues: A number of you have kindly taken the time to report issues with the RE module--the most common issue is the seemingly random inability to throw out an annotation. For this issue, two workarounds have been reported by our users. LadySteph has found that returning to the dashboard and then returning to the task will enable you to submit the response you wish (eg- throw out an annotation) and TAdams has reported that many of you have gravitated towards submitting 'Cannot be determined' in lieu of throwing out an annotation. We will take both workarounds into consideration when we analyze the data, so thank you all very much for contributing in spite of all these issues!

Data analysis and research status

Speaking of analyzing the data--we might not yet have enough abstracts annotated in order to generate ground-breaking, new hypotheses on NGLY1 deficiency, but we have enough for some initial analyses on the application of citizen science towards information extraction. We are working towards more scientific publications and look forward to sharing the results of your work and crediting you for your help. Note that many journal submission systems are not made to account for group names or a huge volume of names in the authorship; hence, we will continue to have our Mark2Cure contributors listed on a dedicated page which will be linked in the paper. As with our first paper, this will be an opt-in process because we respect your right to privacy. More details on opting-in will be sent via our mailing list.

CitSciMed Blitz has started!

It's on! The CitSciMedblitz week of challenges have started!

If you missed the webinar detailing the three biomedical/health citizen science research projects, it is available for viewing on youtube.
CitSciMedblitz webinar

You are welcome to participate in as many or as few of the challenges as you'd like, but a trophy will be awarded to the highest ranking participant across all THREE challenges. Read more about CitSciMedblitz from this post at

With regards to the challenges, up first (and going on now!) is the EyesOnAlz 24hr Catchathon. EyesOnAlz is an Alzheimer disease-focused citizen science project investigating stalled blood in brain images. It has a lot of cool images/videos in need of review by citizen scientists and a lot of fun features. The challenge has only just started and will run to 7am PST (3pm GMT) tomorrow (Feb. 28th) so get in on it ASAP!

The Mark2Cure challenge will start at 7am PST (3pm GMT) on Wednesday, February 28th. It is a doubly-special day because the 28th is Rare Disease Day and we have had an incredibly inspirational weekend at the Sanford Burnham Presby Rare Disease Day Symposium. We look forward to sharing rare disease stories from Mark2Curators and bringing awareness about these diseases as we tackle the literature around NGLY1 during this 24hr challenge.

Speaking of literature, our old friends at Cochrane Crowd are back with a lot of new features which you can explore during the Cochrane Screening Challenge. This challenge starts at 7am PST (3pm GMT) on Friday, March 2nd and runs for 24hrs.

CitSciMed Blitz, Rare Disease Day, and more

It's finally February which means it's time to prepare for Rare Disease Day 2018 and CitSciMedBlitz! This year's theme for Rare Disease Day continues off of last year's theme--research. According to, patients are not only subjects but also proactive actors in research--and we couldn't agree more! Mark2Cure would not be where it is now without the inspiration, contributions, and drive from our partners and contributors in the rare disease community. Mark2Curators have inspired us with their generosity, perseverance, curiosity, and overall intellectual voraciousness--and for us, Rare Disease Day is an opportunity to share about the diseases that the Mark2Cure community cares about--and not just NGLY1-deficiency. If there is a disease that you care about that you'd like us to highlight for Rare Disease Day, please get in touch.

Patients are not only subjects but also proactive actors in research.
Patients kick start research
Patients drive research
Patients organize research
Patients proactively provide data

The increasing role of patients in research is not limited to Rare Disease
As citizen science becomes increasingly popular in biomedical research, patients and care providers are becoming increasingly important partners for disease research in general. And, as many of you have pointed out--we will all be patients at some point in our lives so it's nice to be able to actively contribute to disease research.

In addition to helping to organize the knowledge surrounding NGLY1-deficiency, patients and citizen scientists have been making important contributions to Alzheimer's disease research and contributing to health evidence--all of which brings us back to CitSciMed Blitz!

CitSciMed Blitz is coming

Similar to last year's MedLitBlitz, there will be prizes for the top contributors to all THREE platforms. Only participation during the 24hr challenges will count towards the prize, however, you are welcome to register and complete the training for the other platforms prior to the event if you'd like. Learn more about the event and the other platforms here.

The Sammies award and why it matters to Mark2Cure

In case you haven't heard, David Lipman and the GenBank team are in the running for the People's Choice Award of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (#Sammies2017). Although Lipman and the GenBank team weren't featured in or other news sources, they still made it to the final four.

At this point, many of you may be wondering why we're even talking about Lipman and the GenBank team on a discussion venue meant for Mark2Cure. Mark2Cure is a citizen science project that deals in biomedical literature, and doesn't involve BLAST or Lipman or GenBank, right?

But, when you think about how much of scientific progress is incremental, you begin to appreciate the impressive volume of preceding work. This is especially true if you work on a project like Mark2Cure.

Mark2Cure aims to enable citizen scientists to help mine information from the biomedical literature, which means that Mark2Cure would NOT exist if there wasn't a massive volume of preceding and ongoing work in biomedical research. We've been able to build Mark2Cure because key information infrastructure was already in place--PubMed. Lipman launched PubMed in 1997 followed by PubMed Central in 2000. Without PubMed and the subsequent tools built for utilizing PubMed, identifying abstracts and pulling them into Mark2Cure would be more difficult.
As expected, PubMed now has over 27 million articles, up from over 26 million earlier this year Interestingly enough, Lipman's and the GenBank's team nomination for the 2017 Sammies only cursorily mention PubMed Central in favor of focusing on GenBank and his contributions to infectious disease surveillance. Perhaps describing their work this way made it more accessible to anyone not in biomedical research. Unfortunately, their profile description doesn't adequately convey how important the infrastructure they've built is to modern biomedical research in the US, open science, and Mark2Cure.

Because the Mark2Cure community consists of people who've been impacted by Lipman and the GenBank team's work, I'll spell it out here:

For members of our community who like science and like being able to read scientific articles: PubMed Central (PMC) has been a central repository for research articles that ANYONE can access and read. Thanks to NIH leadership, publications resulting from research supported by the NIH must be deposited to PMC.

For members of our community who are afflicted or know someone who is afflicted by a rare genetic disorder: GenBank has been a central repository for DNA sequences and BLAST has been an important means of searching those sequences. Without a central repository for DNA sequences, it would be a lot more difficult for researchers to map and annotate functionality associated with those sequences, to draw comparisons on protein function across the different model organisms, and most importantly, to build on each other's work. Much of what we know (or will know) about rare disease genes or proteins comes from (or will come from) expanding on the work of researchers studying worms (or flies, mice, frogs, fish, and more) thanks to the knowledge sharing enabled by PubMed and GenBank.

For the members of our community who just like to help: Mark2Cure exists because of the sheer volume of incremental progress that is represented by the publication of biomedical research articles. Incremental progress isn't as exciting or fun to talk about as scientific 'breakthroughs', but in science a lot of incremental progress had to happen in order for these 'breakthroughs' to follow.

There is so much to sift through, and every contribution from our citizen scientists unlocks a bit more information buried in the text. The Mark2Cure dream is that in unlocking information from the text, you will be able to help with 'breakthroughs' in disease research.

Although I've been rambling about the importance of Lipman and the GenBank team's work to modern biomedical research, Mark2Cure would be nothing without the community of citizen scientists that contribute to it. In no way should this discussion of Lipman and team detract from this fact.

Information extraction and the missing Mark2Cure module

In our previous post, we asked readers, 'What is your preferred moniker?'. Here is the response:

Mark2Curator: 36%
Citizen Scientist: 36%
Contributor: 18%
"Anything BUT volunpeer": 10%

Although it may seem a little strange that researchers have been struggling to find an answer to the "What's in a name?" issue for discussing citizen science, this struggle is a deeply representative of some of the important work biocurators do. "What's in a name? A citizen scientist by any other name still makes important contributions"

Researchers need a common vocabulary to be able to coherently exchange information, but settling on that vocabulary--on how that vocabulary is structured is difficult. Without a common vocabulary, it is easy for scientists to miss research that is valuable to their field of study. Although it has yet to be seen how the citizen science research community will settle this issue, in biomedical research, biocurators help with that sort of determination. Biocurators help standardize terms, define the rules governing how terms are classified and how they are organized. In doing so, they facilitate information quality control and exchange. Biocurators do all this and more.

Given that biocurators do very important, very tedious, and often very difficult work, one question we get quite a bit is:

"How is it possible to train citizen scientists to replace such important, skilled researchers?"

But this question is built on a fundamentally incorrect assumption about the goals of Mark2Cure. We KNOW biocurators do very important work, and that one of the most tedious, and time-consuming things that they do is information extraction.

Information extraction can generally be broken down into three tasks:
1. Named Entity Recognition (identifying and classifying words/phrases in text)
2. Normalization (linking that text to an ontology)
3. Relationship Extraction (identifying the relationship between different entities).

We want to train citizen scientists to help with this task, so that biocurators can apply their unique training towards solving problems in biomedical research analogous to the ones we're seeing in the citizen science field.

Since Mark2Cure is a citizen science project, the "What's in a name?" issue applies to us as well. Although our informal poll was only for fun, I was personally very happy with the results for two reasons:

1. I am a fan of wordplay, and I love that many users liked the term Mark2Curator--a term which blends Mark2Cure and biocurator. I love science puns

2. Even if I'm reading too much into it, I like to think that our users picked 'citizen scientist' or 'contributors' because they feel that the help they provide to Mark2Cure is important--because it is.

If you've gotten this far, you are probably one of our many astute readers and may have noticed that information extraction was divided into THREE tasks, when Mark2Cure only has TWO. Where is the third task? Why is it the missing task is the step in between the first and the last task?

The missing task, 'Normalization', is the task in between NER and Relationship Extraction. We started with NER because NER has been well-investigated so there was a solid foundation for us to build upon. We followed with the relationship extraction task because this would allow us to unlock some of the most difficult to access and valuable information in the text.

As for the Normalization's currently in being built by volunteers. Mark2Curators have been helping us investigate NER mappings to different ontologies, and a very talented programmer and machine learning expert has been busy building the Normalization module. But we could use more help. We need feedback on potential interfaces for how parts of the module might work. If you'd like to help with that, answer the poll in our newsletter.

Of note for our U.S.-based Mark2Curators over 65 years of age.

Did you know? US National Park Services has a lifetime pass for seniors that will allow you to enter or park at US national parks for free or at a discounted rate. These passes only cost $10 now through August 27th. After August 28th, the price will go up to $80.

If you enjoy hiking, nature, or plan to visit any of our beautiful national parks, you may want to get your pass while it's still $10. In San Diego, the closest national park where you can purchase one in person is Cabrillo. To find the national park closest to you, visit the NPS's site. If you don't live near a park, but plan on visiting some in the future, you can purchase a pass by mail or online.

Join Mark2Cure and Dazzle4Rare

From August 13th to August 20th, Mark2Cure will be participating in the #Dazzle4Rare campaign to raise awareness for rare diseases. Did you know? About 10% of the population lives with a rare disease, and roughly 50% of rare diseases don’t have any sort of disease-specific foundation to support or research those diseases. See more interesting statistics about rare disease at Global Genes.
If you have a rare disease story you would like us to highlight for the campaign, please get in touch!

What's new in Mark2Cure?
The EDEM1 Entity Recognition mission is over 95% complete, please help us finish it so we can launch the next one. If it seems like we’ve been quiet lately it’s because we’ve been preparing for some major updates. If you’re curious about what’s in the pipeline or would like to preview/provide feedback for potential future interface designs, we’d LOVE to hear from you! Your feedback is how we improve! If not for our many marvelous Mark2Curators providing constructive criticism, Mark2Cure would be a clunky and more difficult to use platform.

Speaking of our volunteers, citizen scientists, participants, contributors, volunpeers, and Mark2Curators…there was an interesting discussion earlier today within the citizen science community on the best way to address the amazing people who help make science happen. In fact, a bunch of researchers even wrote an interesting paper about the pros and cons of different terminology

Which takes us to our current poll.

Lastly, there is an ongoing effort to increase discussion, collaboration, and cooperation within the citizen science (or whatever you wish to call it) community. This has led our friend Alice to introduce #CitSciStories. You may think that your contributions to science in your spare time are no big deal, but from the perspective of the researchers who rely on these are amazing! Inspiring! Awesome beyond words! We love what you do and we love learning from you and getting to know you. If you'd like to share your story and inspire others to help science, please get in touch with Alice (@PenguinGalaxy). You can learn more about the #CitSciStories effort, here.

Upcoming #CitSciChat on Biomedical Citizen Science

New Mark2Cure Video added to our youtube playlist!

The Citizen Science Conference in May was very productive, and the last of Mark2Cure's recorded talks is now available on our youtube channel. As previously mentioned, Max delivered the project slam for Mark2Cure and was selected as one of the top three to deliver an abbreviated version during the 'Night in the Clouds' event.

View the two-minute talk here:

Biomedical CitSciChat on Wed. July 19th, at 11:00am PT

Speaking of the conference, we were able to connect in person with a lot of lovely people in the citizen science arena, especially the amazing people from @EyesOnAlz, @CitSciBio, and @CochraneCrowd. Because we're all passionate about bringing citizen science to biomedical research, we organized a panel for a biomedical #citscichat. Caren Cooper (@CoopSciScoop) kindly agreed to moderate the chat as usual, and Pietro (@pmichelu, @EyezOnAlz) was able to convince @foldit's Seth Cooper to join the panel.

What: Hour long chat on biomedical citizen science (#CitSciChat)

Where: online via twitter

When: Wed July 19 2:00pm ET (11:00am PT)

Why: Because citizen science is used in biomedical research too

Who: Everyone interested in citizen science is welcome to join this chat which will be moderated by citizen science expert and author, Caren Cooper. The panel so far includes:

  • Mark2Cure of course! Mark2Cure is a citizen science project for addressing the big data issue of biomedical literature. Citizen scientists help look for clues about NGLY1-deficiency in curated literature. (@Mark2Cure/@gtsueng, @x0xmaximus, @AndrewSu)
  • Cochrane Crowd is a citizen science project from the Cochrane Collaborative, and also looks to make biomedical literature more useful. Citizen Scientists help identify randomized controlled trials so that Cochrane Reviewers can use them to answer important medical questions. (@Cochrane_Crowd, @annanoelstorr)
  • EyesOnAlz/Stall Catchers is a citizen science project from the Human Computation Institute to identify blood blockages in short videos of the brain. Their game is super fun, helps with Alzheimer's research AND they have a major event (Catchathon) coming up. If you would like to host a local catchathon, check out this post. (@EyesOnAlz, @seplute, @Clair_csg, @pmichelu)
  • CitSciBio is NIH's new biomedical citizen science hub. It is sponsored by the Division of Cancer Biology at the National Cancer Institute. There are tools for collaborating, creating projects, and now you can login via your scistarter account. (@citscibio)
  • is a long standing, and very successful citizen science game which empowers gamers and volunteers to help determine the structure of proteins important to biomedical research. Seth Cooper from Northeastern University has agreed to join the panel to share about this wildly successful project. (@UWGameScience)
  • Beat the heat and help science!

    Need an excuse to stay indoors, avoid chores, and avoid the summer heat? Look no further! One of our current missions is over 80% complete. Help us finish it!

    Happy Fathers Day!

    A HUGE thanks to all the dads (and EVERYONE) who has been contributing to make a difference for the NGLY1 families.

    Shipping delays Apologies to international prize and drawing winners who were waiting for their prizes. Most of the international packages that we shipped out in May/June have been returned to us due to customs issues (fortunately, this happened at some point prior to shipping so the postage on these is still good, unfortunately, it took a long time for these to get back to us so we can address the issue). We’ll be trying again to get these out ASAP.

    Max’s original project slam now online As mentioned in our previous newsletter, Max delivered the project slam for Mark2Cure at the Citizen Science Conference in Minnesota. The project slam talks were supposed to have been recorded and still may be released by the Citizen Science Association someday, but we couldn’t wait. Here’s our recording of Max’s project slam. He finished within his allotted four minutes, and was engaging enough to win one of three invitations to deliver an even shorter version of the slam at an even the following day.
    You can check it out here:

    You be the scientist! One thing we’ve heard (and quite agree with) at the Citizen Science Conference is that trained volunteers are capable of doing more than simple tasks. Mark2Curators have very much fed into the tutorial process, and played an important role in testing and improving the design of the interface. The entities our users have identified from the text have already yielded interesting clues which we’ve used to expand the set of documents to investigate, and by now, there are users who have read a lot of abstracts—A LOT! If you’ve read something that sticks out in your mind as being potentially related to NGLY1-deficiency, share it with us! We’d love to hear YOUR hypothesis on what might be an interesting term to explore and why.