2015 Kelvin medal and prize

Professor Christopher Lintott, University of Oxford, for his major contributions to public engagement with science through conventional media (especially through television) and by leading citizen science projects through Zooniverse, opening a new chapter in the history of science by enabling hundreds of thousands of people to participate in the process of scientific discovery.

Professor Christopher Lintott

Chris Lintott is the principal investigator behind the Zooniverse project, the world’s most successful and significant platform for citizen science. Especially through its astronomical projects, including Galaxy Zoo and Planet Hunters, and the more recent Higgs Hunters (in collaboration with the ATLAS team), the platform has enabled its more than a million registered volunteers to make valuable contributions to science.

Zooniverse projects, which make use of the human ability to excel at pattern recognition, have contributed to more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, including many that involve citizen scientists as co-authors. The projects also have real educational impact; as volunteers participate they show evidence of learning content not directly presented by the sites – participation acts as an “engine of motivation”, inspiring volunteers to undertake independent reading, visit science museums, and so on. Projects have also been used in museums, notably at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, where Lintott serves as a trustee.

Lintott’s commitment to education stretches beyond citizen science. Since 2003 he has been a co-presenter on the BBC’s long-running The Sky at Night programme, which is now established in its new home on BBC4, with viewing figures exceeding 500,000 a month. He led the show's coverage of the Philae landing on a comet, resulting in an hour-long special broadcast just four days after the landing. Lintott also presented ongoing coverage of Philae and other issues for Newsnight throughout the year. These programmes established the clear need for an expert presenter; Lintott's grasp of the subject enabled the The Sky at Night's coverage to be timely and yet in depth. As one of three media representatives allowed into mission control for the final signals received, his social media presence also acted as a key conduit between the science teams and the outside world.