Going global thanks to citizen science

Commentary
By: 
Jennifer Listman
Baby Sleep Study Collaborator

In total, we now have around 1000 babies from all over the world whose naps, meals, and diaper changes will be the start of NYU Baby Sleep Study’s database. We want to thank everyone who has joined. In particular, we are grateful for the cooperation of the developers of the Baby Connect app and the former and current users who responded to Baby Connect’s email about our study.

Many of you already had logged information about your children when they were babies and might not even be using the app, anymore. That information, which helped you keep track of things in the past, is now extremely valuable to this study. New parents joining the study will contribute, going forward. Whether you log data for two weeks, several months, or an entire year, you will make a meaningful contribution through #citizenscience. We have shared some initial results of the study and over the coming months we’ll be posting more summaries of the data you’re contributing. Additionally, you can compare your baby's sleep patterns with others in the study with the our new interactive web app.

Why are we so excited about a list of your baby’s daily activities? What could scientists possibly learn from these bits and pieces from a day in the life of your child? This information from one baby on its own doesn’t amount to much. But combined from hundreds and, eventually, thousands of other babies, it will become a powerful well of information from which we can identify patterns. We aim to build this into the largest and most dense database about normal infant development, which isn’t possible without assistance from participants like you. 

We can then use the dataset to test hypotheses about how and when typical sleeping and eating patterns develop and what factors contribute to this - birth order? birth weight? sex? none of those? We also want to examine whether or not some of the sleeping and digestion disturbances common in children with autism can be identified, early on. Since we’ve only begun - it could take 2 or 3 years before we accumulate enough to reach our goals.

Care givers all over the world are logging data for the NYU Baby Sleep Study

When a data set is small, what may look like a trend or association could be due solely to chance. Scientists and medical professionals only consider a finding to be useful for making decisions if it is statistically significant. This refers to how sure we can be that a difference or relationship exists between two factors and how strong the relationship is. Very large data sets give results for which scientists can have more confidence which is why every nap, meal, and diaper change our participants log is important to us, to science, and eventually, we hope, for the public. Thank you again, for taking the time join NYU Baby Sleep Study.