GSoC 2021 project idea 15.2: AutSPACEs: a co-created citizen science platform

AutSPACEs is a co-created, participatory, citizen-science platform which will be used to investigate how sensory processing differences affect the daily experiences of autistic people. By collecting together diverse real-world experiences, contributed by autistic citizen scientists, we will build a dataset which can be used to make recommendations to improve autistic people’s lives. The platform will also provide a safe and inclusive space to share stories, strategies, and build a community of contributors, which will be facilitated by a community-led, co-created moderation process and code of conduct. Supported by extensive research, and the collaborative input of autistic people and their families, we are currently building up a working prototype.

Integral to the platform is a fine-grained consent model which allows users to specify who they would like their data to be shared with, and for what purposes. The platform will also grant each user dynamic control of their data. This is supported by integration with a backend infrastructure provided by Open Humans. Open Humans is a foundation which enables research participants to have awareness and understanding of, as well as an agency over, their own data. Supporting data agency and transparent data management is critical to the platform’s design.

In summary, AutSPACEs enables rich, scalable, community-led research to be conducted in a way that is both transparent and encourages agency. Furthermore, as an openly licensed and publicly documented research tool, others can freely re-use, build on or adapt it to investigate other research questions.

Technical details

The platform is being built openly on GitHub. Data, documentation, details, and community recommendations, as well as supporting documents, protocols, and more, are all publicly available on our project management repository. The platform development takes place in a separate, linked repository: AutSPACEs using the Python/Django web development framework. Users will be able to share experiences through a website, which will then be deposited into a backend database supported by Open Humans. All stages of the project are being conducted in collaboration with autistic people, and we are committed to being open and transparent throughout.

GSoC project plan

We are seeking a GSOC mentee with web development skills to work on building the platform with a researcher and an experienced developer. This will involve elements of UX/UI design focussing on the needs and preferences of autistic collaborators. We are able to offer a unique opportunity for a GSOC mentee to grow their technical proficiency and collaborative skills in the context of innovative, impact-focussed research. We will provide our mentee with a firm grounding in the emerging best practices of open source development and research. They will also be welcomed into the The Turing Way community. Depending on their preferences and interests, they will be invited to join the The Turing Way community who are building an open source book to improve data science practices, to work with autistic collaborators on participatory design, and to help promote the platform to onboard new developers.

Expected outcome

Over the course of the 10 week period, we expect the mentee to progress the prototype through web development and design and to work with autistic community members to implement search and moderation processes.

Required skills

  • Basic version control using GitHub
  • Python
  • Test-driven development
  • Skills or interests in UI/UX design
  • Basic web development: ability to design and develop new web links and pages
  • Clear, concise, and responsive communication and documentation
  • Respect for, and the ability to work with, diverse collaborators.

Optional skills

  • Django
  • Containers, docker
  • Continuous integration
  • Deployment and hosting
  • Lived experience of autism

Possible mentors

Tags: GitHub, Python, Django, UI/UX design, web development

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Apologies to some viewers!!

This is the link to the project github.

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This is a very brilliant proposal at the Incf’s helm, to enable Technology for autism affected.
Hope students come and watch this space.
Is the GitHub repo currently the single source of knowledge or are there any documentational handbooks too?

Hi Georgia and James, this project is very interesting to me as a python developer and mental health advocate. Thanks for posting the repo and look forward to further discussions with you regarding the project : )

Hi everyone! I’m sorry that I haven’t been checking here very well!

I just wanted to let @malin know that Anushka is working on a full application in collaboration with me. I’m delighted to work with her and keeping fingers crossed that we’ll have a slot for GSOC :smiley_cat:

Thanks for the notice! I’d recommend you to post a draft to the portal as soon as you have something reasonable; you can update it until deadline.

Thanks Malin! Would it be ok for Anouskha to send you a copy of her application for you to check over? What’s the best way to send it to you?

Email is fine ( or just sharing a google doc.

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@malin @arnab1896 @KirstieJane - This is my status update for the first week of coding

Status Update - Week 1
This week I completed working on the landing page for the AutSPACEs website with reference to the simplified wire frames created with the needs of the autistic people in mind. I also pushed my work to the AutSPACEs repository. In addition to this, I attended a platform development co-working session where I explained to the new contributors how to solve issues from the repo and how the backend database Open Humans works. I also helped some contributors set up docker on their machine and build the website on the computer. I’ve also started working on the Share Experiences page.

My plan for next week is to complete the Share Experiences page and integrate the pages made by me and another contributor into Django to implement the user flow of the website. I would also want to complete other static pages like the My Stories page which is part of Milestone 2 which we trying to complete as soon as possible.

As of now, the only blocker I’ve faced is trying to build the documentation on my machine. There was an issue with installing a new version of Python which stopped my terminal from opening. However, I was able to fix that issue but had to revert back to my previous version. The documentation, unfortunately needs that new Python version to run a package called poetry which installs dependencies to build the documentation. I talked a lot to the lead developer regarding this and I’m planning to try using pyenv to do this. However, the documentation build isn’t a major priority as of now as the main code needs to be written first. I will definitely try pyenv later to see if that fixes the issue.

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Thanks for the report! /Malin

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Great stuff @Anoushka_Ramesh! Thank you!

Are you also capturing these reports in the AutisticaCitizenScience GitHub repository? Let me know if you need any help finding where to put them :smile_cat:

Copy and paste is totally fine!

Thanks! @KirstieJane
I will be including this in the AutisticaCitizenScience repo today :+1:

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@malin @arnab1896 @KirstieJane - This is my status update for the second week of coding

Status Update - Week 2
This week I completed making the Share Experiences Page according to the simplified wireframes and sent a PR - Added landing page by anoura12 · Pull Request #114 · alan-turing-institute/AutSPACEs · GitHub
I also tried integrating the landing page into the site and connecting it with the existing sign in authorisation to Open Humans which worked. The View Experiences page handled by another contributor had a couple of issues regarding Bootstrap. I’ve helped her out with what needs to be done so that can be ready to integrate into the site. In addition to this, I helped other new contributors with building the site locally and explaining the entire code base to them so that they know where exactly to contribute. As of now, we’d almost be completing Milestone 2 and we’ll be starting Milestone 3.

My plan for next week is to integrate all the static pages from Milestone 2 into the site so that I have the basic user flow in place. I will also create a small basic guide for Bootstrap in the repository for beginners to refer to it while contributing as instructed by the community manager.

As of this week, no blockers have popped up.

@malin @arnab1896 @KirstieJane

Status Update - Week 3 (21st June - 27th June)
This week I integrated my pages into Django where now you can enter experiences through that page and it will be stored in a local database for now. The landing page for now contains the sign in button which directs the user to Open Humans for project authorisation. By the end of this week, we should have an MVP of the site up and running.

My plan for next week is to ensure that MVP is set up and presented to the community in the week after.

One blocker I had was to completely finalise on a definite sign up flow for the site. I would be talking to Bastian who is a part of Open Humans to get some guidance on how to go about this and also get that finalised by next week.

Status Update - Week 4 (28th June - 4th July) (I did send this to @arnab1896 by email last week as this post wasn’t accepting more than 3 consecutive replies. I realise I can edit this here)

  • Made changes in PR #114 and #115 after review by James. They should be merged after James gives one final review.
  • Added some items to checklist in issue #119 and set a date to show the MVP to the community.


  • Present MVP to the community
  • Add documentation for the code
  • List feedback from the community and make changes

Missed out on a bit of time due to side effects from the vaccine. Will be covering up remaining work this weekend.

@malin @arnab1896 @KirstieJane
Status Update - Week 5 (5th July - 11th July)

  • PRs #114 and #115 got merged.
  • Integrated the pages of the site and created an MVP.
  • Presented the MVP to the autistic community in yesterday’s community call and got some feedback.


  • Start integrating the sign up and moderation aspects which were still under development by their respective contributors.
  • Start adding documentation for the code
  • Start looking into Milestone 3


Status Update - Week 6 (12th July - 18th July)

  • Discussed about what the moderation process will be on site, how the moderators will be assigned, and what kind of communication will the moderator have with the user. It was decided to move the sign up process to Milestone 3
  • Completed first GSoC evaluation
  • Worked on PR#117 and #116


  • Push final changes to both PRs
  • Start adding documentation for the code


Status Update - Week 7 (19th July - 25th July)

  • Completed pushing changes to PR #117 and #116 and got merged
  • Started working on issue #138
  • Had productive discussions on moderation and decided how we’d be starting Milestone 3


  • Complete issue #138
  • Take up issues in Milestone 3


Status Update - Week 8 (26th July - 1st August)

  • Pushed PRs #146, #147, #143
  • Started working on creating an issue for integrating the View Experiences page for Milestone 3
  • Had productive discussions on Open Humans and integrating the page with the backend.


  • Complete writing up issue on View Experiences
  • Start looking into the moderation pages for the site


Status Update - Week 9 (2nd August - 8th August)

  • Made a couple of changes in PR #151
  • Made an issue for Milestone 3 regarding integration of the my_stories page


  • Start planning the GSoC work report
  • Wrap up any pending work


Status Update - Week 10 (9th August - 15th August)

  • Took up issue #157 regarding integration of the view experiences page
  • Issue that I made for my_stories got reviewed and verified and it’s taken up by another contributor
  • Completed half of my GSoC work report


  • Complete work report