Scientists and Amateur Radio Operators Come Together at the 2019 HamSCI Workshop

Scientists and Amateur Radio Operators Come Together at the 2019 HamSCI Workshop

Wednesday, August 21, 2019 - 10:23

By Nathaniel A. Frissell (W2NAF), Philip J. Erickson (W1PJE), Ethan S. Miller (K8GU), William Liles (NQ6Z), Kristina Collins (KD8OXT), David Kazdan (AD8Y), and Nathaniel Vishner (KB1QHX)

Photo by Laura Gooch (N8NFE)

The Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) is an international collective of professional researchers and amateur radio operators working together to simultaneously advance the fields of space science and amateur (ham) radio activities. The 2nd US HamSCI meeting was held March 22-23, 2019, organized by Nathaniel Frissell of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and hosted by the Case Amateur Radio Club (Case ARC) at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, OH. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Ionospheric Effects and Sensing,” which includes the use of amateur radio techniques for the characterization and observational study of ionospheric phenomena such as traveling ionospheric disturbances, sporadic E, response to solar flares, geomagnetic storms, and other space weather events.

The annual HamSCI meeting is designed to provide an opportunity for both the amateur radio and professional research communities to come together and share ideas. There are over 730,000 hams in the United States, and about 3 million worldwide, ranging in age from very young to very old, and in experience from neophyte to highly experienced with advanced technical degrees. Hams are federally licensed and identified by a station call sign, such as W8EDU, the Case ARC call. Many hams have significant amounts of practical experience using their radios to communicate under all sorts of geophysical conditions, and have developed a keen observational ability to maximize their enjoyment and communications ability. This quality provides a unique perspective and excellent citizen science potentials when asking scientific questions or even analyzing observations. Conversely, the professional research community brings to the table a deep knowledge of space and ionospheric physics based on years of research, an understanding of where the boundaries of that knowledge lie, what science questions are of greatest interest in the field, and the rigor of the scientific process.

Every aspect of the HamSCI 2019 meeting was designed to create a forum that was both interesting and accessible to both the amateur and professional communities. The meeting took place on a Friday and Saturday, allowing both professionals and amateurs to attend at least one day. Friday was organized in the format of a traditional science workshop, with a full day’s program of oral technical and scientific presentations. Workshop participants presented results of experiments conducted using data from large-scale amateur radio observation networks such as the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) and the Weak Signal Propagation Reporting Network (WSPRNet).  Also covered were Doppler shift and timing variability measurements using signals of opportunity such as US National Institute of Standards and Technology time dissemination station WWV, and discussions on plans for citizen science experiments studying ionospheric impacts of the upcoming 8 Apr 2024 total solar eclipse. On Friday afternoon, presentations focused on the design and development of a Personal Space Weather Station, a HamSCI project to create a citizen science device for making ground-based space weather measurements.

The Saturday program departed from the standard convention of oral technical presentations, including invited tutorials and a demonstration room, along with tours of the W8EDU Case Amateur Radio Station and the CWRU think[box] center for innovation and entrepreneurship. The invited tutorials entitled Ham Radio for Space Scientists and Space Science for Ham Radio Operators, were given by prominent amateur radio operator Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, and MIT Haystack Observatory Research Scientist Larisa Goncharenko, respectively. The demonstration room on Saturday afternoon featured hands-on presentations of new technologies by ham radio operators with the potential to be used as instrumentation in scientific investigations.

Amateur radio author Ward Silver, N0AX, addressed the workshop as keynote speaker on the Friday night banquet. “Science, Service, and Skill” are the words Silver emphasized in his talk, noting that the people at the HamSCI Workshop have the skills and desire to make meaningful contributions to science and create “Ham Radio 2.0.”

Space and radio science are now at a very exciting point in history, and the amateur radio community has both the technical skills and the desire to make significant contributions to these fields. By working with professional researchers who know the scientific process and open questions in the field, these efforts will be most fruitful. The 2019 HamSCI Workshop was able to successfully bring together leading members of both communities and has proven to be a fertile ground for the sharing and development of ideas between the amateurs and professionals. Workshop report, videos, and PDFs are available at


The 2019 HamSCI Workshop was hosted by the Case ARC W8EDU and Case Western Reserve University. The local organizing committee consisted of Kristina Collins (KD8OXT, Chair), David Kazdan (AD8Y, Advisor), and Nathaniel Vishner (KB1QHX). The Science/Program Committee comprised of Nathaniel Frissell (W2NAF, Chair, NJIT), Phil Erickson (W1PJE, MIT Haystack Observatory), Ethan Miller (K8GU, JHU/APL), and William Liles (NQ6Z, HamSCI Community). AV support was provided by George Byrkit (K9TRV, TAPR). We gratefully acknowledge the support of NSF Grant AGS-1916690.