PhD Studentship – How interaction design and mobile mapping influence participation in Citizen Science?
24 February, 2011
Geographic and scientific information created by amateur citizens, represents a shift from authoritative data towards information generated by the general public through collaboration. The increasing emergence of such data has been brought about by the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, and mirrors other information sharing activities such as Wikipedia and Flickr. Such activity has also contributed towards the emergence of citizen science where the general public not only collect scientific data (such as noise or pollution information) but also participate in its processing and interpretation, benefitting as a group from the resulting output. Much of this information is geographic in nature and can be communicated to the participants through maps and geographic visualisations.
The PhD forms part of, and will be contextualised by, the European Union FP7 project everyAware. This project will integrate digital technologies and theoretical analytical techniques to collect both physical measurements and subjective opinions about environmental conditions – such as pollution measurements for cyclists alongside their impressions of the environment – using crowd-sourcing techniques on mobile devices (such as Android devices or iPhone – for example, see www.noisetube.net). The data, collected through four case study sites in the UK and Europe, will be analysed and user-oriented results fed back to the end users. A crucial challenge for this project is the seamless integration of participatory sensing with subjective opinions, allowing the investigation into the opinion dynamics mechanisms taking place in the communities. Within this project, UCL team is responsible for the building of a set of tools that will enable citizens to integrate live, personalised environmental information in their behavioral choices and orientations. The research will investigate, both theoretically and empirically, the drivers of shifts in public opinion, with subsequent changes in individual behaviour, by means of targeted environmental knowledge and information dissemination.
More specifically, the PhD will examine two aspects of citizen science:
- Whether factors such as human-computer software interface design, interaction processes, access to maps of the resulting scientific data and associated qualitative information can be used to recruit people to citizen science projects.
- Can these concepts be used to retain participants and encourage additional, more regular, ongoing and repeated contributions to such activities.
Given the technical nature of the project, we expect that the candidate will have a strong background in programming, preferably including experience of application development for mobile devices. The candidate should also hold an MSc. in Computer Science, Geographical Information Systems, Human-Computer Interaction or other related disciplines. An interest in interaction and usability, in particular looking at the perspective of non-expert users, would be an asset. This position is open to all European Union Citizens. The stipend will be at least £16,500 (tax-free). Additionally, PhD tuition fees will be paid for by the everyAware project. Some travel may be required to everyAware Case Study locations in the UK and Europe.
Please send a CV and a personal statement explaining your interest in citizen science, usability and geographic information, why you are interested in the project and how you would approach the development of a mobile application for everyAware, with examples of previous software development to me at email@example.com
Application Closing Date: 1st May 2011
7 January, 2011
EveryAware is a three-year research project, funded under the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
The project’s focus is on the development of Citizen Science techniques to allow people to find out about their local environmental conditions, and then to see if the provision of this information leads to behaviour change.
The abstract of the project highlights the core topics that will be covered:
‘The enforcement of novel policies may be triggered by a grassroots approach, with a key contribution from information and communication technology (ICT). Current low-cost sensing technologies allow the citizens to directly assess the state of the environment; social networking tools allow effective data and opinion collection and real-time information-spreading processes. Moreover theoretical and modelling tools developed by physicists, computer scientists and sociologists allow citizens to analyse, interpret and visualise complex data sets.
‘The proposed project intends to integrate all crucial phases (environmental monitoring, awareness enhancement, behavioural change) in the management of the environment in a unified framework, by creating a new technological platform combining sensing technologies, networking applications and data-processing
tools; the Internet and the existing mobile communication networks will provide the infrastructure hosting this platform, allowing its replication in different times and places. Case studies concerning different numbers of participants will test the scalability of the platform, aiming to involve as many citizens as possible thanks to
low cost and high usability. The integration of participatory sensing with the monitoring of subjective opinions is novel and crucial, as it exposes the mechanisms by which the local perception of an environmental issue, corroborated by quantitative data, evolves into socially-shared opinions, and how the latter, eventually, drives behavioural changes. Enabling this level of transparency critically allows an effective communication of desirable environmental strategies to the general public and to institutional agencies.’
The project will be coordinated by Fondazione ISI (Institute for Scientific Interchange) and the Physics department at Sapienza Università di Roma. Other participants include the L3S Research Center at the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität, Hannover, and finally the Environmental Risk and Health unit at the Flemish Institute of Technological Research (VITO).
At UCL, I will run the project together with Dr Claire Ellul. We will focus on Citizen Science, the interaction with mobile phones for data collection and understanding behaviour change. We are looking for a PhD student to work on this project so, if this type of activity is of interest, get it touch.