Citizens Disrupt podcast on Extreme Citizen Science

Around July, Linda Doyle got in touch with me, with a request for an interview for a mini-series of podcasts on citizen science as part of the Science Disrupt podcasts. The Science Disrupt series got plenty of interesting episodes – a mini-series on Responsible Science, DIY Bio, Crowdfunding research, and many other topics.

The specific mini-series on citizen science is now out and is called “Citizens Disrupt“. The episodes that have been released so far, cover the areas of contributory projects – those that are led by scientists and members of the public join in and help; a special attention to citizen science within DIY Bio, and an episode that is dedicated to bottom-up, community-led citizen science, which is titled “extreme citizen science“. There is an interview with me, a talk with Dana Lewis and her DIY approach to supporting diabetes patients in their daily life, and Erik Johnston from Arizona State University.  You can find the series here and listen to the podcast on your favourite platform. I very much looking forward to the next episodes!

In my explanation of extreme citizen science, I’ve used the examples of community-led air quality monitoring which is a good example of how a specific scientific methodology can serve multiple needs and aims.



Papers from PPGIS 2017 meeting: state of the art and examples from Poland and the Czech Republic

dsc_0079About a year ago, the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, hosted the PPGIS 2017 workshop (here are my notes from the first day and the second day). Today, four papers from the workshop were published in the journal Quaestiones Geographicae which was established in 1974 as an annual journal of the Faculty of Geographical and Geological Sciences at the university.

The four papers (with their abstracts) are:

Muki Haklay, Piotr Jankowski, and Zbigniew Zwoliński: SELECTED MODERN METHODS AND TOOLS FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN URBAN PLANNING – A REVIEW “The paper presents a review of contributions to the scientific discussion on modern methods and tools for public participation in urban planning. This discussion took place in Obrzycko near Poznań, Poland. The meeting was designed to allow for an ample discussion on the themes of public participatory geographic information systems, participatory geographic information systems, volunteered geographic information, citizen science, Geoweb, geographical information and communication technology, Geo-Citizen participation, geo-questionnaire, geo-discussion, GeoParticipation, Geodesign, Big Data and urban planning. Participants in the discussion were scholars from Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the USA. A review of public participation in urban planning shows new developments in concepts and methods rooted in geography, landscape architecture, psychology, and sociology, accompanied by progress in geoinformation and communication technologies.
The discussions emphasized that it is extremely important to state the conditions of symmetric cooperation between city authorities, urban planners and public participation representatives, social organizations, as well as residents”

Jiří Pánek PARTICIPATORY MAPPING IN COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION – CASE STUDY OF JESENÍK, CZECH REPUBLIC “Community participation has entered the 21st century and the era of e-participation, e-government and e-planning. With the opportunity to use Public Participation Support Systems, Computer-Aided Web Interviews and crowdsourcing mapping platforms, citizens are equipped with the tools to have their voices heard. This paper presents a case study of the deployment of such an online mapping platform in Jeseník, Czech Republic. In total, 533 respondents took part in the online mapping survey, which included six spatial questions. Respondents marked 4,714 points and added 1,538 comments to these points. The main aim of the research was to find whether there were any significant differences in the answers from selected groups (age, gender, home location) of respondents. The results show largest differences in answers of various (below 20 and above 20 year) age groups. Nevertheless, further statistical examination would be needed to confirm the visual comparison”.

Edyta Bąkowska-Waldmann, Cezary Brudka, and Piotr Jankowski: LEGAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE USE OF GEOWEB METHODS FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN SPATIAL PLANNING IN POLAND: EXPERIENCES, OPINIONS AND CHALLENGES “Geoweb methods offer an alternative to commonly used public participation methods in spatial planning. This paper discusses two such geoweb methods – geo-questionnaire and geo-discussion in the context of their initial applications within the spatial planning processes in Poland. The paper presents legal and organizational framework for the implementation of methods, provides their development details, and assesses insights gained from their deployment in the context of spatial planning in Poland. The analysed case studies encompass different spatial scales ranging from major cities in Poland (Poznań and Łódź) to suburban municipalities (Rokietnica and Swarzędz in Poznań Agglomeration). The studies have been substantiated by interviews with urban planners and local authorities on the use and value of Geoweb methods in public consultations.”

Michał Czepkiewicz, Piotr Jankowski, and Zbigniew Zwoliński: GEO-QUESTIONNAIRE: A SPATIALLY EXPLICIT METHOD FOR ELICITING PUBLIC PREFERENCES, BEHAVIOURAL PATTERNS, AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE – AN OVERVIEW “Geo-questionnaires have been used in a variety of domains to collect public preferences, behavioural patterns, and spatially-explicit local knowledge, for academic research and environmental and urban planning. This paper provides an overview of the method focusing on the methodical characteristics of geo-questionnaires including software functions, types of collected data, and techniques of data analysis. The paper also discusses broader methodical
issues related to the practice of deploying geo-questionnaires such as respondent selection and recruitment, representativeness, and data quality. The discussion of methodical issues is followed by an overview of the recent examples of geo-questionnaire applications in Poland, and the discussion of socio-technical aspects of geo-questionnaire use in spatial planning”

These papers provide examples from Participatory GIS in Poland and the Czech Republic, which are worth examining, as well as our review of the major themes from the workshop. All the papers are open access.

Digital Representations of Place: Urban Overlays and Digital Justice

dsc_1026Summary of the session on Digital Representation of Place at the RGS-IBG conference in Cardiff. The session aim was to address the following challenge: “Over the last few decades, our cities have become increasingly digital. Urban environments are layered with data and algorithms that fundamentally shape our geographic interactions: impacting how we perceive, move through, and use space. Spatial justice is thus inextricably tied to data justice, and it has become imperative to ask questions about who owns, controls, shapes, and has access to those augmented and hybrid digital/physical layers of place. Now that over half of humanity is connected to the internet, do we see greater levels of representation of, and participation from, previously digitally disconnected populations? Or are our digitally dense environments continuing to amplify inequalities rather than alleviate them? A growing body of knowledge documents the societal impact such digital representations can have, for example when they favour the interests of one privileged group (such as tourists) at the expense of others. We seek to systematise this knowledge, and to provide guidance for practitioners, researchers, and policy-makers to address imbalances and inequalities in representation.”
An Introduction to Digital Representations of Place
Mark Graham (University of Oxford, UK) Martin Dittus (University of Oxford, UK)
dsc_1027A bit of background on information geography.  Information geography is about a way to represent a place online – e.g. a place on Wikipedia – place, coordinates, and the fact that the information is coded also as a database, so it’s possible to map the unevenness of digital representation of the work. So information geography is asking at looking at the digital and the physical world (definition in Graham, Zook and Boulton 2013). We then can ask questions about where the imbalances coming from – for example, the cost of bandwidth, there are still places in the world that can’t access and participate. There is also questions about who owns, controls, shapes, and has access to those augmented and hybrid digital/physical representations of place.There is difference about the degree in which people at a place edit the information about the place. Which parts of the world telling about the place and you can see it in different parts of the world – down to a city. It matter, because the world is shaped through devices and everywhere you go, you have a digital overlay of the world that influence actions. Examples are the way restaurants are coming in Hebrew, Arabic, and English in Google in Tel Aviv and getting very different representations. We can ask about the concepts and framing that we use to talk about it.
The persistent environmental digital divide
Muki Haklay (University College London, UK)
Over 25 years ago, as the web was emerging as a medium for distributing public information, it was promoted as a tool for increased democratisation. From the age of dial-up modem and PCs to the use of mobile phones and smartphones, concerns about digital divides and how they impact the ability of local participation in environmental decision-making never resolved. These digital divides are creating a tapestry of marginalisation through different devices, skills, and communication potentials, and it is valuable to reflect on their dimensions – both technical and social, and consider how we can consider them in a systematic way. The talk will attempt to reflect on technological and social changes and the attempts to address them.
The talk itself started with the vision of Agenda 21 and Principle 10, and the promises that they’ve made about the potential of information to make a transformation in public engagement in environmental decision-making. It then looks at the developments in each time period – the first 10 years to 2002, with rapid development, and examples of the use of the internet and the Web in sharing information, but also challenges of access – that’s the period when concerns over digital divide started emerging. The next decade brings with it promises about open data, but create new challenges – use of smartphones and payment of data access. The digital divide mutates, though the know how is rather similar to the first period. Finally, we get to the last 6 years, where we actually seeing some challenges, such as the closure of some data and risks for the continuation of open data programmes. Overall, we can identify 7 digital divides that are fairly persistent over these 26 years and they raise some issues about the potential of access to environmental information.
Hybrid forms of public participation in Madrid and Taiwan : how can we bridge digital inequalities?
Yu-Shan Tseng (Durham University, UK)
dsc_1028This paper seeks to uncover forms of digital inequalities within new processes of public participation in Madrid and Taiwan (Decide Madrid and vTaiwan).
Preliminary analysis from Taiwan and Madrid – hybrid forms of public participation in Madrid and Taiwan. There are different contexts in global North and global South. The background is that the two cases are linked to the Occupy Movement and opening up democracy – e.g. Indignados/ 15M and Sunflower Movement. With the background, Kinsley suggest that there is a material turn in virtual geography. We get infrastructuring of the digital platforms and to think about the way we can see bridges between digital and material. There is agency of infrastructures – based on Thrift and Star. The concepts provide a basis for understanding the “Decide Madrid” and vTaiwan systems. There is an infrastructure that point to a collaborative process that require people to work together and you are supposed to see a visualisation of where your opinion sit. The Decide Madrid have five processes, and each process include collaboration. In the Decide Madrid, the infrastructure is not only the user interface but also the link to urban space and objects – ballot papers is linked to OCR in order to be input to the system. Another aspect is the invisible infrastructure – the algorithms that show information, sort it and present it. In Decide Madrid, they try to make some of the sorting algorithms visible. The implications – connecting objects and urban spaces is a way to diversify the form of public participation. The infrastructures are becoming political agents – they specify the space of operating and the boundaries. The wider implication – vTaiwan present a post-political community, in which the most influential actors are the powerful citizens and senior politicians – the system is not supposed to disrupt current power structures, where as in Decide Madrid there is participatory budgeting of 100m Eur

Smart Cities in the Making: Learning from Milton Keynes
Gillian Rose (University of Oxford, UK)
dsc_1030How do smart technologies and policies bed into a city, creating new layers and networks of urban experience and differentiation? SCiM-MK is a social science research project which seeks to answer that question by examining Milton Keynes as a smart city ‘in the making’. Focusing on the citizens, governance, workplaces, data and visualisations of smart, SCiM-MK looks at the social effects of smart city technologies. In particular, SCiM-MK will find out how social difference affects participation in smart, and whether smart creates new forms of social difference.
The results emerge from an ESRC project that look at Milton Keynes development. The city is a living lab for urbanism, and hosting different smart cities activities. From autonomous vehicle to open data. The open data portal is a specific focus. The data hub started as an early data repository, to gather all the data about the city to provide access to information. The portal was used in particular to address issues of social inequality, and data was used by third sector body. Use was done people calling technical people and asking to provide an answer. As apart of the observatory was moved to MK Insight which is done with BT as a commercial data hub, and the assumption is that it will be sold elsewhere. It was design by engineers at BT and OU, with “Will built it and they will come” – dealing with ownership and considering aspects about privacy. There was excitement on the data side, but less on how it is going to be used by non-experts. There is a whole set of activities to make the data available and usable for people “without PhD in computer science” – e.g. an app for elderly people who the young person assumed they need cheap things and toilets, which the user group was not happy with it. The model of the data hub – it is assumed to represent the offline world, and ignores other parts of the world we can make normative claims on how it need to be created to be more representative. Is data actually a thing that can be commodify, or are we think about it as a thing by default? Is the ownership and costs should we ask about it? What we think of as data – with senior managers from engineering and technology background raised the issue of “what data set do we need?” not how many time you jump on a tube – we need to think of selfies, family photos, social media- the rich and detailed way to understand how city function properly. There are issues of privacy, and surveillance that we need to consider. There is always relationality in the city – relationship of giving, and many data feeds are affective and we can think of social media as such. The engagement of people in apps demonstration that it was passion about changing the life and doing something more than just the technology . Two more point: looking at social media, is to think about feminists and researchers of colour – women have feminists accounts and it might be the reasons that we ignore. We can also think about recialisation about who can participate and who can’t. Secondly, there is much more visual
Data-driven urbanism, citizenship and justice
Rob Kitchin (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
dsc_1031Covering the normative discussion – there are some concepts about smart cities technology – they are influencing across services, government, and infrastructures – from security, to transport, waste, environment, building, homes and civic forms. We also see the data driven urbanism, in the way that you get control rooms of different types with a concept of managing the city through data use – from Rio to dealing with the whole city, to a specific infrastructure (a tunnel). So how are citizens framed and thought about across the technology. The original critique of smart cities was that they are about controlling and creating new-liberal logic of the city – not city focus. The response was to make it citizen-centric or citizen-focused and the question is: did it happen? e.g. how citizens framed, what action they can form? There is too little about identities and exclusion in the smart cities? There is a need to balance state/market/civic society and we need to shape how the negotiations will progress. To answer, we have to think about the citizenship, social justice. The scaffolding of the citizen in the smart city and what is the role as a consumer. As you go through different levels, we have different numbers of participants and their relative influences. We can therefore think of citizenship and social justice – the are different levels and they are trying to get away with “pragmatic” or “practical” and not working through what it mean. When we work through citizenship, we can see Marshall (1950) concepts of civil/legal, political, social and then add to it symbolic, cultural and ask questions on how this is linked and should be operationalised. The smart citizenship is underpinned by neo-liberal concept of citizenship in consumption choice, individual autonomy and civic paternalist way. We also need to think which concept of justice we need to think about distributional, procedural, retributive, restorative. Smith (1994) suggest different models in Geography and Social Justice and there are different models that we need to think about it.
This short intervention will discuss and critique the creation of data-driven urbanism and urban science, focusing on notions of citizenship and social justice. In particular, an argument is made that smart city interventions are underpinned by a narrow instrumental rationality and top-down forms of civic paternalism and stewardship, rather than being rooted in notions of more political and philosophically grounded notions of citizenship, justice, fairness, equity, democracy, and rights. However, while there is some critique of data-driven urbanism that it should be more citizen-centric and just, what that means in theory and practice is rarely articulated. There are many theories of social justice for example – egalitarianism, utilitarianism, libertarianism, contractarianism, Marxism, communitarianism, etc – and of citizenship, and each envisions a different set of principles, rights, entitlements and social relations. In other words, digital justice underpinned by each one of these theories would be markedly different. This then raises the question, so what kind of justice and citizenship are we hoping to enact when we call for digital and spatial justice?
Discussion: A question about data stories and the media – comparing the story of the Chemical Release Inventory and FoE in the 1996, which is clearly to create the opportunity for the government to share information, to the oddities of the data refuge which didn’t look into archiving, FoI, legal instruments, and the rest to gain access to the system. There was also an issue of using proprietary systems for archiving.
The Decide Madrid and vTaiwan are both led by civic hackers from the occupy movement, but the platforms are not that open – they are open to people who know how to code, but for ordinary people the system is not open to change. The balloting with the OCR – if you can only access through paper ballot you need to have the physical access to do the paper for you, and it is therefore both opening and closing the process.
Framing by injustice creating a certain set of problems – to a degree, but getting a purchase on what is happening in systems which are rooted in political ideological – privatisation, control, marketisation, and we need to counter them within their  concepts. Notions of participation, citizenship, are not shared by different actors. The issue is problematic in any case. One of the reasons the conversations are difficult is that it is not Habermasian public sphere, rather a very complex ideological space with different motivations.
Methodological approaches to images – the access to it become harder and harder. It got performative aspects. In terms of access and how to access Instagram – lot’s of time it is open and close in different ways. It is a changing field and we need to think about it.
There are questions about representation and the way that it creates inequalities and these representations are creating new ways of injustice and representation. The different sources have different forms of inequalities embedded when we look how they are produced. This is also true for the digital platforms and the way that different people understand systems and how they operate.

Barbara Hoenig’s “Europe’s New Scientific Elite”

Book cover I never knew that with respect to the European Research Council (ERC), I belong to a (small) group called “Dual role incumbents”. Not until I’ve read “Europe’s New Scientific Elite: Social Mechanisms of Science in the European Research Area” – A book by Barbara Hoenig which came out in 2017. The way I heard about the book is very appropriate – in June 2017, after the end of an ERC panel and a long week of interviewing and making decisions about ranking proposals, the sociologist Peter Wagner mentioned that the first book that analyses the ERC has come out. Being both a grantee of an ERC Advanced Grant and a panel member, this interested me. Although the book is written in a fairly technical language and not an easy read, the message that is emerging from it is important and should be noted.

European Research Area (source: EU video)

The book is analysing the processes that are happening in the social organisation of science in the area that is under the influence of the European Union research investment over the past few decades, and in particular, the role that the ERC has been playing within it in the past 10 years. The EU Framework Programmes have slowly become a dominant funding source and they are shaping the focus and operation of science and technological research across the European Research Area (ERA) which includes 24 member states and 5 associated countries, with agreements with further countries, such as Israel, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, etc. (trying to figure out the purpose, operation, and practicalities of the ERA is not a simple task!). For the purpose of understanding the area of influence, the map above provides the geographical region of influence of the ERA.

Hoenig takes an analytical sociology approach where she collects and analyses a significant amount of statistical information, qualitative information (e.g. CVs), and interviews, and then build up the narrative of micro and macro actions that lead to an explanation of how the system operates (see below her core system from Figure 4.3 in the book). She’s following Robert Merton in using “middle range theory” of the sociology of science. While I haven’t read Merton, it looks like Hoenig is following Merton in her focus on the sociology of science and in the methodologies that he used.

Micro Macro theory of science in EuropeThe book includes an analysis of different science systems across Europe, showing how cultural differences between countries lead to different types of systems – e.g. the UK system which is market-oriented, versus the German one, which is state-led, or the nature of programmes to promote “excellence” in different countries. She also explores the anxieties of European policymakers regarding the position of European research in the world, and the balancing of investment between different fields of science (e.g. social science vs. natural sciences).

The core of the analysis is the change in the purpose of the European Union research funding from sharing knowledge, improving collaborations, and enhancing capacities of the weaker countries and places so they can benefit from investment in science and technology, to a system that emphasises “excellence”, and then define it with a set of parameters that provide advantages to some actors, who are then becoming dominant (Hoenig call this process “Oligarchisation”). In particular, the analysis is concerned with the Matthew Effect: “independent of the actual achievement of researchers, those having already gained a reputation in science will gain more, whereas those who had not yet made their mark are literally deprived of their efforts.” (p. 26)

A later part of the book is dedicated to the analysis of the ERC itself – both in the characteristics of grantees (unfortunately, she didn’t have access to the CVs of all applicants, so we’re looking at a survival bias of those that secure the grants and therefore can be identified), and at the composition of the panels of the ERC, who are the gatekeepers which define what excellence is through the act of giving (or refusing) funding. This is where the “dual role” come in since the ERC integrates grantees in the panel – likely based on the assumption that those who are doing excellent research can judge one. It is interesting to see how in some scientific fields, European based research is used to define excellence, while in others, the reference is to research in other parts of the world. There are also issues about disciplinary funding allocations – e.g. for humanities and some areas of social science, there are no equivalent large-scale fellowships from national funders (e.g. in the UK, as expressed in the British Academy report on the ERC) while in other cases, the value of the ERC is in kudos, and researchers have other sources of large grants that they can go after.

Hoenig points out that the focus on excellence lead to some unintended consequences: “1) A huge grant concentration in only a few countries and institutions of Europe, instead of overcoming a fragmented landscape of integration; 2) a perpetuating ‘European Paradox’ of deficient innovation investments when compared at a global scale; and 3) a diminishing concern for promoting public research of societal relevance for European citizens” (p. 118) – since I’ve already participated closely in about 6 European projects through FP7 and Horizon 2020, and especially since “Doing It Together Science” is part of the Science with and for Society, I have seen points 1 and 3 in operation. I’m lucky to be in one of the institutions that are noted in 1, and there are many mechanisms that reinforce the Matthew Effect: from a very experience office at UCL that can support both the application process and the management of projects, to the existence of multiple examples for successful applications, which are accessible to researchers inside the institution and, therefore, increase their likelihood of securing further funding. Point 3 is also clear from the little funding that the Science with and for Society received in Horizon 2020 (only 0.6%), and the fact that no such funding is expected (at this time) in the next Framework Programme (Horizon Europe).

One aspect that I found missing in the analysis is how the focus on excellence moved from groups and institutions to individuals, which is quite central to the process that led to the way the ERC operates. I have a personal experience in this since on the one hand, I’m a beneficiary of the switch from the thinking that excellence is coming from groups to a view that individuals should be at the focus of these initiatives. You can see that in the transition from the way the UK examined groups of researchers in the Research Assessment Exercise, to the Research Excellence Framework that scores individuals along a scale of excellence. In a more explicit way, this is appearing in personal fellowship for people in early stages of their careers – in other words, “picking winners” (and by necessity, creating a big group of losers). I benefited from the EPSRC Challenging Engineering, and then from Further Investment that was given exclusively to this group, and now from an ERC Advanced Grant. On the other hand, I fundamentally disagree with the assumption that the world is driven by unique individuals, and that thinking this way can contribute to creating a toxic environment (as Athene Donald described) as some (many?) people who get the message that they are special, adopt the wrong idea about their own importance. If you look at all the three projects that I secured through the excellence programmes, I’ve done them in teams – for example, in the collaboration with Dr Jerome Lewis, which is noted clearly as co-director of the Extreme Citizen Science group in our ERC application. As someone who read a fair amount of applications, I can say that the message that is received by researchers is that they need to present themselves as these special individuals. This is a very unhealthy way to develop science (and a fourth side effect to the list that Hoenig identified).

There is a big clash between this “special individuals” concept with the demand for “interdisciplinarity” which is common in general European Union funding and in particular in ERC expectations and applications. Hoenig pays attention to this aspect too, but the individualism aspect reinforces the project: It can be difficult to have a fair exchange that can lead to new ideas across a research team if the individual grantees are thinking that they need to be such omnipotent, potential Nobel laureates researchers. They are positioned, a priory, as the principal investigators that set the whole project and set the direction to the people that they hire, and I’ve already heard about cases of the toxic issues that were pointed about, which happened with early career researchers under these conditions. Somehow, I would think that ERC for small teams will be much better to address interdisciplinarity – beyond the Synergy model that is currently offered.

Overall, the book is written as a series of papers in rather factual, dry, prose. Yet, I found it very helpful in positioning my experience within these wider processes. A summary of it can be an excellent introduction to ERC panellists to think about the way their judgements shape the landscape of European Research.

The book is also up to date, and also point to the Brexit science impact: “the EU current political disintegration merges into the paradox that those universities and researchers that perform most successfully in attracting ERC grants are placed in a country whose population’s majority voted against continuing EU membership.” (p. 118) This might be another indication of point 3 above – not clear enough links between societal concern and researchers actions…

Communities of practice of citizen science – workshops, meetings, and conferences

It’s now about two months since the intensive 10 days at the beginning of June, which included attending the workshop Science and Dissent, the ECSA conference, the follow-up COST Action on citizen science meeting, and the Ecsite conference. Shortly after, I  attended the UNECE 22nd Working Group of Parties to the Aarhus Convention. June ended with a long meeting of the Doing It Together Science consortium to plan the last year of the project. Participating in so many meetings is an overwhelming experience, which takes time to process and reflect on. But a promise for the OPENER project for a reflection that is relevant to the topic of the project – the idea of a community of practice around public engagement and in particular environmental citizen science – provide a reason to consider “what kind of a community of practice was demonstrated in each event?“. I’m not trying to compose here an insight on the nature of communities of practice but just a description of where things are right now.

A Community of Practice (CoP) is “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” and the different formats of the meetings provided the physical space and temporal co-location for people to come together.

The meetings are of very different sizes: from the over thousand participants in Ecsite, to the 15 or so participants in DITOs meeting. Those different sizes lead to different possible interactions and linking up with people, but in each case, it wasn’t only a single CoP in action, and that becomes clearer with the growth in size since people come together. The COST action meeting, although bring about 150 people, was very distributed, with each working group (where people with similar interest discuss their research) talking in their room with only short interactions with other people during coffee breaks.

All these meetings brought together people with a shared interest in citizen science to some degree and in different ways. In “Science and Dissent”, it was historians of science who are researching citizen science, while in ECSA conference, a lot of people who research and organise citizen science projects came together. Ecsite conference focus on science centres and science museums, so only some of the people there have a strong interest in citizen science (I’d guess that about 100 to 200 were interested in “Citizen Science on Trial“). There were overlaps between the people that participated in this series of events, but the “Ven diagram” of participation across them, end up being fairly small. I see that as evidence that while the interest in citizen science is reaching different groups and CoP, the number of people that cross boundaries between them is small.

Another question is the equity in participation. What was especially interesting is to see that the communities of the COST Action and ECSA conference do not completely overlap, but that might be the results of the costs, affordability, and length of travel. The ECSA conference requires people to book travel, hotel, and conference, while COST covers the costs of travel. This brings to the fore questions about resources (in time and in money) that shape the interactions within a CoP – for example, in participating in ECSA AGM and voting on specific decisions.

Finally, it is also interesting to see how different modalities of formalism and practices play out in each meeting, with the UNECE meeting, naturally, being at the formal end – and yet, you could see that some people in the room have been working together for a very long time and are a very tight CoP on public access to environmental information; to the ECSA conference, which is fairly open, but developing new ways of working and agreeing on common issues, where there is familiarity, but as a relatively young organisation, there are many newcomers.

Finally, it is also worth noting that amongst the meeting, there was also a launch of three CoPs that are dedicated to citizen observatories as part of the WeObserve project.





Developing mobile applications for environmental and biodiversity citizen science: considerations and recommendations

The first outcome of the December 2016 workshop on apps, platforms, and portals for citizen science projects was the open access paper “Defining principles for mobile apps and platforms development in citizen science“, which came out in October 2017.

Lunaetal2018Fig3.pngThe workshop, which was organised by Soledad Luna and Ulrike Sturm from the Berlin Museum for Natural History, has led to a second output – a chapter in the book Multimedia Tools and Applications for Environmental & Biodiversity InformaticsThe invitation for contributions came at the right time with the first workshop in December 2016. The Chapter was completed in August 2017 and finally came out at the beginning of the month. A year from submission to getting it in press, which is fairly common in academic publications.

The chapter is different from the journal article, in providing more detailed examples of applications, and summarising aspects of systems in use and data standards that can be applied.

The abstract of the paper is:

The functionality available on modern ‘smartphone’ mobile devices, along with mobile application software and access to the mobile web, have opened up a wide range of ways for volunteers to participate in environmental and biodiversity research by contributing wildlife and environmental observations, geospatial information, and other context-specific and time-bound data. This has brought about an increasing number of mobile phone based citizen science projects that are designed to access these device features (such as the camera, the microphone, and GPS location data), as well as to reach different user groups, over different project durations, and with different aims and goals. In this chapter we outline a number of key considerations when designing and developing mobile applications for citizen science, with regard to (1) interoperability and data standards, (2) participant centred design and agile development, (3) user interface & user experience design, and (4) motivational factors for participation.

The chapter can be accessed using the following link Luna et al 2018 Developing mobile applications for citizen science – enjoy reading!


On the front line of community-led air quality monitoring – new paper

9783319749822The new book by Mark Nieuwenhuijsen and Haneen Khries “Integrating Human Health into Urban and Transport Planning” have just come out. The Mark and Haneen approached me with a request for a chapter on community-led air quality monitoring, and this provided an opportunity to join forces with Irene Eleta, who was doing her Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship in Barcelona and London, looking at aspects of citizen science and air quality. Irene is coming from a background in Human-Computer Interaction and studied the way Mapping for Change was carrying out monitoring in Somers Town, next to UCL.

In this chapter, we allowed ourselves to mix styles – part of the chapter is written in the common style of descriptive academic writing, but as we wanted to provide the fuller experience of the participants, Irene provides a more literary, diary-style description of the monitoring process itself. The chapter abstract is:

In this chapter, we explore the potential of community-led air quality monitoring. Community-led air quality monitoring differs from top-down monitoring in many aspects: it is focused on community needs and interests and a local problem and, therefore, has a limited geographical coverage as well as limited temporal coverage. However, localised air quality monitoring can potentially increase the spatial and temporal resolution of air quality information if there is a suitable information-sharing mechanism in place: information from multiple community-led activities can be shared at the city scale and used to augment official information. At the core of the chapter, we provide a detailed experiential description of the process of urban air quality practice, from which we draw our conclusion. We suggest that accessible and reliable community-led air quality monitoring can contribute to the understanding of local environmental issues and improve the dialogue between local authorities and communities about the impacts of air pollution on health and urban and transport planning.

And you can read the chapter here – Haklay & Eleta, 2019, on the Front Line of Community-Led Air Quality Monitoring