UCL Fossil Fuel Divestment debate

UCL organised a debate about fossil fuel divestment, with 7 knowledgeable speakers (all professors), raising argument for and against the suggestion that UCL should divest from fossil fuels and sell its £21million invested in the industry. In the room and on the panel there were more people who supported the motion than those who opposed it. Interestingly, at the end of the discussion more people switched to support divestment. I took notes of the positions and what people mentioned as a way to map the different views that were expressed. So here are my notes, the tl;dr point of each argument and something about my view at the end of this longish post.

Anthony Costello opened the debate and discuss that research from UCL provided evidence to justify the Guardian ‘keep it in the ground‘ campaign. The aim of the debate is to explore different views and see what the general views of the people who attended it.

Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet opened with some comments officially Chaired the debate – there is a movement around divestment from fossil fuel that is very rapidly growing across society and different places. Universities are special in their role in society – they are creator of knowledge about public policy issues, but they are also a moral space within society, where position can be taken. Some of UK universities decided to divest – Glasgow, SOAS. Other university didn’t decide – e.g. Oxford. It is appropriate to ask what UCL should do, it is leading on considering the impacts of climate change on society at large – e.g. risk to health?

Chris Rapley, opened with nothing that we are the first humans to breath at 400ppm of CO in the atmosphere as a basic composition  – it is above the levels for the last 800,000 years. 40% rise is the same increment between ice age and interglacial age. The change is taking place 100 times faster than anything natural. The conclusion is that it is unwise to increase above 2C from pre-industrial levels, and we have very little left to burn. 80% of coal and 50% of oil are unburnable – we don’t have a solution for carbon capture and storage yet. The first reason to divest is that it’s prudent – it’s the energy of the past, and renewable are the future. The valuations are a bubble so it is best to put the money elsewhere. second point, we need to be put on a trajectory away from fossil fuel by this December – and lot of issues play out in Paris will not be ratified until 2020. We need to connect the trajectory that we are currently on and the future one, so we do it properly. The CEOs of BP and Shell suggested business as usual, and the recent budget gave 1.2 billion to North Sea oil, so the government is not following its own statement. UCL as radical thinker need to do a gesture in the right direction. We are all part of a web of carbon intensive world, and we need to manage the transition.

My TL;DR Rapley: Science is showing the need combined with need to change trajectory 

Jane Holder argued for divestment from the point of view of a teacher of environmental law. The meaning for teaching and learning – the movement that has gone on for the past 20 and more years to increase environmental education at university level. Helping students to deal with contested knowledge, uncertainty and environmental issues. UCL has done a lot of work over the years – changes to the estate and the curriculum, from this perspective, the UCL campaign make a connection between the estate, curriculum and its finance. There is linkages between environmental education and the learning and teaching of UCL. Significance of informal curriculum – the intangible way in which institution instil values in students – there is publicness of university building and the way it treat staff. Secondly, there are broader changes in university – in terms of education, students explained that since tuition fees, the student is viewed as a consumer, and not citizens of the university community. The divestment campaign allow students to act as citizens and not consumer. University is a site for environmental activity and the roles should be combined.

My TL;DR Holder: teaching and learning imperatives and finance is part of it. 

Anthony Finkelstein argued, this is not question of expertise, starting point that accepting the need to change – but expect to see change in energy sources happening with technological advances. The speed and extent of change is complex feedback systems. Generally, he adopts a precautionary view. However, fossil fuel will be part of our future because of their properties – we need to deal with consumption and not production. Consumption is within a political context and the condemnation of fossil fuel is about political failure. UCL should invest according to regulatory aspects. Ownership of asset can be used to exert influence, the concern is about research and UCL strategy – it’s hypocritical to use money from fossil fuel companies for research, but not to invest in them – it sends the wrong message. A lot of research in engineering is supported by fossil fuel companies – also raise the issue of academic freedom. It is not right to ask or to question ethics of people you disagree with. (see the full argument on Anthony’s blog)

My TL;DR Finkelstein: deal with consumption and not production, we are using a lot of funding from fossil fuel companies and there is a risk to academic freedom. 

Hugh Montgomery – fossil fuel helped humanity, but it need to stop. Energy gain to the planet is equivalent to 5 Hiroshima bombs a second. 7% will stay 100,000 years. Health impacts will be in all sort of directions – and these concern also among military bodies, or the WHO. Not only from ‘extreme left wing’ organisations. Even to reach 2C we have 27 years or even more like 19 years – if we are to act, we have to keep 2/3 of fossil fuel in the ground. There is over-exposure to stranded assets. Why divestment? it’s not ‘rabid anti-capitalist agenda’ – we should change market forces. The aim of the divestment is to force fossil fuel companies to go through transformative change. UCL should do what is right, not only the amount of money, but as a statement. The stigmatisation will be significant to fossil fuel companies.

My TL;DR Montgomery: it’s not only left wing politics, even if you are fairly conservative in outlook, this make sense. 

Jane Rendell – stated that she concerned about the environment and stood down from the Bartlett research vice-dean position because of BHP Billiton funding. Leading on ethics and the built environment in the Bartlett. From her view, investment in fossil fuel is not compatible with UCL research strategy of dealing with judicious application of knowledge to improve humanity. The investment is incompatible with its own ethical guidelines and its environmental strategy. It’s also incompatible with UCL research itself about the need to leave fossil fuel in the ground. The most profound change will come from breaking down practices of finance – it’s not acceptable for fund manager to hide behind claims to ignore their responsibility to everyone else. The only argument is for shareholder engagement, and there is no evidence for it – as well as Porritt declared recently about the uselessness of engagement.

My TL;DR Rendell: incompatibility with UCL policies, and there is no point in engagement. 

Alan Penn – Universities should concentrate in their place in society – relatively new institutions and important in generation of knowledge and passing it to future generation. The ability to critically question the world. We are all invested in this companies – we benefiting from tax from North Sea oil, pension funds. Arguing that money is just transactional property and therefore doesn’t hold value. Arguing that people should invest and force companies to change through engagement.

My TL;DR Penn: don’t mix money with values, and if you want change, buy controlling stake in shares.

After the discussion (with Anthony Finkelstein having to defend his position more than anyone else), there was more support for divestment, although most of the room started from that point of view.

Finally, my view – I’ve started my university studies in October 1991, and as I was getting interested in environment and society issues in my second year of combined Computer Science and Geography degree, the Earth Summit in Rio (June 1992) was all the rage. The people who taught me have been in the summit – that also explains how I got interested in Principle 10 of the Rio declaration which is central to my work. This biographical note is to point that Earth Summit was also the starting point for the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which opens with

The Parties to this Convention,
Acknowledging that change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind,
Concerned that human activities have been substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, that these increases enhance the natural greenhouse effect, and that this will result on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere and may adversely affect natural ecosystems and humankind …

So for the past 23 years, I’ve been watching from the sidelines how the decision makers are just not getting to the heart of the matter, nor acting although they are told about the urgency. The science was clear then. If the actions of government and industries started in 1992 we could have all been well on the route for sustainability (at least in energy consumption). It was absolutely clear that the necessary technologies are already around. I therefore find the argument of shareholders engagement as unrealistic at this stage, nor do I see the link between investment, where you don’t have control over the actions of the company, and careful decision on which research project to carry out in collaboration and under which conditions. This why I have supported the call to UCL to divest.

 

I still need to find the time to write the academic paper to follow my blog post about the role of my research area in fossil fuel exploration

OpenStreetMap in GIScience – Experiences, Research, and Applications

OSM in GIScience

A new book has just been published about OpenStreetMap and Geographic Information Science. The book, which was edited by Jamal Jokar Arsanjani, Alexander Zipf, Peter Mooney, Marco Helbich  is “OpenStreetMap in GISciene : Experiences, Research, and applications” contains 16 chapters on different aspects of OpenStreetMap in GIScience including 1) Data Management and Quality, 2) Social Context, 3) Network Modeling and Routing, and 4) Land Management and Urban Form.

I’ve contributed a preface to the book, titled “OpenStreetMap Studies and Volunteered Geographical Information” which, unlike the rest of the book, is accessible freely.

Volunteer computing, engagement and enthusiasm

This post is about perceptions, engagement and the important of ‘participant-observation‘ approach in citizen science research.IBM World Community Grid

It start with a perception about volunteer computing. The act of participating in scientific project by downloading and installing software that will utilise unused processing cycles of your computer is, for me, part of citizen science. However, in different talks and conversations I have noticed many people dismiss it as ‘not real citizen science’. I suspect that this is because of the assumption that the engagement of the participant is very low – just downloading a piece of software and not much beyond.

Until few weeks ago, I was arguing that there are many participants who are much more engaged – joining teams, helping others, attending webinars – and quietly accepting that it might be difficult to justify that people who ‘just download software’ are active citizen scientists.

Until this:

A bit of background – the day after the first Citizen Cyberscience Summit in 2010, I’ve joined IBM World Community Grid, as a way to experience volunteer computing on my work desktop, laptops, and later on my smartphone, while contributing the unused processing cycles to scientific projects. Out of over 378,000 participants in the project, I’m in the long tail – ranking 20,585. My top contributions are for FightAIDS@Home and Computing for Clean Water.

I notice the screen saver on my computers, and pleased with seeing the IBM World Community Grid on my smartphone in the morning, knowing that it used the time since it was fully charged for some processing. I also noticed it when I reinstall a computer, or get a new one, and remember that I need to set it going. I don’t check my ranking, and I don’t log-in more than twice a year to adjust the projects that I’m contributing to. So all in all, I self-diagnosed myself to be a passive contributor in volunteer computing.

But then came the downtime of the project on the 28th February. There was an advanced message, but I’ve missed it. So looking at my computer during the afternoon of the day, I’ve noticed a message ‘No Work Available to Process’. After a while, it bothered me enough to go on and check the state of processing on the smartphone, which also didn’t process anything. Short while after that, I was searching the internet to find out what is going on with the system, and after discovering that the main site was down, I continued to look around until I found the twitter message above. Even after discovering that it is all planned, I couldn’t stop looking at the screen saver from time to time, and was relieved when processing resumed.

What surprised me about this episode was how much I cared about it. The lack of processing annoyed me  enough to spend over half an hour on discovering the reason. From the work of Hilary Geoghagen, I know about technology enthusiasm, but I didn’t expected that I would care about downtime the way I did.

This changed my view on volunteer computing – there must be more people that are engaged in a project and care about it than what usually is perceived. This is expressed in the survey the IBM run in 2013 when 15,627 people cared enough about the World Community Grid project to complete a survey. I guess that I’m not alone…

The final note is about the importance of ‘participant-observation‘. As a researcher, participatory action research is a core methodology that I’ve been using for a long while, and I advocated it to others, for example as a necessary research method for those who are researching OpenStreetMap. Participant-observation require you to get a deeper understanding about the topic that you are researching by actively participating in it, not just analysing interviews or statistics about participation. The episode above provide for me a demonstration for the importance of this methodology. For over 4 years, my participation in volunteer computing was peripheral, but eventually, it provided me with an insight that is important to my understanding of the topic and the emotional attachment of those who are participating in it.

Geoweb, crowdsourcing, liability and moral responsibility

Yesterday, Tenille Brown led a Twitter discussion as part of the Geothink consortium. Tenille opened with a question about liability and wrongful acts that can harm others

If you follow the discussion (search in Twitter for #geothink) you can see how it evolved and which issues were covered.

At one point, I have asked the question:

It is always intriguing and frustrating, at the same time, when a discussion on Twitter is taking its own life and many times move away from the context in which a topic was brought up originally. At the same time, this is the nature of the medium. Here are the answers that came up to this question:

You can see that the only legal expert around said that it’s a tough question, but of course, everyone else shared their (lay) view on the basis of moral judgement and their own worldview and not on legality, and that’s also valuable. The reason I brought the question was that during the discussion, we started exploring the duality in the digital technology area to ownership and responsibility – or rights and obligations. It seem that technology companies are very quick to emphasise ownership (expressed in strong intellectual property right arguments) without responsibility over the consequences of technology use (as expressed in EULAs and the general attitude towards the users). So the nub of the issue for me was about agency. Software does have agency on its own but that doesn’t mean that it absolved the human agents from responsibility over what it is doing (be it software developers or the companies).

In ethics discussions with engineering students, the cases of Ford Pinto or the Thiokol O-rings in the Discovery Shuttle disaster come up as useful examples to explore the responsibility of engineers towards their end users. Ethics exist for GIS – e.g. the code of ethics of URISA, or the material online about ethics for GIS professional and in Esri publication. Somehow, the growth of the geoweb took us backward. The degree to which awareness of ethics is internalised within a discourse of ‘move fast and break things‘, software / hardware development culture of perpetual beta, lack of duty of care, and a search for fast ‘exit’ (and therefore IBG-YBG) make me wonder about which mechanisms we need to put in place to ensure the reintroduction of strong ethical notions into the geoweb. As some of the responses to my question demonstrate, people will accept the changes in societal behaviour and view them as normal…

Update: Tenille posted a detailed answer to this post at http://geothink.ca/torts-of-the-geoweb-or-the-liability-question-part-i/

Citizen Science 2015 – reflections

Citizen Science Association board meeting By Jennifer ShirkThe week that passed was full of citizen science – on Tuesday and Friday the citizen Science Association held its first Board meeting, and with the Citizen Science 2015 conference on Wednesday and Thursday, and to finish it all, on Friday afternoon a short meeting of a new project, Enhancing Informal Learning Through Citizen Science explored the directions that it will take.

After such an intensive week, it takes some time to digest and think through the lessons from the many conversations, presentations and insights that I’ve been exposed to. Here are my main ‘take away’ lessons. The conference itself ended by members of the Board of the Citizen Science Association (CSA) describing their ‘take away’ in short, tweeter messages. which was then followed by other people joining in such as:

In more details, my main observations are about the citizen science CSA board - by Michalis Vitosresearch and practice community, and the commitment to inclusive and ethical practice that came up in different sessions and conversations.

It might be my own enthusiasm to the subject, but as in previous meetings and conferences about citizen science, you can feel the buzz during the event, with participants sharing their knowledge with others and building new connections. While there are already familiar faces and the joy of meeting colleagues in the field of citizen science that you already know, there are also many new people who are either exploring the field of citizen science or are active in it, but new to the community of practice around citizen science. As far as I can tell, the conference was welcoming to new participants and the poster session on the first day and the breakfast on the second day provided opportunities to create new connections. It might be because people in this field are used to talk with strangers (e.g. participants in citizen science activities), but that is an aspect that the CSA need to keep in mind to ensure that it stays an open community and not closed one.

CSA breakfast Secondly, citizen science is a young, emerging field. Many of the practitioners and researchers are in early stages of their careers, and within research institutions, the funding for the researchers is through research grants (known in academia as ‘soft money‘) as opposed to budgeted and centrally funded positions. Many practitioners are working within tight and limited government budgets. This have an implications on ensuring the funding limitations don’t stop people from publishing in the new journal ‘Citizen Science: Theory and Practice‘ or if they can’t attend the conference they can find information about it in blogs, see a repository of posters that were displayed in the conference or read curated social media outputs about it. More actively, as the CSA done for this meeting, funding should be provided to allow early career researchers to attend.

Third, there is clearly a global community of researchers and practitioners committed to citizen science. Yet, the support and network that they need must be local. The point above about budget limitations reinforce the need for local networks and need for meeting opportunities that are not to expensive to attend and participate in. For me, the value of face to face meetings and discussions is unquestionable (and I would hope that future conferences will be over 3 days to provide more time), and balancing travel, accommodation and budget constraints with the creation of a community of practice is something to grapple with over the coming years. Having a global community and a local one at the same time is one of the challenges of the Citizen Science Association.

Katherine M - Ethics PanelFinally, the conference hosted plenty of conversations and discussions about the ethical and inclusive aspects of citizen science (hence my take away above). From discussions about what sort of citizenship is embedded in citizen science, to the need to think carefully on who is impacted through citizen science activities. A tension that came throughout these discussions is the value of expertise – especially scientific – within an activity where citizen scientists are treated respectfully and their knowledge and contributions appreciated. The tension is emphasised by the hierarchical nature of the academic world, with the ‘flatter’ or ‘self organising’ hierarchies that emerge in citizen science projects. I would guess that it is part of what Heidi Ballard calls ‘Questions that Won’t Go Away’ and will need to be negotiated in different projects. What is clear is that even in contributory projects, where the scientists setting the project question, the protocol, and asking participants to help in data collection of analysis, simple hierarchical thinking of the scientist as expert and the participants as ‘laity’ is going to be challenged.

If you want to see other reflections on Citizen Science 2015 conference, see the conference previews from  and Caren Cooper, and post conference reports from Monica Peters, which provides a newcomer view from a New Zealnad, while Kelsey McCutcheon provide an American oneSarah West for an experienced citizen science researcher view. Tessa Scassa provides a view on Intellectual Property and citizen science,  and the center for advancement of informal science education (CAISE) posted a summary of conference and Q&A with CSA.  Finally, from the Schoodic Institute, who are the sponsors and hosts of the CSA.

Citizen Science 2015 (second day)

After a very full first day, the second day opened with a breakfast that provided opportunity to meet the board of the Citizen Science Association (CSA), and to talk and welcome people who got up early (starting at 7am) for another full day of citizen science. Around the breakfast tables, new connections were emerging. Similarly to the registration queue in the first day, people where open and friendly, starting conversations with new acquaintances, and sharing their interest in citizen science. An indication to the enthusiasm was that people continued talking as they departed to the morning sessions. CSA breakfast

5A Symposium: Linking Citizen Science and Indigenous Knowledge: an avenue to sustainable development 

The session explored the use of different data collection tools to capture and share traditional knowledge. Dawn Wright, Esri chief scientist started with Emerging Citizen Science Initiatives at Esri. Dawn started with Esri view of science – beyond fundamental science understanding, it is important to see science as protecting life, enabling stewardship and to share information about how the Earth works, how it should look (geodesign) and how we should look at the Earth. As we capture the data with various mobile devices – from mobile phones to watches and sensors we are becoming more geoaware and geoenabled. The area of geotechnologies that enable it – are apps and abilities such as storytelling are very valuable. Esri views geoliteracy as combination of understanding geography and scientific data – issues are more compelling when they are mapped and visualised. The Collector for ArcGIS provide the ability to collect data in the field, and it has been used by scouts as well as in Malawi where it is used by indigenous farmers to help in managing local agriculture. There are also abilities to collect information in the browser with ‘GeoForm’ that support such data collection. Maps were used to collect information about street light coverage and buffering the range that is covered. A third method is a StoryMaps.arcgis.com that allow to tell information with a narrative. Snap2Map is an app that allow to link data collection and put it directly to story-maps. There is also a crowdsource.storymaps.arcgis.com that allow collection of information directly from the browser.

Michalis Vitos, UCL – Sapelli, a data collection platform for non-literate, citizen-scientists in the rainforest. Michalis described the Extreme Citizen Science group – which was set up with the aim to provide tools for communities all over the world. In the Congo-basin communities face challenges from illegal logging and poaching , but forest people have direct competition for resources such as the trees that they use, and with the FLEGT obligations in the Republic of Congo, some protection is emerging. The team collaborate with a local NGOs which works with local communities, and there are challenges including literacy, energy, and communication. Sapelli collector is an application work with different levels that allow the data collection area. The Sapelli launcher locks the interface of the phone, and allow specific functions to be exposed to the user. The issue of connectivity was address in communication procedures that use SMS. The issue of providing electricity can be done in different ways – including while cooking. There is a procedure for engaging with a community – starting with Free and Prior Informed Consent, and the process start with icons, using them in printed form and make sure that the icons are understood – after the agreement on the icons, there is an introduction to the smartphones – how to touch, how to tap and the rest of the basics. The next stage is to try it in the field. Sapelli is now available in Google Play – the next stage is to ensure that we can show the participants what they collected, but as satellite images are difficult to obtain, the group is experimenting with drone imagery and mapping to provide the information back to the community. In terms of the results to the community, the project is moving from development to deployment with a logging company. The development of the icons is based on working with anthropologists who discuss the issues with the community and lead the development of the icons. Not all the icons work and sometime need to be change. The process involved compensating the community for the time and effort that they put in.

Sam Sudar, University of Washington – Collecting data with Open-Data-Kit (ODK) - Sam gave a background on the tool – the current version and the coming ODK 2.0. ODK is information management tools for collecting and storing data and making it usable, targeted at resource-constrained environment – anywhere where there is limited connectivity, without assuming smartphone literacy. It is used all over the world. It is being used in Kenya, and by Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in Tanzania, the Surui tribe use it in Brazil to gain carbon credits, and the Carter Center in Egypt for election monitoring, as well as WWF in Rwanda. The technology is used in very diverse ways. Need to consider how technology empowers data collection. The ODK workflow is first, build the form, collect the data, and finally aggregate the results. ODK build / ODK XLSform is the way to build it in Excel, then there is ODK collect to render the forms, and finally ODK aggregate can run locally or on Google App Engine. There is a strong community around ODK with much support for it. In ODK 1.0 there is no data update on the mobile device, as it replicated the paper process. There is limitation for customisation of the interface, or linking to sensors. ODK 2.0 can provide better abilities and it allow syncing of information even it is done on the cloud. The ODK survey replacing ODK collect, and the ODK tables is a way to interact with data on the device. The intention is to make it possible to interact with the data in an easier way.

A question from the audience asked if local communities worries about the data collected about them? ODK work with a lot of medical information, but the team doesn’t goes on the ground so it is left to whoever use the system to ensure ethical guidelines are followed. Michalis noted that there are not only problems with external body, but also cultural sensitivities about what data should be seen by whom, and there is an effort to develop tools that are responsive to it.

Tanya Birch, Google Earth – Outreach Community-based field data collection and Google mapping tools the video include Jane Goodall work in Tanzania with Chimpanzee, due to habitat lost, there are less than 300,000 chimpanzee left in the wild. In the video, Lillian Pintea (JGI) noted the importance of satellite images that demonstrate all the bare hills in the area of Tanzania. That lead to improve the life of the local villagers so they become partners in conservation. The local communities are essential – they share the status of the work with the people in the village. The forest monitor role is to work across the area, collect data and monitor it to ensure that they can collected data with ODK. Location information is easier in tablet and then upload it to Google, and then it is shared with global effort to monitor forests. Gombe national park is the laboratory for scaling up across the area of habitat of Chimpanzees and using Google abilities and reach to share it widely.

Another question that came up was: How you have used the tools with youth or challenges of working with young people? Dawn noted that the engagement with youth, the term digital native is true and they end teaching the teachers on how to improve the apps. The presentations discussed the simplicity in technology so you don’t need to know what is going on in the background. Another question is: do people want to change the scale of analysis – standing in the point and taking a picture of a mountain, and how to address different scales? Dawn noted that the map as part of the collection tool allow people to see it as they collect the data and for example allow them to indicate the scale of what they viewed. Michalis noted that there is also the option in Sapelli to measure scale in football pitches, and Luis noted that in CyberTracker, there is an option to indicate that the information was collected in a different place to where the observer is. Data sharing is something that is important, but make sure that it can be exported in something as simple as

6E Symposium: Human-Centred Technologies for Citizen Science 

Kevin Crowston (Syracuse U.) & Andrea Wiggins (U. Maryland  & symposium convener): Project diversity and design implications describe a survey in which most attention was paid to small projects, and by surveying a wider range of projects they discover different practices. To evaluate the design implication they suggested that we need to understand what the goal of the project, the participation activities – from science, conservation, to photography – different things that people are doing, with observations is the most common type of contribution (see First Monday paper). Data quality come up in all the projects and there are different strategies to deal with it. There are diversities of engagement – from conference and meetings to social media. There are also rewards for participation – some projects are not doing rewards at all, others provide volunteer appreciation, training , equipment and another approach is to provide competitive rewards in leaderboards. There are also socialisation – and even formal education. Funding – diverse, from grants, private contributions, to sponsorship and sustainability is an issue.

Mobile and Social Technologies
-Anne Bowser (U. Maryland)  Gamifying phenology with Floracaching app – geocaching for plants – the application focuses on phenology and earlier version was developed for Project BudBurst. Traditional volunteers focus contribution to science, while millennials might be interested in mobile app that is based on games. Embedded maps can be used to create a cache and there is a leader-board and points. Floracaching was created from paper prototyping and focus groups. They found perception of gamification was important to millennials, they also enjoyed competition. Also wanted to be told what to do and feedback on how they’ve done. ‘I’m not going to drive an hour to see a plant bloom’ . Missions can be added to the design and help people to learn the application and the data collection.

-Michalis Vitos (UCL): Sapelli, a mobile data collection platform for non-literate indigenous communities, Michalis covered Sapelli, and the importance of the interface design (see previous session). The design of the icons is being discussed with, effectively, paper prototyping

-Muki Haklay (UCL): Geographical human-computer interaction for citizen science apps (I’ll blog it later!)

-Matt Germonprez, Alan Kolok, U. Nebraska Omaha, & Matt Levy (San Francisco State U.): Enacting citizen science through social media - Matt come from a technology angle – he suggested that social media is providing different form of information, and social media – can it be integrated into a citizen science projects. The science project is to monitor Atrazine which started in 2012, with a process similar to a litmus test, the project worked, but they wanted to use social media in the social setting that they work. Facebook wasn’t used beyond the information, but Twitter and Instagram was used to report observations publicly. The problems – no social conversations, so the next stage they want to maintain social conversation as the next goal. The  project can be found when you search for Lil’ Miss Atrazine.

Developing Infrastructures
-Jen Hammock (Smithsonian Institution): An infrastructure for data distribution and use, the aim of the project of looking at snails – findability problem, a tool that they want to develop is for data search – so following different sources for information, and merging the taxa, location, as well as providing alerts about interests. Notification will be provided to the researcher and to the contributor. There can be knowledge about the person that contribute the information. There are technical and social barriers – will researchers and experienced naturalists be interested in sharing information.

-Yurong He (U. Maryland): Improving biodiversity data sharing among diverse communities. looking at biodiversity – and the encyclopaedia of life. There are content partners who provide the data. She looked at 259 content partners and found 6 types of data providers – and they are professional organisations that operate over time such as IUCN, NHM etc. The second type is repositories, professional database emerge in the 1990s. There are citizen science intiative and communities of interest, such as Xeno-Canto for bird song. Fourth, social media platforms such as wikipedia,  Fifth, education communities who add information while they focus on education and finally subsidiaries. We need to know the practices of the providers more to support sharing of information.

-S. Andrew Sheppard (U. Minnesota & Houston Engineering, Inc.): Facilitating scalability and standardization. Andrew talked about the wq framework. He focused on collection, storage and exchange. Standards are making possible to make projects work together, there are devices, field notes, computers, phones – but it is challenging to coordinate and make them all work together. Web browsers are based on standards are making it possible to work across platforms. Javascript is also supported across platforms. The wq.app provide the ability to collect information. The exchange require sharing data from different sources, Need to build the software to adapt to standards – wq.io is a platform to allow the creation of multiple links. Use standards, HTML5 and build adaptable tools for data exchange

-Stuart Lynn, Adler Planetarium & Zooniverse: Developing tools for the next scientific data deluge. Stuart discussed about their online community. They have 1.2m users. The challenge in the future is that there are going to be many projects and data sources that give huge amount of data. The aim is to partner with machine learning algorithm developers but how to keep the crowd interested and not just give the most difficult cases with no opportunity to learn or progress slowly. Gamification can be stressful, so they try to give more information and learning. They also try to create a community and discuss the issues. There is huge distribution of comments – and deepening engagement. There is no one size fits all and we need to model and understand them better.

Contributors and Communities
-Jenny Preece (U. Maryland): Motivating and demotivating factors for long-term participation – what motivate people to come back again and again. The different motivational aspects – describing the work of the late Dana Rotman who collected information in the US, India and Costa Rica. 142 surveys from the us, 156 from India and also interviews in the three countries. She used grounded theory approach and developed a framework initial, and for long term impact there are internal and external motivation. Demotivations – time, problems with technology, long commitment with the task.

-Carsten Oesterlund, Gabriel Mugar, & Kevin Crowston (Syracuse U.): Technology features and participant motivations, the heterogeneity and variety of participants – how might we approach them? people change over time? looking at zooniverse – specifically planet hunters, there are annotations, talk and other sources of information. The talk pages – new comers and encouraged to annotate and comment about the image and also looking at what other people have done. They also find people that are more experienced. Use of talk change over time, people start putting in comments, then they go down and stop commenting and then later on started putting more information. There is also role discovery in terms of engagement and what they do in their community.

-Charlene Jennet (UCL): Identifying and promoting creativity – creativity is a puzzling question, which is debated in psychology with some people look for breakthrough moment, while other look at everyday creativity. There are examples of projects that led to creativity – such as foldit, in terms of everyday creativity in citizen cyberscience and conducting interviews with volunteers and results include artwork from the old weather forum or the Galaxy Zoo Peas and eyewire chatbots that were created for members. People who are engaged in the project are contributing more to the project. Providing feedback on progress is important, and alos regular communication and personal feedback in blogs and answering in tweeters. Event help and also need to have ability role management.

-Carl Lagoze (U. Michigan) Inferring participant expertise and data quality – focusing on eBird and there is a paper in big data and society. The standard way is to control the provenance of the data. The library is creating ‘porous zone’ so today there is less control over the who area. There are barriers that break down between novices and experts. How can we tell experts/non experts – this happen across areas, and it is sort of distributed sensor network with weak sensors. are there signal in the data that help you to identify people and the quality of their information.

7C Panel: Citizen Science and Disasters: The Case of OpenStreetMap – 

Robert Soden (University of Colorado, Boulder) described the GFDRR project of Open Cities to collect data for resilience planning and explained the reasons to select OpenStreetMap to use for it. Kathmandu is recognised as at risk place, and there was an aim to identify schools that are at risk, but there was a need to do the basic mapping. There was a local partnership with universities in the area. There was a challenge of figuring out data model – number of stories, usage, roof type, wall type, age. There was a need to make students to collect information that will help in modelling the risk. They produced a lot of training material. The project was successful in collecting the data and enriching the information. The process helped in creating an OpenStreetMap community out of it, and then they launched a local NGO (Kathmandu Living Labs). Trust in the data was important and there was a risk of discrediting the data – to deal with that, they involved targeted users early as well as spot check the data and done a fuller assessment of the data. They launching similar projects in Jamaica. Vietnam and Madagascar. They want to engage people in more than just data collection, and how they can be support to grow the community

Mikel Maron (Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team) Mikel covered what is OpenStreetMap (OSM), the OSM foundation is a different entity than Wikimedia, which is confusing. OSM are a very wide community of many thousands of people that continue to contribute. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (H.O.T) is following the ‘Cute Cat theory for humanitarian maps’ – use something that is alive and people are used to contribute to, when you need it in emergency situations. OSM is used in many organisation and projects in government. Attempts to map all these organisations is challenging. In Bangladesh, there are 6 OSM projects and require cooperation between agencies – at least all projects contribute to the same database. Organisations find it challenging that they need to support but can’t control. Starting from Gaza in 2009, OSM community started to map the area although there was no specific request. OSM was eventually used to create local tourist map. The community in Gaza didn’t continue – providing long term support is difficult.Haiti 2010 helped in producing the data and it was difficult to coordinate, so that led to the tasking manager. MapGive is providing support through imagery to the crowd – a way to support OSM by utilising the DigitalGlobe database. There are development of linking OSM and citizen science. There is very rich data in OSM and there is need to understand social science and data research.

8E Symposium: Ethical Dimensions of Citizen Science Research
Caren Cooper opened with a list of issues: participation vs exploitation; beneficence, maleficence, autonomy and justice; incentives vs manipulation; IP and data ownership; data misuse, sharing accessiblity; opennes vs privacy and security; cultural competence. 

Holly Menninger led yourwildlife.org – the project that she focusing on – home microbiom at home. Asking dust samples from home that volunteers share and they look at the content. Volunteers want to understand their home but also the science. There was the issue of reporting back to participants – They want to understand the information, and they provided some information and it was a challenge to translate the scientific information into something useful. People are interested in the information at home, sometime due to personal issues – e.g. request to get the results because someone is ill in the house. There is a lag of 2 years between samples and results, and it need to be explained to the participants. There is also an issue that the science is exploratory, which mean that there are no specific answers that can be answered for participants.

Madhusudan Katti explored the appropriation of citizens knowledge. In the realm of IP in traditional knowledge is discussed a lot. Appropriating local knowledge and then publishing when the information came from local knowledge through interviews – but the scientists get the fame. Collecting information about engendered species where there is risk from local community. he mentioned the film Living with elephants which focus on the conflicts between humans and elephants but that also might help poachers.

Janet Stemwedel highlighted that even participant-led citizen science can be helped with DIY science. DIY science it is self efficacy, and control the process, so if the participants running the show, than what can go wrong? Who better to protect my autonomy than me? The answer that autonomy is tricky and need good information about potential risks and benefits and your current choices can hurt future prospects for choosing freely (don’t use autonomy to get addicted, or what you do with your personal information), finally our exercise of autonomy can impact others’ prospects of free choice (DNA analysis have an impact on your wider family). Institutional Research Board (IRB) is a mechanism to think it through – potential consequence (good and bad), who could be impacted? strategies for answering the question. Reasons to resist IRB – not legally required, and the academic scientists complain about it, as well as no access to an IRB.

The reason to get over the resistance is that unintentional harm is not a good thing, also to get feedback from more eyes helped to know about tools and approach. Ethical objectivity is to go beyond just gut feeling and discuss with other people.

Anne Bowser discussed the ethics of gamification – the use of game design elements in non-game contexts (using leader boards). Old weather had an element of games, and also the floracaching as an example. There is labour/exploitation too – in games such as Civilization II is done for fun, while you learn about history. Online games are using different approaches to extract more from their users. Does contribution to science cleanse the ethical issues because it’s not for motives? crowdsourcing was critique in different ways. There are also tracking and privacy, so it also provide habits and all sort of details about the users (e.g. in foursquare) – salesforce is getting badges to encourage people to act in specific ways as employees. Ethical citizen science: treat participants as collaborators; don’t waste volunteer time; volunteers are not computers (Prestopnik & Cowston 2012). Ethical design allow participants to be aware of the implication and decide if they want gamification or not.

Lea Shanley – covering data privacy – her awareness came from working with Native American tribes, with participatory mapping. Tribes started to use participatory GIS. There were many things they wanted to map – and the participants had difference in views about sharing the data or not. Some places were careful and some was not. In disaster response, there is all the social media curation, and many people that are open data evangelist and they started sharing location of first aiders location and actually risking them. In citizen science, there is lack of attention to location – places were they recorded, and even real time information that risk physical security of participants. Face recognition is possible. Information collected by volunteer can reveal medical information that can harm people prospects. sensitive information, sacred sites location, endangered species. Toxic environments can risk volunteers. There are also issues with who interpret and manage the data. social norms and reinforcing social norms. An emerging area is security of social media – crowdsourcing teams where hacked in DARPA red balloon challenge. There can be issues with deliberate hacking to citizen science from people who don’t like it.

Dianne Quigley – Northeast Ethics Education Partnership, that came from issues of environmental and social justice to improve ethical knowledge of researchers. When researchers start with a community they start with discussion of risk/benefits and consider who is getting something out of it. Training graduate students to know how to work with communities. avoid harming – non-maleficence; also informed consent of working with communities, protecting data; justice is a way to think of linguistic diversity, respect to local knowledge, and also recruitment in a fair way in terms of representation. Data management and protocols. There is a need to learn humility – to respect the needs and practices of the community.

There are ideas to start an ethics group in the CSA and consider code of ethics or participant bill of rights. do we need to extend IRB oversight? co-created common rule? is there a value in code of ethics or will it be a dead word? The discussion explored the need bottom up projects which also need to consider the impacts and outputs, communication with the public and promising what the research will deliver, and the investment of time in citizen science by early career researchers can also impact their career prospect. These are challenges that are common in community participatory research.

9A Panel: The brave new world of citizen science: reflecting critically on notions of citizenship in citizen science

The panel is specifically reflecting on the citizenship aspects of citizen science. Citizen science is a significant phenomena, and feeling that need a critical voice within it. What is the place of the citizen in citizen science? question about governance, methodologies practices and methodologies. How does it connect to wider democratisation of knowledge?

Eugenia Rodrigues (University of Edinburgh, UK) asked: what model of citizenship it promotes? one way is to look at the demographics, but we can ask about the term – possible to use volunteer, amateur, or extended peer community (as in Post-Normal Science). The term citizen include autonomy, creativity, liberty , responsibility, having a stake and other meaning. What are the citizens doing and are we constructing a story that recognises the citizen scientists as a citizen? The story that is appearing in work in North-east of England dealing with water pollution in local woodland, where they noted that the Environment Agency was not doing things satisfactory way, so their need of their local habitat was overlooked. In this case  we have contextual/experiential knowledge and expert monitoring skills to lead to a change. Citizen science can be seen as counter expertise. We need to include – some classification are trying to control the role of the citizens, the need to control levels of participation to improve quality, do not give space for participants to exercise their citizenship fully.

Shannon Dosemagen (Public Lab) – in public lab there are specific attention to environmental monitoring and there is a need to re-imagine the role. In public lab they prefer to use civic science or community science and not citizen science because it can be controversial or different in different places. They also think of scientists and non-scientists not in a supplicant way. Consider how engage people in the whole process. Different roles play out in different ways – they want to be active about it. There are different roles within the community of public lab but it is about egalitarian approach to roles?

Esther Turnhout (Wageningen University) looking at expertise and quality control in citizen science networks for biodiversity knowledge. Biodiversity knowledge is existing in amateur naturalists and they started using the term citizen science. To conceptualise – there are complex relationships with mainstream science. Biodiversity recording been around for a long time and the data is increasing demand for decision making. What it brought with it is demand to professionalise and increase standards and quality. The validation is the complex networks of amateurs, experts, professionals and decision makers – looking at actors in the network. Validation is done in different places with different motivations – there are hierarchical network inside the naturalists groups and enforcing them with novices. The digitise data is compared with existing observation and there is reciprocity between observer and the process of collecting and organise the data. There are lots of things – butterflies, community of observers, the field guide – the process is circular. But increasingly, validation is imposed and procedural. Validation seizes to be collective and the records no longer circulate. The main concern is to keep check where the data go and belong to the observer. The citizenship dependent on not just turning the data into probabilities. There is a need to maintain control over the data.

Rick Hall (Ignite!, UK) there been different learned societies around the country – the learned societies that emerged from the 18th century, the acts of enclosures and the workhouses enslaved large groups in society. Today, we can ask about Internet barons if they are trying to do the same as mill owners. There is a cultural entitlement in the human right declaration. The current president of the Royal Society – finding things for yourself is at the very heart of science. It matter where it takes place – for example in a popup shop that allows community curiosity labs and explore questions that matter to them. Spaces in schools that young people can take ownership over their investigations. In spaces like Lab_13 are spaces to learn how to become a scientist. The issues are asking young people what people want to know know. We need spaces where citizens learn not just science but how to become scientists… We need more community and civic citizen scientists because the world need more curios minds.

Erinma Ochu (University of Manchester, UK) – as a neuroscientist she found her research that it requires empathy and stories as a way the science evolved as powerful and controlling. What happen when you bring science to the public realm? How to ensure that it is inclusive for women and minorities?

For me, the discussion highlighted that it was mostly about collective action and egalitarianism in the production of knowledge -so expertise without hierarchy.

another observer raised the issue of democratisation and what notion of political actions we would like to see within citizen science

The final keynote was from Amy Robinson EyeWire: Why Do Gamers Enjoy Mapping the Brain? demonstrating the game and how it works. Lessons from EyeWire – it’s been running for 2 years and a lot of things that were learned. The idea: if we build it, they will play – that’s not happen. Actually, carefully crafted, slowly built community – creating the tools, learning about how things are used. Media is crucial – 60% of eyewire registration came within 5 days of major media event. Major media event is in facebook, twitter and other social media – suddenly things are coming from media. Facebook page can convert viewers to participants. Media relations are an active engagement, not just waiting for journalist – share all sort of things, and funny things. Reaching out to media also require being prepared to it – and you need to cope with it and capture it. Create internal analytics to understand how the project works. Engagement is also a major issue – there is a huge drop off after two months. By creating games and missions can provide a reason to capture people’s interest. Prestige within the community can work to motivate them – changing the user handle colour can demonstrate the recognition by the project. There are also specific challenges and set their own challenges. Accuracy and efficiency – using the power players in the game to have a bigger role in the project. How do you recognise a potential power players in your game? Design of the entry page is critical – the page is minimalist and reduce the amount of information that you need to enter the system. They have created all sort of interesting collaboration such as fascinating visualisations. There is also need to take risks and see if they are going to work or not.

Abe Miller-Rushing close the conference asking people to share talks and links, as well as posters will come online. We are aiming to create a community and serve the needs. The new board chair, Greg Newman continue with some take aways from the conference which completed the conference.

Another account of the conference is available at https://wildlifesnpits.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/power-of-the-people-thoughts-from-the-first-citizen-science-association-conference/

Citizen Science 2015 (first day)

San Jose is the location for the first citizen science association meeting, on the 11th and 12th February. The level of enthusiasm to citizen science by researchers and practitioners was palpable, even well before the conference – the conference organising team were coping with an overwhelming number of submissions and abstracts that they needed to fit into a two days programme. In the end, the conference run with 7 parallel sessions, and many posters in the reception session on the first day, as a way to allow as many participants to present their workAs can be imagined, what you read in the rest of this post is just 1/7 of what was going on!

Rick Bonney (who was elected as the treasurer of the association just the day before the conference) started with emphasising the reasons for having the Citizen Science Association (CSA): learning from others, developing synergies between projects and sharing information collaboratively, so we can start to solve wicked problems society is facing by finding the answers that we need, together. He noted that the CSA now got 3000 members, a new journal Citizen Science: Theory and Practice and the conference have almost 650 participants.

Following Rick, Lila Higgins and Alison Young, the joint conference chairs, opened the conference, with Lila promoting the use of the hashtag #WhyICitSci on twitter, to provide a range of reasons why people work in citizen science. Few of those are:

Mine was :

The opening talk ‘A Place in the World – Science, Society, and Reframing the Questions We Ask‘ was given by Chris Filardi of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History. Filardi, an evolutionary biologist by training, has been recognising the importance of wide participation in science in understanding our place in the world. He started his career by going to New Guinea to study birds in remote places. Though interaction with villagers in the highlands of New Guinea he learned that science dependent on a sense of purpose and understanding the set of relationship that people have with their natural environment. Over the years, he started realising that many of the datasets that he was using are coming from citizen science, and wouldn’t be there with out the effort of the volunteers. He admits that he is new to the field, but what he noticed the lively discussion around the definition. Once he read Alan Irwin’s citizen science he found the explanation that he liked, which is seeing citizen science as that point where analysis and intervention meet each others – and it was huge personal discovery. As scientists, there is an amazing wealth of knowledge that is born from local systems – social systems that deal with the local environment. But scientists are preaching from their own pedestal . If we engage people in the full life cycle of science, we can get a more meaningful relationship between science and society. There is so much as citizen science and society that were revelationary to him. Citizen Science helps in exposing obvious things. It helps to reframing the questions that we ask – as examples from working with indigenous people on their relationship with the forest, which also linked to the preservation of grizzly bears demonstrate. Citizen Science is a touchstone in linking science and other perspectives – when they are involved in the full life cycle of science, allow to notice pre-existing values and practices that can get to the right results when it’s the community that helps to lead to the wished-for results. Conservation and evidence can help in providing community evidence that will allow them to improve the protection of their environment. By working in participatory way, we can get better results. Citizen Science also reveals risks worth taking – scientists are scared of bringing people who are not trained scientists into scientific projects and should learn to do so. Engaging wider audience in data collection can lead to risks – for example respecting areas that are taboo for local people, which sometimes are protected through such mechanisms, and not insisting on exploring them. Need to consider the costs of insisting on science – carrying out a survey in an area that the community decided not to go to because of their beliefs. Science in the name of evidence can harm relationships – we need to know when science need to step back. Citizen Science can link talk, action and symbol – so the social discourse, the actions and beliefs and help in dealing with some of the challenges that we have as a society. Sometimes there are risks for the scientists itself – stating that there was a compromise the scientific process because of local beliefs can be problematic amongst scientists. The discussion that followed the talk also led to mentioning participatory action research and participatory science as names for the topic.

The second session that I attended was 1D Re-Imagining Citizen Science for Knowledge Justice — A Dialogue with Tom Wakeford, Alan Irwin, Erinma Ochu,  Michel Pimbert, and Cindy Regalado. The session was organised as a dialogue in groups of 8, with several groups in the room and linking. The dialogue run as a facilitated discussion of the Questions That Won’t Go Away (QTWGA) in participatory action research which Heidi Ballard recently identified – and how to either solve them or learn to live with them. The groups explored the tensions and challenges in the practice of citizen science, and how these have been resolved, or lived with. This was follow by imagining what the vision for citizen science should look like. The group that I found myself impromptu facilitating identified data handling which includes understanding quality, sharing of information, ownership of data and ethics as a major issue in citizen science that won’t go away. Other groups  challenged the term ‘citizen’ both from scientists and participants perspectives . The need to understand the ‘citizen’ side demands respect to people financial resources and thinking about compensations – are we treating participants properly and going beyond free labour. Another issue is how expertise are defined – different types of expertise from scientists and participants, and how they can be negotiated. For example, when research is done with communities, it is important not to further stigmatise communities and also to feel obliged to provide information back.

QTWGA in citizen science
QTWGA in citizen science

A second round explored the vision for the future citizen science. In my group concepts of place-based citizen science or in the medical field, a disease-based citizen science were proposed – a lot of attention on community focused and based research with issues that are set by the community. There was also wish for truly collaborative citizen science with decision makers, industry and scientists. An idea that was raised is to educate natural scientists to do citizen science as part of their training  and also seamless collaborations with the data being properly used and citizen science that is funded for long terms.

poster

The next session that I attended was 2G Talks: Tackling Grand Challenges and Everyday Problems with Citizen Science. The first talk was by Gianfranco Gliozzo from ExCiteS , titled Using Citizen Science to evaluate the cultural value of biodiversity (co-authored with Elizabeth Boakes, David Roy, myself, and Chloe Smith). Gianfranco described a project that is funded by UCL grand Challenges of Sustainable Cities programme. The study looked at cultural ecosystem services – the inspiration from nature that people receive and influence their wellbeing. The approach is especially focused on learning from citizen science data about the cultural services from the environment. The project is specifically looking at data in greater London, which have almost 50% of the total area as vegetated space. The data is from iSpot, iRecord and GiGL. So far, they found that there is emphasis on birds and flowering plants in terms of taxa. The study also looked at spatial patterns and starting to identify the heterogeneity in data collection with some hot spots of more activity. The conclusion so far is that there is a lot of value in integrating citizen science data and understanding the patterns but this is challenging, and also to appreciate the diversity of data sources and their contribution to the total information.

Karen James discussed Combining Citizen Science and DNA-Assisted Species Identification to Enable “A New Kind of Ecology”. Karen opened by explaining that there is a challenge to identify the taxonomic classification of a species during citizen science activities. There are tools such as leafsnap (to recognise patterns of leaves) or wildlife acoustics tools that help in the process, but identification and classification remain very challenging. She specifically focused on DNA barcoding which allow to extend expertise – the barcode of life is a website that is dedicated to this. DNA identification provide further validation. There is an effort to create a library of DNA sequences of species. She demonstrated the potential of identification by using DNA of invasive species. She also see potential in engaging DIY bio enthusiasts in doing this work.

John Tweddle talk Beyond Transcription: Realising the Research Potential of Museum Specimens Through Citizen Science (co-authored with Mark Spencer, Lucy Robinson) discussed work at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London. NHM have extensive engagement in citizen science, from molecular biology to field work. John focused on unlocking the collection of the museum – they have 3 billion specimens and metadata for it. It’s a treasure trove of information – and most of it is locked away. There is an easy way to take pictures of specimens, but the metadata is hand written, so there is an interest in crowdsourcing of preparing the data for further analysis. However, there is so much more that volunteers can do, beyond the transcriptions. John suggested to move forward – to engage participants in measurements, and further information from the digitized specimens. There is also a potential to add place-based knowledge to enhance the information in the collection, and then design new projects and enhanced them. He used an example from the Robert Pocock Herbarium project started by amateur historians, but once they came to the museum, they got engaged in classification, so ended with a community led project for backtracking where the specimens were collected, and add contextual information.Beyond transcription

Alison Young talk Acting Locally and Thinking Globally: Building Regional Community around Citizen Science to Broaden Impacts and to Create a Scalable Model (with Rebecca Johnson) covered the work of the California Academy of Science (CAS) is focus on biodiversity and is focused on research, with 45 million specimens. CAS considered how they can engage citizen scientists in the same way that they work with researchers – they aim that their citizen science will be used for both research and for managing biodiversity. They started with Mount Tamalpais, with an aim of creating a benchmark and record the biodiversity in many ways, including adding specimens to the herbarium. They are defining their community as the citizen scientists, those that might want to use the data (scientists and government), practitioners and organisations and groups that are doing related work. They are relying on iNaturalist as part of their engagement plan and consider also grass-root bioblitz that people can do it more easily then full ones. The ability of people to come and document species with iNaturalist in something close by is valuable, and people engage in a short exercise of just few hours.  Nerds for nature are helping in establishing rapid bioblitzes.

As part of session 3A Speed Talks – Across Conference Themes, Simon Lambert (Lincoln University) covered Indigenous Peoples as Citizen Scientists. Simon is from New Zealand and talked about Mauri in joint projects. He noted that there is lack of first nation people in many conferences and meetings. He talks about the people from which he came, he worked with Mauri for some years. There is a history of science in which people where treated as specimens and working with them requires to recognise this history and view of science. There are issues at the global level that recognised indigenous people in international agreements such as CBD, TRIPs and UNDRIP so asserting themselves is challenging for indigenous group and sovereignty – saying no to any science project. Good science comes from great politics – inclusive, ethical, acknowledging First Citizens as First Scientists – pushing into the social sciences to affect change.

In session 3G Tackling Grand Challenges and Everyday Problems with Citizen Science Christian Adams covered Google Tools in From the Ground to the Cloud: Groundtruthing Environmental Change (co-authored with Tanya Birch, and Yaw Anokwa). Christian focused on the technology. Data collection in the field – paper got both upsides and downsides. Technology provides a lot of the issues with paper – Open Data Kit or ODK provides the ability to collect data in the field. It is an open source project. ODK got forms, then collecting and then managing and analysing it with Google Map Engine and Google Earth Engine. ODK got a tool to build forms and it also got a sensors framework. ODK aggregate allow to share data in a spreadsheet or in fusion tables which then can be visualised on maps.

The final talk in the session was Public Lab: Open and cooperative structures for community-based environmental health monitoring by Shannon Dosemagen. Shannon covered the work of the Public Laboratory of Open Technology and Science, she looked at the process that Public Lab established to work with community. Shannon described the new tools that were emerging at the time of the BP oil spill in 2010. The analysis of barriers for community based environment science and health – the tools that are used are expensive, they are aimed at expert users to be able to interpret the results. Public Lab try to engage people in the full data life cycle and provide everything that is needed from development of the tools to the use of the results. At the heart of the activities are the social activities. The combination is low-cost hardware + collaborative web software + visual data that can help people to understand them + public archive so everything is accessible + you. They created open space that allow people to share experience. She demonstrated the web tools – first, a collaborative writing efforts and individual research notes that are tagged to bigger bits of information. They encourage people and recognise the contributions that people made. They maintain many emails lists that are localised and place based. They got 65 organisers that integrated the tools of public lab in their area. There is also places – to highlight the local connections. They treat participants as researchers, they also build openness into the process – so the physical link between the balloon and the operator is allowing for social interactions. The barn raising is also valuable event in the public lab calendar and it is about people coming together. Another ways to add value is mainstreaming true accessibility by linking imagery to Google Earth to make it accessible. The also protect openness with viral licensing so share alike licences are central. They also allow local version of hardware and tools. Third of the organisers are associated with higher education institutions. calibration is another issue that public lab are working with research institutions to test the tools.

The final Symposium of the day was 4A DIY Aerial Photography: Civic Science and Small Data for Public Participation and Action, chaired by Shannon Dosemagen, with cases bringing stories of engagement and change ranging from the Los Angeles River (Lila Higgins) and Gulf of Mexico (Scott Eustis), to Uganda (Maria del C Lamadrid) and Palestine-Israel (Hagit Keysar)Shannon D - Public Lab session

The symposium or panel covered the technical aspects of DIY aerial photography. Public lab aim to create DIY, low cost (below <$150) tools that can be used by different communities. The basic components are also provided as set of tools that can be build easily, and tutorial, guides, hand drawn instruction. People can take any design and change it, but ask to share it back and continue to develop it. People use aerial mapping across the world – MapMill is an image sorting site, which is based on good/not image and MapKnitter that allows the integration of images into it. There is attribution to the people who collected, classified and stitched the map. Finally, they use print publications to share the data with other people.

Scott Eustis described his work which is aimed at understanding where people want to manage their wetlands – it allow a way to link the people who know the land deeply. The effort is about 3h field trip and 2h to turn it into useful map. Going out after rain events to record the location of water helps to communicate the authorities about which places are flooded and causing problem. He highlighted the ability to ‘eye ball’ statistics but most of the cases only little information is needed apart from the image. With near infra-red there is also ability to see information about growth of plant and their health.

Lila Higgins describe her additional interest in the Los Angeles river – a lot of people don’t know that there is a river there. The balloon mapping was aimed to increase recognition. The river became invisible – in the early 1900 during storm event it was causing collapse of houses with major property loss. To deal with that, they crease a concrete channel in 1938 – the river was concritsie in the 1960s. Most people see the concrete view, but there are people who saw different option for the river. Activists navigate the river with kayaks through the 51 miles and then EPA declared it as under the clean water act. The aim is to make it shared space. They started to use Google Earth to pick a section of the river to carry out a blue balloon over the river, and started to use the mapping to build a community. They are documenting events that are promoting the use of the river.

Maria del Carmen Lamadrid, looked at eviction stalling mapping in Uganda. The balloon mapping was aimed to assist people who faced a threat of eviction in Feb 2013. Some people where using the area for over 20 years. The market was mapping in November 2012, when the police came to evict the residents, the evidence was used to prove that the place is used in a valuable way. The project asked question about self-representation and how people use tools that can allow the people in the area to control the data collection. Aerial mapping was combined with stills from the ground to tell stories about the area. Land issues are complex in Uganda with tension between different tenure structures, because some official data and tools such as google maps didn’t show the level of use of the market, the balloon mapping provide their rights. In the end, the place was evicted, and they created a map that show the eviction. Although the project was successful, it helped in terms of empowerment and gaining control over the process. They were treated as equal during the process.

Hagit Keysar looked at two use cases in east Jerusalem as an activists and researcher, looking at recording and document human right abuses, so accountability by the communities itself. Of the 60% of Jerusalem population live in east Jerusalem, and of them, 40% are Jewish and 60% Palestinians. There are regular surveillance balloons by the authorities in the area on a regular basis – what’s the role of DIY aerial photography in this context? The Silwan village outside the old city is contested, and a map was created with information activists in the neighbourhood – they wanted to free themselves from dependency on human right organisations or the UN which don’t provide suitable information. By annotating the information by personal stories. The details of the imagery – allowing to have satellites above their own neighbourhood – providing information that Palestinian cannot access due to local restrictions. The second case is in Beit Safafa and the impact of a 6 lane motorway that cut through the neighbourhood, a discriminatory urban planning practice. The community activists use the aerial photograph to explain the issues when he presented the information in different places. The photograph is not a map – it’s a testimony, something real that make a difference. The maps that were provided were not making the damage to the community legible, so it provides a testimony to the damage – for the person who look at the image, they can understand what the abuses are.

The discussion  that followed the presentations also highlighted the integration of objective information from the image, and combining that with narrative and stories of the community. It is also important to explore the journey to empowerment – a joint journey to understand how the technology works by participants and the people who are bringing the technology to it. The use of this toolkit make people interested and shared imagination between the person who promotes it and those who are involved. Flying above your local environment is powerful. There is also potential of documenting important temporal moment (e.g. many birds, or flooding)

The final session of the day included the poster session, and provided me a unique opportunity to finally meet Louis Liebenberg and to hear about CyberTracker from the person who led it since 1996.

You can also see another description of the first day at http://microbe.net/2015/02/11/day-1-report-from-citizen-science-2015-conference/