The 19th May 2016 was a special day for the European Citizen Science Association, with the opening of the first conference of the organisation, focusing on the links between citizen science and open science.
The opening of the conference was by the conference chair, Aletta Bonn (Helmholtz Association | German Center for integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) – GEWISS). Aletta welcomed everyone to the conference, exploring the balances between science, technologies and inclusion, and use of the information is central to citizen science. We have 350 people that came from different countries, organisations and projects to discuss citizen science. In Germany, there is already a working document that aim to support citizen science. In 2013, the German coalition agreement declared ‘we want to develop new forms of citizen participation and the communication of science‘ – the ministry of science newsletter this week is focusing on science for all as its theme. in this conference we have three full days. The first day dedicated to policy impact and social impact – we will have different ways to work together. The second day is about scientific innovation – we have almost 100 posters, and the breaks are opportunities for people to talk with other people and create new connection, the third day is open to the maker community in Berlin – celebrating success in many projects. We have an unconference programme in the thinkcamp to allow this openness. We have the citizen science disco on the second night, and a citizen science festival – linking to the activities of ECSA in Barcelona last year when we had citizen science safari. We had a big conference committee and many people where happy to help. The people who run the effort to make the conference happen led by Susanna Hecker and Ogarit Uhlmann. During the conference we will also have the launch of the new citizen science journal and also a joint book is in the planning.
Katrin Vohland (Museum of Natural History Berlin – GEWISS, Vice-chair ECSA). She noted that citizen science is now a global movement. Institutionalisation is a signal for development of the area, with ECSA, CSA (US), ACSA (Australia) and also networks in China, New Zealand, and other places. There is also coming together on identity in the principles of citizen science.
Citizen science should be part of identity of democratisation, European culture of joint effort and collaboration. Citizen science also go through professionalisation – we exchange not only experience, but we also think of social and political impact. Citizen science gains discursive power in the scientific and political arenas and that is important to be taken seriously. While we are getting over the issue of trusting data, other issues emerge – there is no trade-off between freedom of academic research and citizen science but some researchers think so. We can see links to policy, and to responsible research and innovation. ECSA members jointly developed a strategy : promoting sustainability, developing a think-tank for citizen science, and developing methodological best practice. We want to see marginalised groups joining in participatory science. Citizen science can also help migrants to join citizen science. There are now H2020 projects that ECSA is part of them – among them DITOs which links the dots in citizen science.
Roger Owen (Head of Ecology, Scottish Environment Protection Agency). For environmental protection agencies (EPAs) there are clear goals – to regulate, but also establishing partnerships, raising environmental awareness, and building up the evidence based – this is important to other people who act on the environment. This is also an opportunity to assess the success of policies. For EPAs, public engagement helps in raising awareness, engagement, getting data. In the range of tools that are available to EPAs, there can be expert assessment that is very expensive – and citizen science is cost-effective. Activities in Scotland include meteorological observations with many volunteers and over 650 anglers that do ecological assessment of streams. SEPA is also developing apps, and they commissioned a guide for the best use of citizen science for EPAs, There is now a network through the EEA to engage in citizen science activities: well design citizen science assist policy formation, provide monitoring data and evidence, serve as early warning, harness volunteer thinking, work across scales and more. EPAs can provide data and infrastructure, access to technology (e.g. apps), provide best practice guidelines, help with funding. The EPA network want to understand the success criteria and lessons from initiatives. The EPSAs also want to understand motivations and incentives so they can work better with citizen science. They also want joint and complementary ECSA/EPA network activities across Europe.
The next talk: Citizen science – Connecting to the Open Science Agenda was given by Jose-Miguel Rubio (Policy Officer at the Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. on behalf of John Magen).
He aimed to provide the policy context for open science. One of the major drivers for open science is the digital single market (with support from commissioners Ansip, Oettinger, and Moedas). The research and innovation team of the EU is central: Moedas stated: ‘help us ensure citizen scientists contribute to European Science as valid knowledge producers by 2020′ during the open science conference in April 2016. By open science, we mean the transformation and opening up of the scientific process, through collaborative work that is facilitated by innovative information and communication technologies. We see shift from only publications, to sharing knowledge through the web: it makes it more efficient, transparent and collaborative. The benefits that are expected – good for science (efficient, verified, transparent), economy (access and reuse of scientific knowledge by industry, and good for society (broader, faster, transparent, and equal access to it). The open science evolved from public consultation that started 2 years ago – on science 2.0. Policy recommendations include the need to support citizen science platforms, and support its development. 5 broad policy actions which include citizen science in them – creating incentives, removing barriers, promoting open access, developing open science cloud, and embedding open science in society. citizen science is appearing in the top level ambitions. Citizen science is embedded in specific approaches by research funding, making it linked to society. There are several activities that relate to citizen science and public engagement. Seeing citizens are many roles: scientist , consumer, decision maker, user of data. In H2020, which is much of the biggest funding programme for science in the world, including citizen science – through open access. Examples for the activities are the collective awareness platforms for social innovation and sustainability (CAPS programme) including bottom up activities. There is also reports about citizen science – the white paper of Socientize, and the UWE report on environmental citizen science, there are the Citizens’ Observatories projects including 5 FP7 projects, and 4 new projects that start next year – LandSense, GROW, GroundTruth2.0 and Scent (ECSA is member in one of those). The MyGEOSS competition is another area of activity.
Panel discussions facilitated by: Jan-Martin Wiarda Germany who got interested in the area as a journalist. the different panel members explore Citizen Science – Demonstrating Success
Josep Perelló (OpenSystems, Spain): open systems propose opening up research, complex systems research that are about society, but do experiments in public space and in collaborations with people with different skills – ordinary citizens, artists, designers and scientists. They also have a citizen science office in Barcelona with 20 groups and support from the city council. There is a Flickr album of open systems, and they do experiments in the street – asking people to understand how we cooperate – we are opens to allow designers and artists to work together in a city square. They have done reforestation in addition to the experiment to have the social impact after the project to pay back in social and environmental aspects. This was successful – it need to have scientific impact, in high impact journal (including Nature communications), they want to see 3 actors – scientists, artists and public authorities for example, and also want to demonstrate positive social impact
Arnold van Vliet (Natuurkalender Netherlands) – the project on which Arnold involved in is about phenology network, and it involves thousands of volunteers, with a long term changes – they can show tick bites and the link to lime disease. They reach out through media and get to 250 million times, which is a lot in the Netherlands – being media academic help to increase public awareness.
Daniel Dörler (citizenscience.at, Austria). In 2012 Florian and Daniel started doing citizen science in Austria, like SciStarter. They found 30 different projects from all sort of institutions – some by citizens, some by NGOs, universities. The main goal is to connect citizen science actors in Austria to help them collaborate. The platform is independent , and the system is more than a hobby, and along side a PhD work but support to the project can be an issue. What is making citizen science successful – the quality fo a project need to be high – scientific results, data but also how they give back to citizens. Citizens contribute for fun, but it need to give back more than just fun
Doreen Walther (Mosquito Atlas, Germany). The Mückenatlas project – the project focus on human health and it point to Mosquito borne diseases across Europe. Germany was assumed that no malaria will happen after WW II. there was no attention for a long time, but with invasive species, there was a need to notice them and endemic species. They realised that people want to learn more about mosquito biology and life. Doreen is interested in the life of mosquito and their development. They are doing molecular analysis. Ask people to collect mosquitos, kill them and share them with the scientists. Over 30,000 samples arriving in a year
Louise Francis (Mapping for change, UK). Started with projects about noise issues, but then turned into air quality issues with response from local authority to monitor locally. Worked with over 30 communities, using simple methods that can be used even by children in schools, working together with local authorities, there are cases of changes in buses from transport providers. Success is when there is an active change in the area. Engaging people is challenging to scale up – by making the data opened and shared, we are providing the tools to let communities to the work by themselves. Can be overwhelming demands when communities want to join. There are different approaches – when people live in a certain area and concerned about development project. Purchasing diffusion tubes for community can be €8 for one diffusion tube, and then buy them themselves. The people decide by themselves where they want to work.
Discussion: Need to use different networks, and need to show that the content is valuable, information need to be relevant to people – to get ideas of mosquitoes and collecting information from licence plates was possible in the Netherlands with 600 people but not huge scale. Josep pointed that you need to adapt to the specific situation and it’s not only about autonomy – it’s more like guerilla than an army with regular structure. Martin – there are tensions between top-down and bottom-up. Louise – we set up a separate social enterprise for flexibility and responsiveness, but the issue is autonomous from what – there is sometime lack of trust by the local government, so sometime the link to university is useful to increase trust. There is value in a third-party between local government and communities. Doreen – they deal with insect of medical importance, and media is getting involved, and creating panic is actually useful, but people have question marks in their heads and contact experts, which they offer and give an answer. This also encourage people to participate. Martin – relevance is coming again many time. Scientists don’t decide what is relevant. Arnold – scientists can have an important question to ask people to help, the other way around is also useful – both directions are useful and can work. If the scientist can’t communicate with the public than it won’t work. Josep – working with local authorities does require asking them what is relevant to them to address as that helps in participation.
Regarding open data policies – Daniel: encouraging projects to move towards this to encourage partner projects. The platform is trying to facilitate engagement but not to force policies. in terms of relevance, it is hard to judge what are the success factors – for example a project about wild life in the city. Louise – in terms of mobile app, our conclusion was to keep very simple approach of using diffusion tubes, so it’s very simple way to record data collection process, and then record the results from the lab – so facilitating simple sensing. Doreen – regarding how many people engage: the use of media TV, radio and newspaper help people to engage, but also internet platform and word of mouth. People have events – BBQ to attract and collect mosquito.
Are there examples of people that turned into professionals scientists but we did work with people that we seen change to move to further education – participants can be empower people in what they want to do. Josep – with the impact in school. Arnold – The population of participation – up to 60% of participants have higher education and therefore are scientists. Most people are already educated.
Audience poll – about 15% work on citizen science full time, 60% part time, and 15% as a hobby – but with overlaps .
Unsuccessful project can be things like for Josep, when urban bee hive remain illegal. For Doreen, the costs and complexity and loss of time can lead to failed projects. Louise – questions of data and data validity – volunteer work hard to collect data and then ist is questioned and requestioned, and sometime that the research team ask us to collect a lot of data collection, and there are issues of thinking about the motivations of participation.
The lunch break provided time for experimentation
The afternoon session started with The diversity of citizen-science technologies: traditional and new opportunities for interactive participation in scientific research. We are covering the areas of the impacts of technologies, and this session explore how they influence participation, with a distinctive marine flavour
Jaume Piera (Institut de Ciències del Mar, Spain) – see the need to change and obtain observations, and changing the paradigm of information flow – from linear to complex. We need to think of acquisition, validation, data sharing, data tracking, engagement, data exploration and more. They work with makers and DIYrs to create cheap and easy to use instruments that produce high quality data – linking apps to DIY buoy .
Robert Arlinghaus (Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Germany). The only professor for angling in Germany. He started with all fashion way – diaries. Wanted to empower anglers to do experiments about stocks in their lakes. They’ve done experiments with anglers in their clubs, with participation in the design and the experiment itself. The anglers had high engagement, and low engagement – with a control groups. They engaged anglers even involved in the assessment of the results, and they showed that the engagement is empowering people – there is knowledge gain from seminar who lead to low level of retained knowledge, compared to those who were involved, and clear change in cognition – beliefs and personal norms. Limited use of technology, but now developing apps to catch assessment – need to consider who are the anglers, who are not used to advanced technology. Risk of exclusion through technology. They had 30% response rate on the paper diaries.
Neil Bailey Earthwatch, UK. In Earthwatch, working with fresh water watch involving many volunteers across the world, with an importance of having a global programme with local touch – in each of the 30 locations the local scientists managed their own variables and focus . Important to put flexibility to allow local variation. This need to express itself in apps. The website of the HSBC project include 1 day training and then on going engagement through the site. FreshWaterWatch is working with many partners: shell, HSBC, PwC, Heathrow, Riverfly partnership, Water Aid.
Discussion: Robert – there are exciting innovation in technology, that can show invasion and provide early warning. There are challenges of participation and bias, and privacy is a big issue in terms of privacy about the catch. Jaume – creating technical tools allow scaling and there is need to develop apps that are inclusive and don’t rely on the latest technology. Neil – there are questions about the exclusion potential, but there are already very cheap devices across the world. Having the smartphone doesn’t mean that you can use it well. Robert – we need to think who participate and who benefit in the results – you can have many people who benefit from the results that go to scientists who analysed it. However, the maps are becoming global and then there are many people receiving and using the information. Jaume – there are people who are enjoy makers, other observes, and other analysers. Different people have different skills and wish to participate. It allow different modes of participation. Martin – technology allow more people who use the results. Is the main thing collection of data or use, and will technology increase use of data? Do we get better data in terms of quality? Robert – in fresh water there is plenty of useful examples – information about the location from the GPS – trust technology on that. Neil – there are load of potential for technology and can be mine by different ways. Sensing is also useful, as well as allowing more data to understand the situation. Jaume – technology can help in collective intelligence, and people can identify species and so on. Audience question: how to merge data from different projects be shared? Neil – need to move data outside silos and need to figure out how to share it and use shared platforms. User interfaces are critical – need to allow working with the data in a way that is useful and effective. Need more partnership. Jaume – there is an international working group on interoperability of citizen science data. Q: How to engage people with little technological knowledge? Why Africa not in FreshWaterWatch? Neil – providing people technology is an incentive and possible to share it with more people. Q – technology is fine, but become out of data – how do you keep it? Neil – need to work with different technologies, but indeed require updating. Jaume – people can also participate in updating systems through open source and wider participation. Q – is the project design consider reuse in other contexts? This is happening in different project and being considered by the people in the projects. Jaume highlight the open source ability to share the underlying code.
What is the innovation that you see most important? Jaume – open hardware. Robert – web application, diaries on the web. Neil – flexible platforms