Citizen Science 2019: Designing technology to maximize cultural diversity, uptake, and outcomes of citizen science


DSCN3339This blog post was written by Michelle Neil of ACSA with edits by me (yay! collaborative note taking!) (apologies for getting names wrong!) 

The session was structured in the following way: first, each person presented their issue, and then they answer questions that were presented by other panel members. The questions that we managed to get through are:1)  What changes have you made to your design in order to be more inclusive or reach out to people beyond your “usual suspects”?

2)  How can we promote stronger partnerships between HCI/UX design & citizen science in order to produce technology that encourages inclusion?

3)  How do we begin to engage communities in the design of technologies and technology-based learning experiences, particularly within diverse communities and with diverse participants?

The session was organised by Jessie Oliver (Queensland University of Technology)Jessie’s research in about engaging people with acoustic citizen science particularly birders.  what are the barriers and challenges about looking at acoustics?

A1 What do people want to do? Be inside or outside? Musicians may be the key for acoustic citizen science more then birders.  Showed birders spectrographs of the bird sounds and they are not interested – they want to see birds!

A2 get it recognised as something that is worth looking at. Then keep diversifying. Then ask more / different groups.

Jonathan Brier (University of Maryland) Looking at how we do the science of citizen science and bug people about security and privacy. working on national portals of citizen science. interested in what we do on larger systems and how they change.
A1 Site needs to be compliant so people of all abilities need to be working

Q2 ask.  Go to the uni students! Also, go to the lowest level of technology.

Muki Haklay (University College London) in the context here, focus on research with non-literate groups on data collection and analysis but highlighting how paper-based prototyping in the field (including a chicken that walks on the prototypes) can help in effective design. Namibia - Map Visualisation Session2_Moment2
A1 how do we include train-spotters in citizen science? why?  Plane spotters used to be mocked until a database was needed about illegal planes….. the moment you start thinking about not your regular community but those that are more detail-oriented then we have inbuilt citizen scientists.

Q2 how he started in HCI – got into the area without knowledge from undergraduate computer science studies, so only learned it during PhD (with the help of Angela Sasse at UCL), and therefore know that need to collaborate with mainstream HCI experts on different projects, or working with MSc students.

Jenny Preece (University of Maryland) interest in citizen science on biodiversity of data collection.  Book  – Interaction Design that will come out soon in 5th edition and include 5 citizen science case studies.
Citizen science and human-computer interaction are both interested in humans. cit sci wants people to participate while HCI wants to see how people interact.

A1.  Don’t ask people to give you their design ideas. They don’t know what they are or they are scared to do so. Need to ask it differently

A2.  After hurricane Katrina libraries were a huge sanctuary so most people went to libraries to give people a centre of focus with a community and talking to the outside world.

Tamara Clegg (University of Maryland) new to citizen science. try to help people scient-ize in their everyday lives through designing technology and make learning experiences. NatureNet project is trying to reach communities that are underrepresented to do projects that better sustain their communities by using technologies.

A1. Titles can alienate people. come and help us make our technology better works better. Make it practical and relevant and communicable.

A2 Used HCI undergraduates as part of their assignment to do usability studies on tech as part of their degree. Also created the standards in accessibility. Have more conversations.  Also, (questions from the audience about hurricane Katrina aftereffects) equity social justice as started to take shape in the community.
Grant Miller (University of Oxford – Zooniverse)  Helped build over 100 citizen science projects in citizen science. engaged over 2 million people so far. PenguinWatch. The barrier to entry couldn’t be lower. Remove the barrier or get it as low as humanly possible.  Provide pathways for deeper engagement and connect with researchers. use plain language increases engagement.

A1 volunteer translation app in zooniverse so anyone can do projects.  Don’t ever ask anyone to be a citizen scientist on your project! Keep the barrier to entry as low as possible.

A2 ask for people who do have broadband to help those who don’t. e.g. directing first responders to help those who are in trouble from the other side of the world.


Andrew Robinson

A1 If people were recording pokemon go but actually doing biodiversity that would be huge! We went for gamers with questagame. we are taking them outdoors. its an example of a non-traditional citizen scientist.<

Maryan Misouri

A1 Ended up working with people who were blind. very challenging. took more time, differently set up.

A2 Petra (Barcelona).  Explore hackerspaces, makerspeaces etc.

A2  Take a more basic approach. 80 rural counties in NC where broadband is not even accessible. Primarily done via telephone line so can’t assume good data transfer. Most affected people don’t have broadband. how do you do citizen science when you don’t have broadband? or you’ve had a hurricane?

Muki answer:  there are persistent digital divides. In some low-income communities, they leave school at 16 years old and don’t touch a computer. Have to re-learn after 5 years how the technology works again due to advances in interface design so don’t assume that everyone knows how to use computers. Need to look at south-north innovations – e.g. Ushahidi Brck.  local-mesh networks. .

Jennifer shorts-valler (?)

no communication. Recently taken over a Citizen Science project. How do we make it the best it can be? HCI folks were not on the radar. How do we connect the researchers and the HCI together? (Jessie to connect)

Daniel Powell uni of Maryland

Undergrads want to make an app for everything. what else is out there? Who else do we go to? How do we find these partnerships?

Muki – consider an empathy project. force student to deposit smartphones and use a function phone for a week.  In my field, there is a problem that most people don’t know how to read maps but the people in GIS think that everyone can read them. Issues of empathy between communities and those that design tech for them. Latest technology gets you into the top conferences but you can innovate on the function form. Get the empathy in.

Jessie created workshops and paid to bring citizen scientists plus brought in HCI people to co-create and was very fruitful

Jenny suggested developing an INTERACTIONS article and something similar with citizen science journal

Mark Handrichaw uni Ottowa

timing of the relationships and partnerships. need to have everyone together at the start. so you don’t go down rabbit holes.

yourong veee uni Washington

we are the best people to understand the users not the web designers. a difference of the partnership.

JESSIE: partnership doesnt exlude money.

Grant: get ownership and buy-in so get them interested (designers etc) treat them in the same way as volunteers but pay them.

Julie Sheerd Natural history of Denmark

Asking people to do an experiment and ask them to fill into a database. most said too hard and filled in the hard copy sheet instead. what about all these places online.  need an advocator in each country.

Jessie: need someone paid to collate and enter data. Privacy issues. need to make a clearinghouse that we can all use.

Tammy: the challenge in entering information into computers is a common one. If you are with family it is always easier to do something on a paper rather than entering onto the phone.

Vinny vandee design laboratory of san Diego

know the best practices but not everyone does. need a basic tutorial which describes<

JONATHAN we could add these ideas and FAQ on the associations’ websiteGuidelines are only general. number rof different guidelines.  A question of people being able to find it. Needs to be customisable to the community.

Ortez  (?)

wants to create a game that is super connected but it is super expensive. Paris has BirdLab. Costs $50k Euros. I don’t know how to find the money. How do you find the money? (Talk to Andrew from Questagame or Zooniverse but depends on what type of engagement you want).  Do you want it to actually be a game? explore all possibilities.

Can use the principles from community engagement of going where people are – in physical space but also online. need to go to where people are. the example is #RimFire01 observation spot on the way to Yosemite . Check the hashtag #Rimfire01

Using twitter or facebook (Andrew) we have a tendency that our motivations are everyone else. What motivates citizen scientists? Financial? gamers? Repercussions of using twitter and facebook for citizen science. A lot of people aren’t aware of this”


Flip the conversation. Citizen science work is getting kids outside. How do we include audiences who are disabled / too scared to go outside involved? how can we do it in a way that brings everyone in?

Brian Brown at Standford (TAMMY) – VR – count the healthy options in the community.

JOHNATHAN: Google hangouts used to engage others who can’t get there.

ALICE SHEPPARD:  Potential for soundscapes in citizen science. SoundScape, Project Soothe. Have you heard this bird?

HUSH City app.

MICHELLE _ sometimes HUSHCity app is used by parents who have kids who can’t handle loud noises. motivations.<


How do we engage?

MUKI starts from failure.  Coming into the area long after there were racial tensions. Somalis were not included and realised that at the end of the project. Needed to check the gov census first before you go into an area. Passive inclusiveness vs assertive inclusiveness.

GRANT; try to realise that your failing at it. Go and talk to diverse communities. Sitting with 6 blokes in Oxford asking the question means you haven’t started right.< VINNET PANDEY: Anytime I go into a formal meeting and pitch my project I went first into a kombuchaHUSH workshop. made friends. got into the community. JENNY:  be prepared to be very persistent and just keep trying. Ideally,  spend 1 to 2 years with a community so I know them really well before writing the grant proposal TAMMY:  Best one yet has been with my church. JESSIE:  buy-in is so important. started as a participant observer. So thrilled when I realised that they valued my work. FIND THE RIGHT PERSON IS TO GO IN AND WHO THEY HAVE TO SEE> DO THE RESEARCH!


Need to trick the organisation to get money? Include funds in your budget for community involvement / interns.


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Professor of GIScience, University College London

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