DITOs final event (2): Doing It Together beyond DITOs

This is the second part of the plenary element of the DITOs final event and again, I’m reblogging Alice Sheppard’s notes (and editing them lightly):

The second part of the This is a continuation after the morning’s sessions. The session is based on a panel of other projects that have done work in Europe separately from DITOs, but where there has been some collaboration at least in ideas and potential of taking the lessons from DITOs forward. The session was chaired by Colombe Warin, who is the project officer of DITOs. The projects include:

D-NOSES – Rosa Arias (Ibercivis)
D-NOSES is a project creating the “International Odour Observatory”, which will be co-created. Mapping for Change is in their consortium. It takes an “extreme citizen science” approach – any literacy level, socio-economic status and gender of participants should be able to take part without barriers. You can follow them on dnoses.eu and @Dnoses_EU on Twitter.

Sparks – Maria Zolotonosa (Ecsite)
The project itself finished in June last year; was a project to bring RRI closer to citizens. Citizen science was understood in its broadest sense – data collection but also citizen input into policy making and research. It was officially public engagement, but citizen participation was crucial. They came up with a travelling exhibition into every member state of Europe; it was called “Beyond the Lab”. The exhibition is ongoing in Spain, Poland and the Netherlands. They took stories of citizen scientists, for example, a woman with Parkinson’s who uses self-tracking to monitor and take control over her disease, or a clean air activist in London who collaborated with parents to put air sensors on prams. These personal stories are very relatable to people, and they show how citizens can participate in science. Sparks introduced the “reversed science cafe”, in which people are asked to come up with questions to put to participants which can be investigated. Experts listen, change tables regularly, and bring back new things they learn to their countries. It takes inspiration from a regular science cafe in which an expert gives a talk and is asked questions – in this case, the roles are reversed and the scientist comes up with questions for the public! The citizens then discuss the questions, and the expert is often very surprised by the answers and gets new ideas for research. Lessons learned in exhibitions: personal stories are very important, exhibitions can be a catalyst for local mobilisation as long as a local partnership is established.

EU-Citizen.Science – Marzia Mazzonetto (ECSA)
A new project and website, a CSA or coordinated and support action. It has only just launched and is coordinated by the Natural History Museum in Berlin. ECSA has a large role. The main focus is to address what had been identified by the EC as a big need: to have a gateway, an entry point, into citizen science in Europe. There was an effort to involve as many European countries as possible. The platform should be a place for discussion to bring people together and ask about each other’s citizen science, or where citizens can find out what is in their area, or policy makers and science journalists to find out more. There are multiple stakeholders and there will be specific community needs.

WeObserve, Ground Truth 2.0 and other projects – Uta Wehn (IHE Delft)
In WeObserve, the project contains four communities of practice – academics, industries, communities of practice (such as DITOs partners!), citizens. Ground Truth 2.0 co-designs citizen observatories, which has a closer link with policy. Policy makers are invited into the room from the start. There are now six observatories, which each has a unique identity and has chosen its theme of research. They are liaising with policy makers. Many aspects are being re-used from other citizen science projects including DITOs; this has been made possible by sharing best practices. There is one more non-EU funded project called CSEOL, or Citizen Science Earth Observation Lab. DITOs has created a community of engaged citizens, Uta Wehn tells us – there is a huge base of people who now know what citizen science is and can participate.

Environmental Social Science Research Group – Balint Balazs, (ESSRG)
DITOs legacy – “rending invisible citizen sciences visible” – there is now a network of citizen science, including science shops. ESSRG is working as a science shop independently from universities, based in Hungary. The concept of invisible citizen science is connected to location and place. Many of us are not coming from the environmental perspective. Much of it has to do with cultural and institutional issues: what is each country’s science communication practice? Some examples of invisibility: Some citizen science projects are global; the academic papers’ titles often don’t reflect the fact that non-scientists took part. Environmental projects are often co-created and have social aspects. Do they lead to a transformative social innovation? Citizen science itself is often regarded as very niche and new, even by environmental aspects, and it is often feared that it would take a very long time for citizens to understand and develop coordinated scientific methods. There is also an apparent divide between east and west, the speaker, Balazs Balint, says – in his experience, the east has fewer established methods and celebration and also fewer academic papers. However, is invisibility an manifestation of something? How can we record the methods that are taking place, and what is the replacement for citizen science in these contexts? Are we seeing projects only funded through the EC? Are we drawing on a number of auxiliary terms? What kind of knowledge is provided, and created? Environmental citizen science can result from a state’s lack of action. Sometimes, there is knowledge that is not created by the state or academia. It is found that citizens would like to download and share data, and curate it. A culture change is taking place in several countries where democracy is a new (or “short, questionable”) experience. Many social sciences apps can be transferred or utilised to create citizen science projects, and create interesting opportunities for professionals, for example the collection and sharing of old private photos, a common digital heritage. Citizen activism is also going on, but never considered citizen science. FixMyStreet is an example of this – it has been running for 7 years in Hungary. There is a learning curve beyond these applications; people are reporting problems but would also like to take part in governance.

Questions:
Q1) Language: regarding invisibility of citizen science – is this about language? eg black people’s contributions to science are often invisible and not put in the curriculum, which doesn’t mean they aren’t creating knowledge, they might simply call it something else? Is it about language, or is it about action, or some combination? (To a Black person, “invisible” has a very specific meaning and counter-narratives and counter-perspectives are very important.)
A1) a) There is colonial thinking! There is much going on that is invisible but is not called citizen science, partly because of the language but partly because of different knowledge. It is probably much to do with language, but not entirely. b) Language is only what we can articulate; what is in our heads is much broader. How can we tap into that knowledge base? Language isn’t the only method we have. (Answer b is from Uta, who has done work in Africa with water supply issues; she will be told by very knowledgeable local people: “You are the fifth person who wants to co-create a project with me on this, and I haven’t got time – I need to spend time in the field or my family will be hungry!”)

Q2) What is the potential for citizen science to open up the anarchy of science beyond the academic facade? What is it like to be a scientist?
A2) a) It is very mixed, and we get mixed up in the terminology. There are things we call citizen science, public engagement, etc – these terms have something in common. But to look from a more traditional point of view of data collection, it does play a role in science communication. It gives people the opportunity to feel like scientists. The people who participate in citizen science projects are often white middle-class men, which means we aren’t reaching a diverse audience (although DITOs reached 51% women, 49% men). b) Sometimes amazing experiences aren’t communicated to the outside world. The Journal of Science Communication is open access; it would be good to use lessons learned in here to reach more communities. c) We use many techniques to utilise communications. There are times when we simply collect data from citizens, but we can also use bottom-up work – and these two disciplines can enrich each other. There is also data journalism.

Q3) Do any of the panelists have a single particular action they would like to implement, or problem to solve, or policy change to make? For example, to insist that academic papers’ titles reflect the citizen participation? (There are papers who credit every single citizen who takes part.) Should not all participants be credited when there is funding?
A3) Co-design is brilliant, but we can be restricted by having to report all methods to funders – for example, needing to say who will be coders in advance, which then means citizens can’t co-design platforms. So one future change would be more flexibility!

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mukih

Professor of GIScience, University College London

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