This is a reblogging of the reporting from DITOs final event, which was blogged by Alice Sheppard (which I’ve edited, lightly):
Introduction to the day
Camille Pisani, the Director of RBINS praises numerous volunteers and collaborators who have worked together, and the way different activities have been aimed at reaching many different audiences. There have been many localised events, such as waste management or coastal environmental issues. What makes DITOs different in her views is the integrative approach to the multiple meanings of “citizen science”. Citizen science goes back a long way, but for some people it’s still a new thing, and we’re still in the process of reaching out, even with simple things like communication. At the other end of the scale are people who have been volunteering or experimenting in science outside the professional environment for a very long time. When Camille met Muki four or five years ago, she was extremely interested in the idea of the escalator model.
Muki Haklay is next on “The DITOs journey”. He starts with “the world needs more citizen science” and the DITOs video. The DITOs story started in the middle of 2013 with the launch of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA). As a fledgeling organisation, the question was how to get it going. In 2014, DITOs was set with a process in which UCL asked partners what they’d be interested in doing during the next few years, and design a project around these plans. They not only thought up the escalator, but also the thought of aiming at more bottom-up citizen science. UCL would lead, because ECSA was still building capacity and was not ready to lead a project. The initial bid was lost to Sparks, which was a wonderful project, but in 2015, a second call came out and in May 2016 DITOs began just after the 2016 ECSA conference. DITOs is very diverse, with a museum, NGOs, SMEs, universities, labs – a very diverse team with an original promise to run 500 events and engage 290,000 participants plus 1.3 million online. It was quite an ambitious target! Muki next mentions the “onion diagram”, which put UCL and ECSA at the centre with many activities and areas going on around them. The objectives included “deep public engagement”, a broad range of public activities, to strengthen ECSA, to do cross-European fertilisation and knowledge-sharing by way of a lot of interaction between the partners, and to reach out to excluded groups. Muki has rewritten the escalator model a few times to develop the ideas and have some exact numbers, such as precisely how many people in the UK are active in DIYBio, and how many watch Blue Planet or visit the science museum. Many more people “passively consume” science (such as the above activities) versus taking a more active role, such as recording birds in their garden. In many cases, people run out of time to do science, for example, while trying to support a family; the escalator allows people to move up and down according to their preference and ability. All the knowledge-sharing leads to project partners spending a great deal of time together, including in local citizen science such as visiting lakes or rivers, and all becoming friends.
Linden Farrer from the European Commission DG RTD (the department that is responsible for research and innovation) is next – DG RTD chooses which projects to fund, or not fund through open calls. DITOs was funded out of a part of H2020 which is dedicated to bringing people and science together (Science with and for Society – SWAFS). The objectives are, of course, bringing science and society together, but also fostering more talent for science and pairing scientific excellence with social responsibility. This can involve co-creation of agendas and policies by several stakeholders – which is quite broad, with a wide range of activities, and maybe discussing results or doing science with citizens. DITOs got funding under a topic called “Pan-European public outreach”, with the aim of increasing public awareness of science and RRI. Now, 2/3 of the way through H2020, they are concentrating on increasing the impacts and effectiveness of the programme, focusing on fewer topics but more closely – and one of such topics is exploring and supporting citizen science (others include institutional change, gender equality, etc – there are still quite a few you can find if you google Citizen Science in SWafS!). Linden lets us know that the future of H2020 and SwafS very likely involves working directly with citizens and civil society organisations.
The next several presentations are results of DITOs by many of its staff, taking five minutes each, moderated by Margaret Gold.
Judy Barrett, UCL, on the escalator model
Extreme Citizen Science group conceived the idea of DITOs in 2014, with the idea that citizen science should be driven by local needs, practices and cultures. UCL has mostly focused on WP6, “coordination, support and management”, which surrounds all the other work packages (such as policy). We’ve also produced a study of business models of citizen science. Our outputs from WP6 is itself a DITOs legacy, because other projects will be able to use it. We carried out 90 events, which we’ll see more of later. We implemented a MOOC (massive open online course) which has now been operating for 2 years, which has been signed up to by about 1000 people, and is also part of MSc programmes at UCL. Our events are aimed at equipping people with tools to answer their own scientific questions. We’ve made our own escalator model as “the consortium journey” – for several of us, it was our first experience of interdisciplinary work, or citizen science, or many other topics. It was therefore vital to create a supportive, communicative environment, with practice-sharing and exchange of ideas being vital. Some staff of partners were scientists with little experience of citizen science. But many individual staff members felt they had personally grown. Individual highlights include a dedication to progress in citizen science, collaboration with experts, and multi-stakeholder engagement.
Gaia Agnello, ECSA, environmental sustainability
The aim was to introduce citizen scientists and policy makers on developing methods for involvement, bolstering networks, promoting knowledge exchange and events all over Europe. ECSA particularly established the European BioBlitz Network, facilitating best practice exchange between anyone who runs BioBlitzes. Three DITOs partners subsequently established their first BioBlitz. MediaLab Prado created “Interactivos” of discussions and workshops on different topics each year, such as sustainable mobility, food systems, waste management etc. Kersnikova organised the Sister’s Lab, promoting transdisciplinary activities and gender equality, empowering women to collaborate through teaching and learning. UCL ran all-age workshops on air quality, including teaching people how to make environmental monitoring devices. European Green Week last year included discussions of environmental citizen science’s impact on policy. Lessons learned include: balance your organisation’s mandate with the values of the poeple involved; care for participants; co-design events as much as possible – talking to people before designing events; make sure the project has been felt by communities as their own because this will increase impacts; and take care of your team and yourself!
Imane Baiz, CRI-Paris, UPD and BioDesign
WP1 is Biodesign, which even the project leaders found a mysterious word at the beginning! It may mean art, or integrating buildings into the ecosystem, or synthetic biology (including the tools and methods). It connects people – for example, scientists with artists. It is interdisciplinary. It also connects ideas, too. We had a total of 700 events, which involved a lot of travelling and creating exhibitions, and partners showing their work to each other, going into schools, designing the Science Bus. It can be about empowerment – designing a sustainable future, inspired by nature. There were also different notions from different people – for example of extensive travel, but in fact, it’s like a group of superheroes who are trying to make the world a better place.
Paweł Wyszomirski, Eco21/Meritum, air quality
Polish cities are suffering from serious air pollution, especially in autumn and winter. Eco21 began to work with policy makers. They were creating data, which they decided to use to empower people to do something about the pollution – which involved teaching people how to use numbers to make decisions. This also allows people to talk with others in their neighbourhoods. Membership of ECSA allowed Eco21 to be invited to an air quality workshop, to learn how to empower and engage people in citizen science and in being able to do something about poor air quality. Pawel hopes that many people will come and ask him about European Clean Air Day.
Carole Paleco, RBINS, the escalator model at the museum
A way that RBINS have tried to apply the escalator model is to evaluate their activities and events, and also trying to involve the citizens at an early stage. At a citizen science cafe, for example, the monitoring and evaluation of feedback from participants has led to being able to give the facilitator feedback each time. They have a small touring exhibition that goes to schools in the Brussels region. They’ve organised biodiversity workshops with volunteers. They asked participants what they would put on a “Z-Card” which would go out to schools to raise awareness of biodiversity. She gave a report on a Phasma Meeting at RBINS, and organised their first BioBlitz last year. It was very focused with five scientists. The XperiBird has given out nestboxes to schools so that the children can observe birds nesting and bringing up chicks.
Simon Gmajner, Kersnikova, Bridging the Gap
Kersnikova aims to bridge the gaps between scientists and artists, also with participants and events. There was no phrase for “citizen science” in Slovenian, so it was translated best as “participatory science”. They then decided to organise exhibitions which would spur discussions. They did a BioArt exhibition which included science cafes which deepened discussion and complimented the artists’ and scientists’ modes of engagement. They managed to host the author of a book on biotechnology. A problem they ran into was people asking “What is art and what is science here?” which they found they could not always answer! They wanted to build an ecosystem that would support itself, which involved training people in interdisciplinary matters. They have a biotechnology lab and also ran workshops on biorobotics and soil tasting! They also trained mentors, so that citizens who had been coming for a long time could teach newer people.
Claudia Gobel, ECSA, Policy Engagement
DITOs has many public engagement activities, but also wants to talk to decision makers, which ECSA has focused on – at European, national and local levels. They’ve held 16 discovery trips, 17 stakeholder round tables, a pan-European policy forum and many more additional workshops and events. These took place in various countries. Policy briefs have come out of this, with a focus on open science and on responsible research and innovation. There is a diversity of voices in citizen science. It is very important to understand how citizen science is conceptualised and done – which is where the escalator was very important. There are different communities of practitioners. Citizen science needs cultural change and a plurality of voices, transparency, diversity, inclusiveness and these must be very important in our organisations. They also want to build more networks of stakeholders. Claudia also highlighted the citizen science book – if you’re here, please help yourself to a copy, or download it here.
Ted Fjallman, Tekiu UK, WP4 Policy Engagement
Across the project, we’ve managed to achieve 50% more events than we originally planned – DITOs has been very successful in the policy area, too. Tekiu is a for-profit organisation, though is not seeking to make a profit from DITOs. Ted observes that people are learning differently. He asked how many of us go to the cinema (nearly everyone); how many would be willing to pay what you’d pay for the cinema to attend a policy event? It was fewer people. Tekiu joined DITOs to understand how society is changing as a whole (which they cannot ask a single company). Discovery Trips are Tekiu’s brand; they take 10 to 25 people on a trip from one country to another to meet with their counterparts abroad so both parties can learn what the others do. Sometimes, participants may go on for example to join their city council. They plan to keep linking scientists with policymakers. They feel the future lies in active monitoring – we all have a phone, which has technology we wouldn’t have been able to imagine 30 years ago. It is, therefore, time to update the way we think.
Cindy Regalado and Pawel Miedzinski from eutema moderating – Adam, Bernard, Roland, Mark, Pen-Yuan
Adam: Was part of Science has no Borders at UCL. Had a stall with an artist friend who collaborated on art and science of complexity. Attended film nights which included discussions of uneasy topics such as the history of eugenics. Attended Do It Together bio workshops, which taught him how to do simple biology experiments and procedures, use cutout microscopes, and learning about work at an aquarium and how to sample from the wild.
Bernard: Also worked with Rachel at the aquarium (as above), organised some workshops in Ireland with aerial kite mapping to which some environmentalist groups were invited; they hope to map their waterways in the future. They have also worked with young people from youth work in Ireland – they took some cameras which would otherwise have ended up in a landfill, and allowed young people to take the cameras apart to see what was inside them and convert them into near-infrared.
Roland – OpenWetLab evenings at Waag. His background is biology but he’s learning a lot of DIYbio and technology this way. Went to Kersnikova for a Bio-Art project and conference – all these were funded by DITOs; many participants in a Bio-Art movement came from around the world.
Mark – Was a Science Bus captain. Had already done a lot of outreach and engagement activities around Ireland. Science Bus involved travelling in a camper van around Europe collaborating with museums etc to work with the local public and get them engaged in workshops. The bus captains travelled together but didn’t always know each other beforehand! They taught the public how to carry out small DIY projects and gave them tools to investigate the world around them, also encouraging them to investigate and critique the world around them in this way. His favourite part was getting people interested who had never carried out scientific activities this way before. They were interested in the public’s life hacks and traditional remedies – how did people get information about what to do about (for example) what to do about bruises or mosquito bites when they didn’t engage much with science? A commonly stated solution was “urinate on it”!
Pen: worked with Cindy on delivering electronics workshops for the public, learning about open hardware and taking control over it and understand it. Has also worked with Cindy on DIY environmental sensing. He has also been investigating the nature of knowledge and creativity, such as creative commons licensing – how to creatively subvert copyright laws to share knowledge. He has, therefore, run many workshops in different places such as Italy, Scotland etc, and worked with hackerspaces. He has found that many people don’t know how to solder, so has used conductive thread.
Q: Has DITOs changed the way you do your work or practice?
Adam: Yes, now collaborates and gives talks, and works with many different people – DITOs was a big confidence-booster.
Bernard: Current role means diverting mattresses from landfill; quantifies work, work done manually – makes that work visible. Does mapping, community gardens, working with young people and getting them to understand the importance of data.
Roland: Has trained biohackers who then go on to train each other; has enjoyed watching skills spread. DITOs has personally influenced him to give workshops, feeling there is a mix between arts and science.
Mark: The Waag had the idea of the science bus; when he met them he felt they were wonderful but had a different way of thinking from how he would have carried out his work, so it taught him a new way of seeing things, which he felt was progressive. He applied these ideas to the science bus and his own work in Ireland. He returned to Ireland trying to find out how to engage the largest number of people possible – and has used the opening of Ireland’s new science centre to engage more people in citizen science and to see what they can do themselves.
Pen: Worked with a citizen scientist who built his own tools and developed his own methods for ecology – and discovered a population of deer near his village. This caught the attention of the local authorities, who built a protected area for the deer. Citizens do not just passively collect data. Science can make all of us become more engaged citizens.