Conference notes: Engaging Citizen Science – Aarhus. Keynote Heidi Ballard

The Engaging Citizen Science conference is organised by the Danish citizen science network and took place at Aarhus University (25-26 April). The conference started with a keynote by Heidi Ballard, UC Davis.

Gitte Kragh starting the conference

Heidi Ballard – engaging communities. Multiple crises: Covid-19, climate change, racial injustice, refugee crisis. Young people feel paralysed about it. Science has a role in addressing these crises, and the need to help members of the public to deal with information and assess it. Science is power – fostering a public that knows about science is an essential goal. We need to consider science as a tool for change.

What name to use?
The Community and Citizen Science centre at UC Davis
The tradeoffs of contributory to co-created

Citizen science in all its versions is suitable and has an essential role in helping people to make sense of what is happening right now and take actions to address the issues that they are experiencing. Is sharing an example of how we can design better programmes and projects.
Going to address the definitions and talk about community and citizen science. Engagement and evidence of science and environmental learning through CCS, working with young people.
In 20001, she was working with participatory action research in the pacific northwest with Salal harvesters. There was no information about Salal and because they were an undocumented group of immigrants from South America, they were not approached by official scientists. She wanted to link environmental education and citizen science. There is a need to bring together different areas. The centre at UC Davis is using Community and Citizen Science. The term citizen can carry a lot of baggage, while also having power. Some approaches are more linked to participatory action research and driven by the community. People are using different terms but we need to ask who participates, who makes the decision, who asks the questions and who uses the results. There are differences in different parameters of the projects.

The typical classification of contributory, collaborative, and co-created is looking at the stages of the scientific process in which people participate. They are not mutually exclusive categories. There are different strengths for the different models There are different modes of engagement and design for different types of projects. Questions such as what means “real” or “authentic science – are used for basic research or monitoring that contributes to management and decision making. Real science needs to mean a range of social interactions, range of scientific tools, and activities. There are lots of promises – learning outcomes and when can we show environmental stewardship. Does it provide access to and benefit from science to different groups. There are learning outcome evaluation learning from DEVISE project. In a systematic review that was carried out to check CCS in environmental education – there are 100 empirical papers on the learning outcomes. They found a third that people participate in analysis and interpretation. There are lots of learning outcomes. 56 demonstrated science content learning and a third found social capital and community-level outcomes. So a good body of evidence.
CCS with young people – there are nine years old in California that contributes to ebird through work with a teacher. The teacher is a birder and checks the data. After digesting the data, they check which birds are supposed to be there according to CLO. They also presented to their city council. There are different case studies, with clear evidence across 10 cases of environmental stewardship and in contributing data to scientists.
The Learn CitSci project demonstrated activities that are online, field-based, and museum-based. They explore 67 focal youth groups in 15 bioblitz – mostly exploring, observing and identifying – learning but not contributing. Another group documents and only a small group actually contributed the data.
Students care that the science is real and it influences the engagement. Time – extended time allow to learn and identify pathways to contribute to scientific data.
There is also a need to think about identity and agency with science. Need to feel part of the scientific community – being more critical and understanding of scientific information in media and also how to become active in science. Agency is acting upon the world. So looking across scientist driven projects to community-driven projects. By interviewing 70 people across these projects, they found many specific aspects of science identity. Most people don’t feel like scientists, but understand, do science, and contribute to science. Feeling part of the scientific community – is an important value-added. The agency can also be demonstrated – in terms of identifying an area of expertise and using the experience. In these cases, they could demonstrate these aspects. Youth participants were demonstrating that they help a new person who joins on how to do the collection properly and with high quality.
Three keys for designing for agency: share findings, take ownership of data quality, and interact with the complex social-ecological system. Frame the work globally and locally and also attend to the unexpected.
When considering the social and educational outcomes of CCS, we can consider individual, programmatic and community-level outcomes. Especially the community-level outcomes are difficult to design and foster. The suggestions are social capital, community science literacy, and stewardship action. Social learning is a process and outcome and allows for the co-construction of shared knowledge. It is also appropriate to talk about community science literacy – its a distributed knowledge across a group of people, Increasing the capacity of a group of people.
There are examples of collaboration between conservation professionals and youth groups on monitoring dam removals which allow for understanding.

Summary of points from Heidi’s lecture

Summary: CCS can contribute to science and gain understanding and agency in science, participants can develop new identify and agency to use science in their lives, and there is also social learning. One size doesn’t fit all and needs intentional design. Science identity is intertwined with science practice. Collaboration with educators and community-based organisations is important to engage from the start. Regarding social learning – the need to build local capacity, the need to start with local people involved in research questions, and community science literacy is the provision of multiple entry points and considering collective intelligence.
Thing: who learns what, from whom, under what circumstances? Why does it matter, and to whom? Who is more concerned with the project? Who is missing? Who is advantaged or disadvantaged?
You need to be careful and sustain the partnership, design an exit strategy and either build capacity or consider and share information about what happens at the end. Providing feedback and information sharing. In humanities – there is a fear of citizen science being used as a justification to reduce investment in a field and potential job losses, the type of new-liberal claim of using crowdsourcing (the cult of the amateur). Some tasks don’t require expertise, versus tasks that professionals can do.


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