Mutual Learning Exercise – Citizen Science Initiatives (Vienna meeting)

These are notes from the meeting on topic 4 of the Mutual Learning Exercise on citizen science initiatives, it’s the notes from the day, and don’t represent any official view of the event, which is available on the European Commission’s website. The meeting took place 7-8 June 2022 in Vienna, at the Palais Harrach.

Important issues for the meeting: how to scale and increase the involvement of people in citizen science, programmes like Sparkling Science 2.0 is providing bigger funding for science engagement (€350,000 per project).

The purpose of the MLE is to facilitate the exchange of information, knowledge, best practices, and experiences in using and scaling up citizen science. Citizen science is a very suitable topic for mutual learning. The topic of this meeting – enabling and scaling citizen science activities. More information can be found here, with the reports and other material.

Florian Heigl and Daniel Dorler shared the experience of citizen science in Austria – from the Federal government and the national funding, universities, non-university research institutes, funding bodies, foundations, and museums. The presentations will be available at this link in a few weeks. The citizen science network Austria was founded by CS practitioners for CS practitioners. Was created in 2014, to share experience around doing citizen science. Working on different citizen science topics, working through a working groups model, and a do-ocracy model that allows people in the network to influence according to their investment. They got now NGOs, universities, museums, public bodies and individuals. The tasks: networking, further development of citizen science – scientifically, ethically, diversity; also focusing on quality management through their quality criteria; and finally public outreach. The networking is done through events – Austrian citizen science conference, platform meeting and they have done 29 events between 2018 and 2021. Also organising workshops, and training (25 events). Publications from the network are about sharing knowledge – 79 publications. The quality management is done through the management of the platform and evaluated 82 projects, and gave 16 presentations on the quality parameters and 5 support workshops. On the public outreach, 73 media articles, 35 events of public outreach and over 480 blogposts, now starting a podcast and radio show. Milestones – they are the first country-level network in Europe, and the criteria influenced the ECSA WG across Europe. The platform includes 60 projects – most ecological, but about 20% are from humanities and social science. Crucial elements for supporting the network – the do-ocracy and the commitment to invest in the network and people want “someone” to do it. The conferences and activities are increasing the number of projects and new people that are doing citizen science. Questions about reaching out to mass media. They use the platform network meetings to maintain views and to keep inclusiveness and responsiveness within the do-ocracy model.

Daniel Dorler sharing the experience of the Austrian network
Marika Cieslinski and the development of the OeAD centre for Citizen Science

Marika Cieslinski talking about the OeAD center for Citizen Science which includes Sparkling Science programmes. The funding come from the federal ministry of education, science and research. 2007 Sparkling Science started with working in schools (similar to OPAL), and the link of science and schools led to 2011 OeAD young science – more SciComm in schools. Scientists go to schools. In 2015 policy paper led to establishing the center for citizen science and setting out Sparkling Science 2.0. It runs from 2007-2012 with 35 mil Eur with 300 projects and 100K pupils, with different levels of participation. Fostering excellent and high-quality research. Disciplines: projects in Natural sciences 30%, social science 20% Humanities 9% and balancing it well. Done different evaluations and showing impacts on pupils – learned scientific working, critical thinking and self-confidence. For teachers – helped in lifelong learning, new perspectives and break out from the daily routine. Sparkling Science includes civil society, increasing the time to 3 years, and double the funding, with additional funding for international networking and link to new schools and less engaged organisations. The budget is €9.5 mil for the first call, with yearly calls. The enter is doing information, networking and funding. Also addressing science scepticism and concerns about science. They also have a citizen science award that runs since 2015. In the first call they got 170 applications – about 30% of projects got funded.

Patrick Lehner and the LBG goals

Patrick Lehner, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, attention to open science. Ideas about impact was integrated in science throughout its history. The LBG open innovation in science center was set in 2016 to link implementation and research: involve people in priority setting, public and patient involvement, and impact. Their ideas of open innovation in science include public involvement in the research – true partnerships and authentic participation with a space to change in addition to space to talk. Giving them time and financial investment to it. They are thinking of making an impact through public engagement and working in mental health with 400 contributions about mental health of children and adolescents. This helped set the research priority (upstream engagement) and have done a call around these topics through an ideas lab with researchers and people with lived experience. Adapting format that was researchers oriented from the EPSRC to make it with wider stakeholders. Developed 5 ideas: novelty, interdisciplinarity, engagement, feasibility and impact and 2 were invited to develop them further. They ensure that the advisory board of these projects include people from experience and not only academic experts. The enabling environments: organisational design, governance, leadership, values and principles and funding and execution.

Gerit Oberraufner and the FWF pillars

Gerit Oberraufner shared the FWF position on citizen science – the funding in general around “exploring new frontiers, cultivating talents and realising new ideas. The last pillar is about science and society, which includes the top citizen science programme, building on the sparkling science. Run it from 2015, then done workings following calls in 2015,2016,2017 and then evaluating working in 2018 and continue with have annual calls. Transdisciplinarity is supported with a new call and they get very positive from reviewers and a good learning curve and also takes time to get established in the scientific community. Top Citizen Science continues to be unique – allows researchers to experiment with citizen science. Giving an extra 50K for existing frontiers projects to add citizen science to them. the projects are between 2 and 3 years and the budget is limited 250K (5 projects per year). They funded in all 29 projects about 25% projects. SHS are 2/3 of submissions. FWF aims to put more money and give them more time for implementation, and consider potentially adding a module of funding to all projects but that idea is in an early stage. FWF is networking for CS project leaders.

FWF Top Citizen Science programme
Margaret Gold leading a discussion about enabling environments

Margaret Gold summarises the Discussion Paper about enabling environments and sustaining citizen science. What do we mean by creating an enabling environment? Supporting starting projects, allowing them to continue, considering the wider national environment and considering what sustains the practices and increase activities. Insights from projects such as WeObserve focused on technology and people. The suggested areas to think about are funding as an overall issue. Legal and policy framework, capacity building and network, supporting infrastructures, internal policies and cultures. A workshop explored the different dimensions. In each one of them, there are elements that participants could consider in addition to the list of already identified observations from the existing literature. Issues that came up, for example at the institutional frameworks, operations, and culture include the capacity – for example in the area of culture: is it something that is being added to someone on top of their commitments or is the organisation get serious enough to have someone dedicated.

The five aspects of enabling environments for citizen science (plus funding)

The workshop section was focusing on identifying different experiences across the different areas of citizen science enabling. Groups of participants explored aspects of legal and policy aspects, infrastructure capacity building, institutional policy and culture, and public engagement. Groups explore how these aspects interact with projects when they initiate, recruit and start, maintain them, and what happens when they achieved their goals.

Identifying enabling factors in the legal and policy side

The final part of the day looked at the experiences of different projects – such as the story of the Austrian Roadkill project that started in BOKU (the university of life science) and how aspects of culture, infrastructure, and engagement worked for the project organisers. The project also helped in the growth of the Spotteron company and its ability to create software infrastructure for citizen science. The project is using open data but the different formatting can be challenging. Publishing in peer review brings the issue of data quality up many times. Experiences in communication and maintaining contacts with participants, and the need for resources to maintain the systems and make decisions about the scope and range of the project.

Another example came from Rosa Arias and the evolution of the D-Noses project. Odour pollution can be very expensive – millions of Euros for very few data points. The idea of crowdsourcing data about odour looks potentially interesting. By learning about the concept of citizen science through projects such as socientize, it set the process of trying to raise funding to the project. First, developing a potential app, once this proof was there, it was possible to look for other funding areas. The D-Noses project was funded in the late 2010s. Developing the app was complex and can be difficult. Collaboration between engineering knowledge and social science for engaging with people enabled the starting of data collection. Even when there are known issues of odour pollution, there could be reticence from supporting it because of the impact on the place in terms of reputation. The process of demonstrating that it is possible to work with citizen science for this task was challenging “chicken and egg” issues. There are also competing requests and expectations from different stakeholders, even on issues such as the location of the reporting and the source of the accuracy.

Additional material on the day is available in this thread from Marika

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