Notes from the Mutual Learning Exercise (MLE) visit to Hungary – 12 Sep 2022

The visit to Hungary by the participant of the European Union’s Mutual Learning Exercise on Citizen Science Intitatives took place in Hungary, on 12 and 13 Sep. The visit is the second part of the sessions on enabling environment for citizen science, which continues the work that started in Vienna.

Workshop on the Balaton Lake

The visit to Hungary started with a journey to the University of Pannonia, located in Veszprém, about 120km from Budapest. Set up in 1949 during the soviet time, its buildings were built with enforced labour, which is something that is remembered about the university and the way that they approach its use. It got 4 faculties – chemistry, engineering, economics, and philological and social science.
the university is located on the Balaton uplands on the shores of Balaton lake. Katalin Urban, the General Director of the Library and Knowledge Centre at the university, hosted the meeting. There was additional support from the National Research and Development Office of Hungary is hosting the meeting as a whole.

The Rector, Prof András Gelencsér, welcome the participation and started the day with sharing an experience in public engagement in climate change. He is an atmospheric chemist. He pointed out that the background of climate change is not thought in schools as a complex system. There are some aspects that are covered in school, but only in parts in different areas – not as a complex system. People develop a different attitude toward the change itself and develop an emotional attitude. It is difficult to put it into the curriculum – and communicate it to people beyond school or university education. The Hungarian National Laboratory launches an educational quiz on Earth Day 2021 and got responses from 5656 people – with overrepresentation of people with university degree, people who hold PhD, and STEM teachers. But the average score is 35%. There was immediate feedback and an explanation. The level of knowledge was low. The quiz is asking technical aspects: the percentage of how much the carbon dioxide concentration increased. That was what people answered most. It is a common message in the media and people hear it a lot. Basic knowledge of understanding that humans are part of the natural cycle. “there is nothing to argue about the natural carbon cycle”. The planetary science of the overall greenhouse effect with and without atmosphere – people knew 2c because they heard it, and were not aware that it’s 32c. Also on knowledge about how much warming happened already, there was the assumption that it’s 2c and not being aware that we’re around 1c. The questionnaire is citizen science in the sense that we need to engage people and provide them with scientific information, so they can develop a better attitude. People don’t have the full details of the scientific fact of climate change: provide people with knowledge, then put the necessary actions and issues after understanding the basic concepts.

The results are used in a publication and shared and communicated to the public and to other stakeholders.

Next, Margaret Gold organised a session about supportive legal and policy frameworks. Different participants from the member states share their examples. Examples were provided from Romania and Belgium, such as the Belgian examples at both federal and regional levels policies. The second area of sharing was the institutional policy frameworks, operational structures and management culture. In Austria, there is some career path recognition, and in Norway, there are examples across the board of institutional policies. The third area is capacity building activities. Examples of capacity building at national levels are the development of networks and organising networking events. Further areas of activities include societal dialogue and other forms to increase participation.

Some of the information that was shared include:

The second part of the day including a workshop that took place on lake Balaton. This started with a talk by Gabor Foldvari about citizen science and the way it helps to prepare for emerging infectious diseases. Gabor is from the Institute of evolution, the centre for ecological research in Budapest. As a disease ecologist consider the way pathogens circulate in nature. The impact of climate change includes all the sorts of records across a range of indicators. A lot of problems are happening across Europe = droughts, fires…. The pressure on nature and habitats. When pathogens are under pressure, they can migrate with a host. We have a co-evolution model of parasites and hosts – over time, the parasite and host accommodate. The problem is that this model is wrong. What we can think of, and what is more acceptable is ecological fitting – looking for opportunities to meet new hosts and climate change provides such an opportunity. Emerging infectious diseases are the rule and not an expectation. There are low probability and high impact like Ebola which are clear. However, there are high probability and low impact EID – like ticks and lime disease. in such a situation, there can be ongoing outbreaks. Urbanisation is leading to increasing in green spaces and globalisation is increasing opportunities for a meeting between host and parasite. The costs of EID are very high – $1.3 trillion – covid-19 cost 10 trillion alone.

The Stockholm paradigm for EIA can allow us to act – host changes leading to EID can be predicted. It’s done through documenting, assessing, monitoring, and action. Trying to find the pathogens before they find us. The document is important to record – we know only a fraction of viruses, so we need to work to describe what is around us. Checking if the pathogen how closely related to one that we know. Once you’ve done a risk assessment, you need to monitor – timely changes, such as summer or winter etc. Citizen science is good in coping and cooperating – providing suggestions to decision-makers.

Tickd observations

An effort of citizen science in Hungary was focused on a specific type of tick that carries out a deadly disease – the Hyalomma Marginatum. Migrating birds can be brought over the tick. It has been observed in Germany, and Sweden, so wanted to check if it can be found in Hungary. Climate change makes it possible for the tick to survive across the whole year. They established a website and although they started to receive pictures of ticks that were not relevant. The media can be wrong if they don’t attach the right picture to the article. However, they started receiving types of ticks that they haven’t seen before. The “bycatch” of the effort was useful for the researchers to learn about new types of species in Hungary and their distribution. There are also discoveries about the pathogens that they are carrying. They reached several hundreds photos and 137 ticks. in 2022 they documented 6 Hyaolomma so far. He suggested that there might be a space for the creation of an intergovernmental panel for pandemic preparedness (like IPCC)

The work was done on a homemade website, and started without a grant and resources in the centre. Later on, using an in house expertise they improved the website. Connection to participants and replying to participants are part of the process. Concern about health impact is a motivation for people who want to know if there are health risks. In the paper, they discussed the benefits and limitations of citizen science and in the paper

The last part of workshop was organised by Margaret Gold. Groups were created to mix research funders, research performing organisations, other actors, and European commission staff. The groups are mixed in their combinations. Following the work on enabling factors and project lifecycles. The effort was dedicated to a national-level roadmap that will allow for discussion about enabling factors. Consideration of the P3M3 Maturity Model that talks about levels – of awareness, repeatable, defined, managed, and optimised. Thought was put into the consideration of UNESCO priority areas. The general direction of the workshop participants is that a very rigid model that does not allow pathways and multispeed development through it will not work well.


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