Communities of practice of citizen science – workshops, meetings, and conferences

It’s now about two months since the intensive 10 days at the beginning of June, which included attending the workshop Science and Dissent, the ECSA conference, the follow-up COST Action on citizen science meeting, and the Ecsite conference. Shortly after, I  attended the UNECE 22nd Working Group of Parties to the Aarhus Convention. June ended with a long meeting of the Doing It Together Science consortium to plan the last year of the project. Participating in so many meetings is an overwhelming experience, which takes time to process and reflect on. But a promise for the OPENER project for a reflection that is relevant to the topic of the project – the idea of a community of practice around public engagement and in particular environmental citizen science – provide a reason to consider “what kind of a community of practice was demonstrated in each event?“. I’m not trying to compose here an insight on the nature of communities of practice but just a description of where things are right now.

A Community of Practice (CoP) is “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” and the different formats of the meetings provided the physical space and temporal co-location for people to come together.

The meetings are of very different sizes: from the over thousand participants in Ecsite, to the 15 or so participants in DITOs meeting. Those different sizes lead to different possible interactions and linking up with people, but in each case, it wasn’t only a single CoP in action, and that becomes clearer with the growth in size since people come together. The COST action meeting, although bring about 150 people, was very distributed, with each working group (where people with similar interest discuss their research) talking in their room with only short interactions with other people during coffee breaks.

All these meetings brought together people with a shared interest in citizen science to some degree and in different ways. In “Science and Dissent”, it was historians of science who are researching citizen science, while in ECSA conference, a lot of people who research and organise citizen science projects came together. Ecsite conference focus on science centres and science museums, so only some of the people there have a strong interest in citizen science (I’d guess that about 100 to 200 were interested in “Citizen Science on Trial“). There were overlaps between the people that participated in this series of events, but the “Ven diagram” of participation across them, end up being fairly small. I see that as evidence that while the interest in citizen science is reaching different groups and CoP, the number of people that cross boundaries between them is small.

Another question is the equity in participation. What was especially interesting is to see that the communities of the COST Action and ECSA conference do not completely overlap, but that might be the results of the costs, affordability, and length of travel. The ECSA conference requires people to book travel, hotel, and conference, while COST covers the costs of travel. This brings to the fore questions about resources (in time and in money) that shape the interactions within a CoP – for example, in participating in ECSA AGM and voting on specific decisions.

Finally, it is also interesting to see how different modalities of formalism and practices play out in each meeting, with the UNECE meeting, naturally, being at the formal end – and yet, you could see that some people in the room have been working together for a very long time and are a very tight CoP on public access to environmental information; to the ECSA conference, which is fairly open, but developing new ways of working and agreeing on common issues, where there is familiarity, but as a relatively young organisation, there are many newcomers.

Finally, it is also worth noting that amongst the meeting, there was also a launch of three CoPs that are dedicated to citizen observatories as part of the WeObserve project.






Developing mobile applications for environmental and biodiversity citizen science: considerations and recommendations

The first outcome of the December 2016 workshop on apps, platforms, and portals for citizen science projects was the open access paper “Defining principles for mobile apps and platforms development in citizen science“, which came out in October 2017.

Lunaetal2018Fig3.pngThe workshop, which was organised by Soledad Luna and Ulrike Sturm from the Berlin Museum for Natural History, has led to a second output – a chapter in the book Multimedia Tools and Applications for Environmental & Biodiversity InformaticsThe invitation for contributions came at the right time with the first workshop in December 2016. The Chapter was completed in August 2017 and finally came out at the beginning of the month. A year from submission to getting it in press, which is fairly common in academic publications.

The chapter is different from the journal article, in providing more detailed examples of applications, and summarising aspects of systems in use and data standards that can be applied.

The abstract of the paper is:

The functionality available on modern ‘smartphone’ mobile devices, along with mobile application software and access to the mobile web, have opened up a wide range of ways for volunteers to participate in environmental and biodiversity research by contributing wildlife and environmental observations, geospatial information, and other context-specific and time-bound data. This has brought about an increasing number of mobile phone based citizen science projects that are designed to access these device features (such as the camera, the microphone, and GPS location data), as well as to reach different user groups, over different project durations, and with different aims and goals. In this chapter we outline a number of key considerations when designing and developing mobile applications for citizen science, with regard to (1) interoperability and data standards, (2) participant centred design and agile development, (3) user interface & user experience design, and (4) motivational factors for participation.

The chapter can be accessed using the following link Luna et al 2018 Developing mobile applications for citizen science – enjoy reading!


On the front line of community-led air quality monitoring – new paper

9783319749822The new book by Mark Nieuwenhuijsen and Haneen Khries “Integrating Human Health into Urban and Transport Planning” have just come out. The Mark and Haneen approached me with a request for a chapter on community-led air quality monitoring, and this provided an opportunity to join forces with Irene Eleta, who was doing her Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship in Barcelona and London, looking at aspects of citizen science and air quality. Irene is coming from a background in Human-Computer Interaction and studied the way Mapping for Change was carrying out monitoring in Somers Town, next to UCL.

In this chapter, we allowed ourselves to mix styles – part of the chapter is written in the common style of descriptive academic writing, but as we wanted to provide the fuller experience of the participants, Irene provides a more literary, diary-style description of the monitoring process itself. The chapter abstract is:

In this chapter, we explore the potential of community-led air quality monitoring. Community-led air quality monitoring differs from top-down monitoring in many aspects: it is focused on community needs and interests and a local problem and, therefore, has a limited geographical coverage as well as limited temporal coverage. However, localised air quality monitoring can potentially increase the spatial and temporal resolution of air quality information if there is a suitable information-sharing mechanism in place: information from multiple community-led activities can be shared at the city scale and used to augment official information. At the core of the chapter, we provide a detailed experiential description of the process of urban air quality practice, from which we draw our conclusion. We suggest that accessible and reliable community-led air quality monitoring can contribute to the understanding of local environmental issues and improve the dialogue between local authorities and communities about the impacts of air pollution on health and urban and transport planning.

And you can read the chapter here – Haklay & Eleta, 2019, on the Front Line of Community-Led Air Quality Monitoring

Justice and the Digital symposium notes

The Digital Geographies Research Group of the RGS-IBG held the annual symposium at the University of Sheffield, under the theme “Justice and the Digital”. These are partial notes from the day

The symposium opening session focus on the important question “What’s Justice got to do with it?”

DSC_0956Jeremy Crampton covered three issues – practices of surveillance in the context of smart cities. Surveillance is seen as an Orwellian term, and a problematic term – for one thing, it does not affect everyone in the same way – for example, argument that ongoing camera used by police reducing complaints about police actions (though we can figure out the complexities); secondly, the increased use of AI and facial recognition, and finally, surveillance rely on recialised/biased approach to societal ordering. This can be understood and explored through database ethnographies.

The second point is the way in which digital services are being delivered (e.g. Amazon) and they are similar to Red Lining practices from the mid 20th century.

The final demonstration of the complexities is the competition from the government in the UK between universities to use technology to increase transparency and inclusion. If you don’t address structural problems, the technology is not the solution.

The challenge is to induce transformations and not just accept views.




Emily Tomkys Valteri (OXFAM) – looking at digital inequalities – the past 50 years we have seen major digitisation and fusing of digital and physical with transformation to the fourth industrial revolution and the narrative of acceleration by showing how long it takes to reach 50 million users for a technology  – from 50 years to few days. Existing technologies are used in new ways. We see self-mobilisation – e.g. #MeToo or #IWillGoOut for women in India. Social media raise awareness to campaign and add additional pressure. Digital cash provides support to people to access markets – in Kirkuk electronic vouchers are safer than cash for women to use. There is also aspects of historical knowledge: education, where people who are displaced use to live, what they have done, and that is being used to support new opportunities. There are new opportunities and technologies have a potential to disrupt existing spaces.

But – there are issues of gender divide and women are less likely to own a mobile phone and even to use it. The phone is not in a neutral space. Design of technology – women hold 17% in tech jobs and therefore it is designed by men. MIT checked AI in facial recognition and demonstrated huge differences between the ability to identify light colour men and dark skin women. Technology and social media can be hijacked by the government to spread specific narrative – e.g. in India where the ID programme is blocking people from access to services and are being hurt, or Myanmar distributing false stories on the Rohingya minority.

People look at the promise of technology and rights and ethics later – blockchain is a good example. they might be useful in digital work, but we need to put the vulnerable people first. We need rights and standards first (from the @HHI_Signal diagram below)


Oxfam knows that they can’t confront the latest technology. We need a rights-based approach; second co-create and co-design and work with users and not for the users; we need to bridge the private and public sector.

James Richardson (The Good Things Foundation) – digital inclusion charity. Working in the UK, Kenya and Australia. The perspective is in terms of individuals using the system. Digital exclusion implies different things: Internet and the access to such systems (but it is possible to reach out through other means). There are personal circumstances that change the internet from usable to a lifeline. 4.5m people in the UK who are offline and many of them see themselves as absolutely fine without it. Patterns of usage are important – 6 hours a day or a month: it is important what they do and how. There is a linkage between usage online and offline. Higher social economic use digital to enhance their cultural capital. Lower levels more likely just to follow. Digital can increase inequality instead of reducing it.  Need a level playing field for content, Information literacy about the interval – depends on your source of information – also issues of specific bubbles. Digital self-efficacy is the ability to change things is locked by the end of schools, a third of learners who haven’t finished school find the learning and joining the digital difficult. Find the internet “not for people like me” – a serious injustice. Barriers that exist in social forces that influence life before school.

Dorothea Kleine – concluded with some reflections. First, conceptualise justice – which is a topic of over many millennia of discussion from Plato to Sen. Different concepts and types of justice: distributive, retributive, procedural, interactional, organisational, environmental and more… Need to notice the issue of representation (visual, voice), access (digital divide), usage opportunities, the way it change economic relations, the physical and material artefacts, the data, control, and co-production with the digital and how we extend them with digital tools, and how the digital plays in spaces of protest.

There’s a need to move from discussion of the global north to other areas and view of the digital from another area. In particular, the capabilities approach to development (Sen approach) – expanding the freedoms that people enjoy. What life people want to live and enjoy. Is the digital supporting the future that we want or hindering it? There are vast differences between countries and genders. There are also dimensions of just access and usage – availability, norms of use of time and space. There are many barriers for mobile phone use -family have a major influence on mobile phone use in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria – social norms influence digital spaces. We should also design for equity, in which we give marginalised people an advantage.

Discussion about academic collaboration: data on digital exclusion is a topic for research – OXFAM experienced the difficulties of preparing data for analysis, or Good Things experienced involvement in RCTs. There is a major churn in the field – when people don’t share information and leave the organisation, then starting to standardised surveys – come with best practice survey and in paper and data collection tools, so they should use it. There are issues about the design of technology and the way that it is applied – also outcomes structures. From universities perspective, the push to impact can allow for new collaboration and sometimes asking the tougher questions.

For the main part of the symposium, I’ve joined Strand 3: Justice and Global Digital Inequalities. 

I gave a talk about the concepts of passive and assertive inclusion, with citizen science as a demonstration of the complexities of inclusion.

[There were digital shorts – a short presentation on digital currencies and psych-social wellbeing of participants in ICT4D projects, LGBT+ use of tech in the development context – didn’t noted that part]

Further discussion was provided by Emily and James who discussed more their morning presentations:

Emily – following on – two things about inequalities: context matter and access is not enough. We need to consider the context. Adding something (technology) still happens within wider inequalities in society. Oxfam project check feedback mechanism, this is part of core humanitarian standards and request from funders – lots of time it’s a hotline and suggestion box with zero responses. The reason for the lack of use of the suggestion box is that the gang that control camp was monitoring it and there is also high illiteracy. So power dynamics in the group are huge and impacting. Gender is particularly complex and access will not be enough – confidence, a perception that people will be afraid to use it, potential harm. e.g. a potential link of increase domestic violence with women empowerment project. Quite often in ICT project – they are based on practical needs, e.g. living conditions such as radio broadcasts and SMS, but need to address underlying problems. In the digital identity in different cases, the potential for empowering women, in multiple cases male relatives got involved in the process – e.g. not a place for women to go to the registration centre. Issues of taking pictures, or a male agent touching a thumb of a woman in the process. Some exciting things happening – e.g. social media and messaging on violence against women, e.g. creating a safe space for discussion online and offline.

James – covering the funding model – digital is powerful but need context. How digital by default influence equality. The shared commitment of the organisation is the use of ICT to improve life – addressing loneliness, age, ethnic disadvantages. People who come to the centres have multiple problems – e.g. people with debt problem partially because of digital literacy issues. The people in the centres are acting like carers and addressing the problem regardless of what it is so not putting boundaries. The funding model of the organisation – they work from digital inclusion to general inclusion. Instead of projects, they get funding for a holistic inclusion help. Because of the austerity, there is a need to consider the mix of funding to keep the light on and similar issues – expectation that volunteers will take the slack and work for free. For example, the support in immigration issues that is done with ad-hoc translation by the local community member who speaks the language and English. The third sector and government should be involved in developing policy.

The Digital Shorts include:

Andrea Jimenez – how innovation and entrepreneurs help development – the language that is being used to argue that this is the routes for getting out of poverty. Looking at innovation hubs. Issues of justice – how entrepreneurship became a way to get out of poverty, and especially for women. You can’t entrepreneur a way out of a system. Also, Bird point about can’t fit women into a system that it is inherently male. Need alternative narratives that are using from the global south and how to look at innovation and entrepreneurship with a local view.

Hannah McCarrick – analysing the way that soil, ICT and smallholders in Tanzania interact. There is an e-agriculture to increase agricultural productivity. Examining the local knowledge of farmers and how it matches the knowledge in the ICT system. Tanzania is providing a good place to explore the relationships between.

Closing Panel: Justice and the Digital: What can geographers’ contribute?

Ayona Datta (King’s College London) – Smart Cities in Postcolonial Context. Justice and the digital in the context of urban transformation in India, and translation to gender experiences. A key aspect is not only spatial justice but also the notion of time justice, a history of pushing for empowerment and against the triple burden. Time poverty is important for women and the bigger smart cities – efficiency, more for less. Digital space is imposed top down. Societal norms are limiting the use and potential of digital products. There is a potential for using WhatsApp diary as a way to record it and mapping it on GIS. There is some visual crafting of narratives – some digital spaces are used in a manipulative way.

Muki Haklay (UCL) –  I explored the aspects of geographers, digital technologies, and environmental justice. The link in the area of environmental information started in the 1990s (with Aarhus and Principle 10) and there is an assumption of use of information and science in order to join decision-making process, which led to early use of ICT such as in Renee Sieber paper on Conforming (to) the oposition from around 2000, it is somewhat horrifying to see how scientification and use of technology now consume large areas of development and humanitarian support to communities in the UK and elsewhere. This actually gives us an opportunity to think about the way the digital impacting justice and environmental justice provides a space to see that over a longer period, with problems in the lack of provision of easy to use information that is understandable and usable. Geographers contribution is through abilities to move between domains and knowledge – the aspect of being an undisciplined discipline. There is an effort by geographers to build new systems to demonstrate that alternatives are possible, but there is also a certain futility and utility of digital interventions. Rethinking concepts of participation, and putting it in the context of scientification of society, and the way digital tools are influencing this process.

Sam Hind (University of Siegen) – the practice of process and demonstrations. Generally, don’t use the term justice, and more thinking about care and ethics. Look at justice through care in the study of geography from the past. Developing new care through a digital platform. 2007 AAG address, Silk “Caring at a distance” – use the example of large charity events such as Live Aid created relationships. Important media in relationships, but we can take some idea to think of mobile mediated sense. Carrying at a distance through mobile media. We can check “interface objects” that effect the type of decisions that are made by people who access these systems. Could we generate new interface objects and how they influence carrying relationships?

Desiree Fields (The University of Sheffield) – financialisation of the private rental sector. Two ideas – through a narrative through tech are claims of transparency, which is the politics and invisibility – face recognition, redlining etc. Tech assumes transparency as a good for itself – the question who is making things visible, why and for whom? transparency is not necessarily empowering – marginalised people and places are being made transparent in order to be controlled. Politics of visibility have lots of justice is important. In NYC the JustFix it is a platform for helping to collect information to address injustice from landlords. The second aspect is the question of the pace of change, how the rapid pace of change – e.g. following technology which disappears. We focus on rapture (disruptions) – we should also look at continuities. Social, power, and political powers are not changing that fast. For example, the interaction between real-estate activities and technologies.


Ecsite 2018 – Day 2: technology advocacy, evolution, citizen science in parody trial, and DITOs

The second day of Ecsite 2018 included several interesting sessions (here is day 1) which includes a morning discussion about the role of science centres and museum in the public discussion of science and technology, a parody trial of citizen science, and a discussion on the nature of multi-country projects, where I gave a presentation of the Doing It Together Science (DITOs) as an example.

Technology advocates or whistleblowers?

DSCN2809Laurent Chicoineau (Quai des savoirs, TOULOUSE France) – his first experience with the challenges of communicating science and technology was in Grenoble with protests against nano-technology in the 1990s. At the time, the science centre explored the different views about it through an exhibition, public discussions, etc. The view from the government was that science communication was failed, as it didn’t convince the public that nanotech is good. In Toulouse, they made an exhibition in which people could choose from 15 innovations – people were more interested in medical innovation, and not in the one about enhanced- or trans-humanism. In a cartoon representation of the development of science and technology, it was asked: “why the future taste like bleach?” – it is a view of technology that emphasises clean and organised future. instead, thinking about Balck Mirror as an inspiration, and then have a story with a weird situation and then use them as a provocation to make people think and discuss potential future.

DSCN2810Ian Brunswick (Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin) – he takes the view that science centres should be more whistleblowers – problems such as climate change, environmental and other issues are social problems and therefore require social awareness. We should provoke people – the view that privatisation of space exploration is championed well enough – e.g. Elon Musk, so the centres should be raising challenges. If we don’t do that, we leave the critique of the future to populists. We should ask about various aspects of current technological developments – e.g. if the AI can write articles, poetry, or art. There are issues of sustainability – e.g. lead-free bullets that can be used without contaminating the water table. Or asking questions about 3D printed guns that show the potential of technology. or issues of climate change – in Climate Bureau that was pointing to a discussion about the winners and losers and profiteering from it. Each glimpse to a wider issue, we want people to make people feel.

Herbert Muender (Universum Managements GmbH, Bremen Germany) running a science centre in an area surrounded by technology and science companies and universities. The question is the topic is controversy – do the visitors understand our views? AI was mentioned and need to think about its current impact. For example, how much news is written by journalists: about 65% of news is now written or produced by bots. The understanding of what it means, and what Deep Learning mean? There is an issue that technology is running faster and faster and science centres cannot follow it up. Are they well informed about it or need to raise the information about the dangers and challenges? When it comes to fake news and science, the science centre is a trusted place and we need to consider the pro and cons. In Bremen, they experience fight over animal testing, and the scientist had to be protected by the Police, and the dialogue broke. Issues about anti-vaccination: what shall they do about it if the issue will come up? If we are talking about probabilities of 1% of a problem, how do we explain it to the public? Mentioning that media need to highlight minority position in order to raise their sales – and this is not wrong, it is how the process work and they have to accept it.

Joanna Kalinowska (Copernicus Science Centre, Poland) led the discussion: There are other positions in the spectrum and society have a great ability to absorb science – e.g. the change in the acceptance of surgery. At the London Science Museum – when there is new science, they present multiple views, and if something is controversial, they tend to take them away for a dialogue. Also created a situation that people will have to take a side and protest their side. In Science Gallery Dublin, the issue of climate science – they scientists requested the respect of the public and not their trust. They consider that the scientists don’t have their interests at heart – the one to one conversations are more effective. Another experience is seeing data that is pushed by companies that are driving specific views from companies – they also fund exhibitions and influence the funding. The limitation of the approach of Science Gallery Dublin with a more provocation approach is that beyond the creation of feeling and connections to the topic, it is the need for people to give them knowledge, but don’t link it to action – sometimes pointing to events that are linked to it. Museums and Galleries should be safe space for controversial topics. Discussions about vaccines require a safe space to be discussed and provide the range of information that is coming from it.

We need to consider what the protest is about – for example the French protest about nano-tech was there mostly about the model of industrial development and the role of public research in society. Science is not neutral or value-free. Another view: science centres do not have the expertise to judge on an issue, and they don’t have the ability to set the views. Issues of public

Public engagement with evolution: beyond giraffes and genes

DSC_0736.JPGJustin Dillon (University of Exeter) seeing evolution as a fundamental concept in science and the job is to engage people with a proper understanding of evolution. From our own experience, there are different ways of understanding how it works and what works and what doesn’t work. The session will allow different conversations with panellists.

Tania Jenkins (EvoKE- Evolutionary Knowledge for Everyone | SCNAT) Coordinating the Evoke project, and there is a basic understanding in scientific circles about giraffes and finches, and similar things. In the public imagination, it is about human evolution of religious beliefs. The evoke is trying to demonstrate that it is relevant to everyday life – from vaccines to climate change and biodiversity, The project is about engaging many researchers in information and formal education – COST Action 17127 is dedicated to the citizen engagement with evolution. The discussion that she led was solution-oriented – thinking about analogies: not believing in evolution, but about engaging in something like language. There is a potential interaction with kids and can classify things. There’s a major misconception that evolution is slow, not only antibiotics, and the way things evolve and not the linear view of evolution.

Maartje Kijne (Naturalis Biodiversity Center Leiden) Running a workshop with families, and doing work on their ancestors (in terms of human evolution) and dealing with people that are critical with evolution and with science. The discussion concludes that we recognise critical people – they deny what you’re saying, or ask for a proof. With people who deny things, you can explain the scientific process, seek common ground, point that evolution is not disconnected from faith. No awareness of micro and macro aspects of evolution.

Yamama Naciri (Corvatoire & Jardin botaniques de Genève) Geneticist, and working on the interface between population genetics and in the reconstruction of the trees of life, and specification. In the botanical gardens, they are thinking about the creation of an evolutionary trail – how interaction can increase the participant experience. Discussed in the group that facilitators have an important role, and engage in a discussion. Having evolutionary biologist in the exhibition can allow them to give facts, and less engage too deeply in a discussion and step back when things are too antagonistic. It is really important to explain the rules before the beginning of the workshop or the tour. Can be valuable to work with small children, especially with immigrant communities.

Henrik Sell (Natural History Museum, Aarhus) and would like to discuss how to make an exhibition about evolution – many people that visit the museum believe in evolution, and about 10% reject it – the visitors already believe in the issues that are presented to them. How to engage with people who are not accepting the theory? Should their view present? Especially when it comes to human evolution there are people who express their view that it is incompatible with their religious belief and then shut down. Use examples that are contemporary, e.g. demonstrate with dogs evolution. Provide historical perspective.

Citizen science on trial (parody trial)

DSC_0738.JPGSharon Ament (Museum of London) convened and chaired the session – A case of this magnitude requires a jury, that will make a decision about the case. The question that we are asking: is citizen science a robust model that is going to stay, or is it just a fashion that is going to go away like many other fashions in the past.

Aliki Giannakopoulou (Ellinogermaniki Agogi SA) plaintiff – arguing the citizen science – this case is not about citizen science but about citizen scientists. They are white, male, untrained, and anonymous. In many cases, there are bad intentions, and when it is implemented, it leads to ethical and legal questions. Are we take advantage when it is supposed to be democratic? Is it in a world that so many people are left behind is citizen science creating a barrier? scientists in most citizen science do not even interact with people. Citizen science is serving institutional goals of getting work for free, participants are not engaged in other public engagement activities. Not enough evaluation of citizen science is available, not enough about the ethical issues with it. We live in a time of big data – are people that are downloading an app really contribute to sign? The ICT doesn’t make people into scientists? What about the risks and the security of the participant.

DSCN2816Brad Irwin, (The Natural History Museum, London) defence  – an outdated opening statement – we heard that citizen science is the domain of old white male scientists. One of the most important new forms of science engagement. Will demonstrate that citizen science is contributing to world-class science, and engaging the public that takes part. It is engaging the public in dealing with the big issues that are facing the world. People are involved in collecting the data and finding ways to address these problems. It is here to stay.

DSCN2821The first witness for the persecution: Justin Dillon – is citizen science real science? the answer is No – science is a relatively complex process of systematically building knowledge, and make a model of how the world works, and then experimenting on real-world phenomena. If the prediction of the model matches the experiment, the model is held, and otherwise, it fails. That is what scientists do. Counting the number of eggs in a nest is is not science – looking at galaxies on the screen is not science. Need to remove the science from citizen science. Volunteers who are doing valuable work for scientists who don’t want to pay – citizen slavery or citizen technician.  What about the quality of the data? (laughter from the witness) scientists require so many volunteers is that because of the quality of the data is so poor, and therefore need to have so many of them to get it right. Generally, the quality of the data is poor. Final question: are citizen scientists acknowledge on publications? You would expect them to be on the list of authors – since the scientists are not considering as real scientists, they leave it to a footnote. Using the brochure of Spotteron to point that the people who are doing citizen science don’t look like scientists.

Defence interrogation of the witness: made a claim that people don’t have better things to do with their time – is there something better thing than to contribute to science? Answer – maybe they can’t do something better. The citizen scientists are not scientists and therefore can’t do science – and using the example from a paper by Dillon on “moving from citizen to civic science to address wicked conservation problems“.

Walter Staveloz – are citizen science project inclusive? 80% are white middle-class people, other people are not included. The whole approach is to tell people what to do because scientists know better – this is the deficit model all over again. Need further steps to make people know what they are doing, which a lot of time is not the case. Defence – regular science is white, can we first change the paradigm. Citizen Science can create an illusion that they participate in something meaningful way in science, and many times when people collect data they don’t know what do with it.

Matteo Merzagora – advocate a science that is useful for the whole society. Science needs to be independent and challenge societal values, not like what RRI call for science that is aligned with society. I want to challenge technology development. When we talk about citizen science we assume activists. Actually, citizen science is a trojan horse for market-driven science. The knowledge that Google is producing is based on co-production of knowledge? Is the new way of using us is done in collaboration with citizens, and it is market driven and an example of the issue.

DSCN2823Jim Browton (NHM) – the NHM in London is trying to get with citizen science – believe in the universality of experience and building knowledge. The citizen science project – Microverse is aimed at micro-fauna of cities and help people to discover real health issues that affect communities in the UK. The participation of schools is not in volunteering, so is that citizen science?.

Marianne Achiam – Citizen science can be exclusive – this is not a problem of citizen science, there are projects that are skewed and we should not leave the field. A project in the University of Copenhagen that is focused on ant include a significant outreach. Properly design citizen science can be inclusive indeed. Evaluation is important, and research is more important – we missing knowledge on how citizen science work and how it should work.

DSCN2828Caren Cooper – it is incorrect to say that citizen science is not real science: half of what we know about climate change on migratory birds is from citizen science, also an amateur astronomer who published a paper. There are many types of citizen science: there are citizen science projects that are community driven, and they are hard to quantify.

Prosecution questions: does this make the participants – they are citizen scientists and not scientists. It’s a different way to contribute to science.

Final prosecution statement: propose to ban large project and focus on the small projects, be really participatory and stop calling it citizen science. Defence: citizen science – we heard from people that are writing one thing in the trial but write up something.

The verdict: the case for the defence, to be clear the jury of the opinion is that citizen science is important, but the jury wants to say that citizen science should be inclusive of all communities and need to work to do it so. The science element should be robust. The citizen bit needs to be participatory and meaningful.

Multi-country science engagement programmes

This was a short session (45 minutes) that discussed four examples of multi-country projects in the area of science communication. Details about the session are here. The session was in a short Pecha Kucha style, with 15 slides that progress every 20 seconds, and I’ve used it to describe Doing It Together Science (DITOs) is a 3-year project, funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme, that is aimed to increase awareness of and participation in citizen science across Europe and beyond. It is focused on communication, coordination, and support of citizen science activities. Therefore, the project promotes the sharing of best practices among existing networks for a greater public and policy engagement with citizen science through a wide range of events and activities.

Synthesizing #ECSA2018 – Growing communities of #citizenscience practice, Geneva June 3-5

Another excellent summary of the ECSA 2018 conference from Monica Peters, who always adds the New Zealand perspective and help to contextualise the issues that are covered in the conference…


Mini BioBlitz at Teppes de Verbois Nature Reserve Mini BioBlitz at Teppes de Verbois Nature Reserve

The 2nd European Citizen Science Assn conference again brought together an eclectic mix of around 350 researchers, project/programme coordinators (and wannabes) from across the continent and beyond (UK, USA, Sth America, Asia, Africa, Australia and NZ). This post, the one hundredth on this site(!) highlights questions, considerations and research outputs presented that demonstrate how the field and methods of citizen science are actively being shaped and defined by different interests.

#ECSA2018 provided participants with diverse ways of learning and sharing information. Several keynotes were presented from European and US perspectives, followed by informal dialog/ roundtable sessions, speed and slightly longer talks, workshops and a brief poster session. This post will be one of many – the dynamic Muki Haklay has  produced excellent posts summarising #ECSA2018 along with pre-and post- workshops. You can find my summary of the first ECSA conference in Berlin…

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Ecsite 2018 conference – Day 1 afternoon: science shops, and the current practice and future of RRI

The afternoon of the first day of Ecsite 2018 included two parallel sessions (the notes from the morning is available here)

Science shops: participatory innovation, research and equity

Bálint Balázs (ESSRG) – the ESSRG acting as an independent science shop in Hungary, and want to share their and other organisations experience in running science shops.

Norbert Steinhaus  Coordinator International Science Shop, Wissenschaftsladen Bonn – Bonn Science Shop, which created the Living Knowledge network. He started with a definition: science shop provide independent, participatory research, to address civil society concerns. There are two general approaches – science shops that are established in universities, and another type that is a not-for-profit organisation outside universities or museums. The Bonn science shop started in 1984, about 50 members of the association, with a budget of 2.6m EUR and 35 people that are working on different projects. Focus on different engagement and different methods that are suitable for the different stakeholder groups. One of the first projects was Art as a medium of science education, in the Botanic Gardens in Bonn and that led to environmental festivals and other learning experiences. Other activities include the Sparks exhibition, but also with other museums and bodies such as Big Picnic in the Botanic Gardens of Bonn. Getting ideas of bottom-up, expressing concerns is an issue across projects – the idea of a pop-up science shop was and engagement.

María Jesús Pinazo, The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) – Hospital Clínic – setting science shops in hospitals and different forms of science shops. the inSPIRES project – a project to build effective cooperation between science and society through Science Shops and increasing responsible participatory research. It is a difficult issue to promote science shops in Bolivia or North Africa. In particular, they are thinking about using RRI, open science, open data and having impact evaluation that needs to be part of their project. They take care to think about cultural context, deal with societal issues, and focus on health. The project will review the science shop concept, and they need to think about the approaches, and recreate civil society the response for their demands. They are in particular planning to create a mentoring programme that will support  having new practitioners in science shops. They are looking at transdisciplinary and transnational science shops projects – having multiple communities address the local problems. Different partners, in Bolivia and Tunisia. They also manage to identify similar questions between different shops by noticing which problems are emerging

Giovanna Pacini (University of Florence) organising science cafe every two weeks, with a link to radio programme and also screening the science shop experience. A physicist who works in a centre for the study of complex dynamic and also in a not-for-profit association Caffe Scienza. She was involved in different projects to fund the effort of the science cafe. The events are being streamed and shared on YouTube, a radio programme (RadioMoka) and also run a science communication – more a laboratory for PhD students in physics and computer science. They try to increase interaction between scientists and public through using science cafe as a way to engage people throughout the research. They are creating a new Florence science shop, and the first thing was to explain it using Monopoly as a way to explain the science shop. Pilot projects include citizen science on diabetic patients, traffic and pollution, domestic violence, and urban gardens. They use the science cafe to collect questions for the science shop work. This is also part of InSPIRES project – The science shop in Florence and through InSPIRES they can offer mentoring.

Q – how to demystify scientists? In science cafe, it’s more difficult, the control of information and perceptions of science are unclear. If you challenge the scientists to leave your role – e.g. in science cafe, asking the audience and pushing them to move from the role of telling people

Q – how to reach out to stakeholders? Norbert – start with a smaller group and reach out in a way that takes into account the barriers and the need to reach out actively to people.

Q- financing: is it all project based? sustainability should come from institutions which integrate it into their practice, or the municipality. Reaching to policymaking is difficult, and after elections is something can change. Building the relationships with the city helped through projects that then led to other projects. Incentives for scientists and commitment is difficult it is easier to work with students as it can be credited, and the professor by creating a theme for research. Linking paid services (e.g. education activities) to projects as a way to create sustainability. There is a request for flexibility on the researcher side, and the staff don’t focus all the time on the same topic.

The impact is a complex issue, and the InSPIRES project has developed tools to evaluate it and follow it up with qualitative and quantitative measurements. The impact can come indirectly and over time. For example, working with Roma communities in Hungary is very difficult due to a breakdown of trust and they don’t know how to participate, and they don’t see the value in this area. A group of researchers learned from science shops experience and carry out Participatory Action Research – those who are most in need are being ignored. Need to build trust.

Q – is the model of science shop and science cafe are suitable to push museum outside the walls of the institution. There are issues and experimentation of museums in different communication modes, receiving information from the local community. The partners who hosted the exhibition linked to medical professionals, patients and other stakeholders and then use the museum as the space to carry out the work.

A decade of RRI: stepping stones or erratic rocks?

Frank Kupper (Athena Institute, The Netherland) – Responsible Research and Innovation: what people think of include public engagement, informal education. Actually, it’s a central theme in H2020 and triple origin – societal trends, as a way to implement policy goals, and follow up of science/policy work on science and technologies. These three streams have complicated things. It’s a process of opening up science and alignment of science and society, and the second is an umbrella of covering a whole range of issues in research policy and action. The basic idea of RRI is that early stage engagement, you can take a joint responsibility for the future and respond by changing the course of action. It has been a central theme, and in Horizon Europe RRI disappeared, but the underlying concepts are already there in open science or citizen science. We will cover experiences from a project about keeping the RRI spirit alive without the term?

Carmen Fenollosa (Ecsite) – quick presentations on activities, and discussing RRI. HEIRRI project is about RRI in higher education in H2020. Include a state of the art review in the field of teaching. The core of the project included 10 educational programmes that were carried out. The HEIRRI programmes are all open access and available on RRI-tools website. The question is: who is in the best position to make the change?

Annette Klinkert (CEO city2science) – NUCLEUS was also about communication, learning and engagement in universities. In NUCLEUS focus on responsiveness to a different academic area – looking at university governance and influencing this process. Universities can thrive if it is in communication and responsive to the world outside. They have engaged with university leaders and understanding the barriers to RRI – from too complex, it implies irresponsibility… Also visited different countries to work with different places that work with society and universities. They developed a roadmap for the development of RRI and putting the effort to lead to a change, and aiming for “DNA of RRI” that can be put into different organisations. They think of a network of stakeholders? Do we have an understanding of multiple publics? Do we have co-creation expertise – will that risk existing scientific expertise? Are we going to challenge the current academic system? Also about the engagement – with whom? And also what are the changes to institutional structures.

Ilse Marschalek (Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna) – part of the RRI-Tools projects, and new project called New HoRRIzon which manages the RRI-Tools. New HoRRIzon is looking at the link to SDG and the embodiment of RRI into their work. They are creating social lab – a team, process, appropriate space, then carrying out social experiments and having a learning cycle ( Pilots include maintenance of a community of practice in the social lab activities. They are interested in questions about open science and public engagement – what can public engagement in RRI really fulfil? The approach is focusing on process rather than participants. there is the confusing understanding of science communication, citizen science, public engagement in research projects. There is poor commitment to use the results of the public engagement activity, and myths about time, costs, uselessness.

Carlos Catalao Alves (Pavilion of Knowledge (Pavilhão do Conhecimento) – worked in RRI-Tools and Fit for RRI. Worked in public engagement for 20 years. RRI and Open Science is competing. The workshop that was organised in an RRI project, people talked about the impact of science and the way it can change society and the way society can change research. Actually, there was a need to avoid the term. The idea is that RRI is not brandable, and not being pushed forward is that it didn’t come from the scientific community, but as an agent that will moralise the academic community. The misunderstanding of RRI are companies such as Facebook and technology companies are in trouble, and society turned around companies – Cambridge Analytica is a research company that was doing things that are undesirable. When we started talking about RRI many years ago, the very few researchers – the educators, public engagers there was no problem. However, with researchers, only think that it is about communication of the science. RRI is socially accessible that is answering societal needs.

Lale Dobrivoje (Centar za promociju nauke, Serbia). In RRI tools carried out different activities to train, advocacy meeting and dissemination. They continue to work in the RRING network that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals. RRI still have an opportunity. There are ways of thinking that through funding mechanism and projects period, RRI will influence the next 5 years and then there are other activities. We can also think about the impact through SDG activities.

Leonardo Alfonsi (Director at Psiquadro, Psiquadro scarl) – Perform project is about innovate STEM education – an attempt to combine RRI with the field of performing arts: standup comedy, clowning, and science busking. Trying to create a show together with the audience – secondary school students. They developed forms of performances, in particular with early career researchers. The indications are that the use of RRI values helped in co-producing the performance. And the question is what is the impact of RRI on the creative process?