10 years of Mapping for Change

November 24 marks 10 years since Louise Francs, Chris Church and myself set up Mapping for Change. It’s a proud moment when the social enterprise that was set out of a research project at UCL is now well established, and the work that it does is mentioned in the annual report of the Chief Medical Officer, appear in the Guardian, and develop projects in many places far from its origin in London – including in Barcelona, Katowice, Valletta, and Kampala.

Mapping for Change came out of the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) funded “Mapping Change for Sustainable Communities. Originally, we’ve approached Steve Coast and Nick Black to develop a community mapping platform, but they got busy with CloudMade and we were lucky that Claire Ellul stepped forward and developed the first version of the community mapping platform during her postdoctoral research. Claire is our unofficial co-founder and acted as technical lead for a long while. Mapping Change for Sustainable Communities was about to end in December 2008, and Louise, Chris and myself decided that we’re going to continue to utilise the platform and engagement methodologies that we’ve developed through a new organisation, so we set up Mapping for Change for this purpose. Originally, Mapping for Change was supposed to be set as a collaboration between London 21 Sustainability Network and UCL, but with the demise of London 21 in 2010, UCL became the main owner of it.

As to celebrate the 10 years, I’m picking up some activities and developments in Mapping for Change from each year, but first, I have to go back further – 14 years ago:

GreenMapMeeting20042004 – this email, from Vinciane Rycroft, at London21, who at the time developing their innovative online Green Map for London, was to establish a connection between UCL and the organisation. Following this, I learned about London 21 effort to record community-led sustainability activities across the city and represent them. The meeting in 2004 eventually led to the development of “Mapping Change for Sustainable Communities” project and the creation of Mapping for Change

2008HWCommunityMap6-Workshop-MCSC.JPG the basis for Mapping for Change was an extensive set of workshops that were carried out in different areas in East London. The image is taken from a workshop at Hackney week in March 2008, which was eventually digitised and shared on the new community mapping platform – and in this image both Louise Francis and her London 21 colleague, Colleen Whitaker, leading a participatory mapping workshop.

MfCBrochure2009 – With the first brochure and also a description of existing activities, we started securing the first projects that were paid for. These included working with different faith communities across London on sustainability issues, and also a map of food growing in Brixton (linked to the Transition Town group there). Another project started at the time was with UCL Development Planning Unit around Hackney Marshes.

 

DSC01239 (2)2010 – the official launch of Mapping for Change at UCL included an endorsement from Steve Caddick, the Vice Provost for Enterprise (in the picture on the right). We have also started working with UCL Public Engagement Unit on understanding the relationships between UCL and the local community that live around it. Most importantly, we have secured a social enterprise award from UnLtd, as part of their programme to support social enterprises in Universities. We also started to carry out air quality study in the Pepys Estate. Some of our work was covered in GIS Development.Diffusion sample3

2011 – the work on community-led air quality monitoring started to expand, with studies in Highbury and Islington. We also carried out work on mapping activities in canals and waterways and helped The Conservation Volunteers to assess their impact. As a UCL champion for social enterprise, it was possible to encourage the institution to support activities such as those of Mapping for Change in a more organised way.

2012 – the main change to the company in this year happened with the help of UCL Business, the technology transfer office of UCL (and in particular Ana Lemmo). We changed the registration to a Community Interest Company (CIC) and also made UCL the owner of the company, which made it the first CIC that is completely owned by the university.

2013 – following the transition to UCL ownership, we were selected as the social enterprise of the year. We also launched the Science in the City project in the Barbican – a year-long air pollution monitoring study in the Barbican estate in the City of London.

Street mobility toolkit2014 – Mapping for Change was used for an Impact Case Study in the research evaluation framework (REF) exercise that year. This required explaining the work that was developed in the first 5 years of operation, and in particular air quality studies. During this year, we’ve hosted Karen Martin, who carried out a participatory mapping project with people who use foodbanks (see her slides below). During this year, we also secure the first major EU research funding for our work, through the CAP4Access project, as well as UCL Street Mobility project. At the end of the year, the new database system for managing community mapping – GeoKey – was released by UCL ExCiteS and form the basis for a new Community Mapping system.

Southwark 2015 – we have started collaborating with the Engineering Exchange at UCL, and provided training in participatory and community mapping. We also released the new community mapping system – updating and replacing the software that was used from 2008. This was an extensive effort that required significant investment. The new system facilitated the creation of maps for different clients – it was possible to create a bespoke front page for Eco21 in Poland and other organisations. At the end of the year, we carried out a crowdfunding campaign to raise funding to support community-led air quality projects (see also here). We also helped the London Borough of Southwark to carry out a consultation on its development plan. You can also find notes from a talk at the Building Centre on Mapping for Change activities.

2016  – the year started with the launch of a new Horizon2020 project, WeGovNow! which is now its last stages. With the growing concern by the communities around UCL on the health impacts of HS2 development, we collaborated with a visiting researcher (Irene Eleta) on understanding the interactions between researchers and communities on air quality projects. We also had our first contract with the University of Malta and providing them with a platform for community mapping that they can use for different projects.

Participatory Mapping Methodology2017 – 10 years after it was originally developed, the participatory methodology that we use is published in the Routledge book of Environmental Justice, another major change happened in the late part of the year, with the office of Mapping for Change relocating to Mildmay Community Centre in Islington. This was, in some way, a close of a circle, since in 2008 when we just started, working with the project Citizens Science for Sustainability (SuScit) which was running in Mildmay was considering the use of community maps, and in 2012 Cindy Regalado carried out one of her playshops in the community centre as part of her research in ExCiteS.

2018 – Mapping for Change is now well established, and running multiple projects – maintaining the online maps, participating in Horizon 2020 projects – a new one, D-Noses, just begun, and being invited to participate in tenders and proposals. Nowadays, I actually know that I don’t know about many of the interesting projects that are happening. It operates in synergy with the work of the UCL Extreme Citizen Science group and continues to grow. It is a successful example of a knowledge-based social enterprise.

There were many people that helped Mapping for Change, worked or volunteered on the many projects that were carried out over the years – and this is an opportunity to thank all of them!

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Citizen Science: Expertise, Democracy and Public Participation – Report for Swiss Science Council

One of the joys of the Doing it Together Science project is that it provides opportunities to work closely with different partners from very different areas. One such a collaboration is with Bruno Strasser and his group at the University of Geneva who are researching citizen science from an STS/history of science perspective.

Over the first part of 2018, Bruno and I developed a report for the Swiss Science Council on citizen science. Here is the summary of the report:

“Citizen science” refers to a broad range of activities where people produce scientific knowledge outside of traditional scientific institutions. From mapping natural phenomena to analyzing scientific data, sharing health information, and making
new technologies, citizen science occurs across all the disciplines of science and involves a number of different methods of inquiry, both orthodox and alternative. It includes projects directed by scientists and by grassroots organizations as well as projects where power over the design, implementation, and the use of outputs is shared among participants and organizers.

Citizen science is not a completely novel phenomenon since it was the main mode of practicing science for centuries. But the professionalization of science and the rise of experimentalism since the mid-nineteenth century has increasingly separated professional scientists from the public, and this accelerated in the second part of the twentieth century. Citizen science, and other participatory research activities, reconnect ists and the public in new ways. Unlike previous attempts at bridging the gap between science and the public through science communication or through deliberative forums, in citizen science the public directly contributes to the production of knowledge, though in many cases their role is restricted to data collection or simple analysis.

Citizen science is witnessing a rapid growth and is increasingly being recognized by national governments and science funding agencies as a promising solution to three sets of problems affecting the relationships between science and society. First, citizen science can contribute to science by providing a large workforce to solve research problems that require extensive observations (mapping biodiversity) or the analysis of big data sets (classifying galaxies). It can also contribute new do-it-yourself (DIY) research tools, foster Open Science, and bring more inclusive methods to scientific research. Second, it can contribute to improving citizens’ scientific literacy, specifically with regard to the nature of science and scientific inquiry, which is crucial for the ability of citizens to position themselves in democratic debates about scientific and technical issues. Third, it can contribute to making science more democratic, both in the sense of including more diverse people in the practice of science and in making science better aligned with the public interest. It can also increase public trust in science and help governments fulfil their international monitoring obligations, for example for biodiversity or air quality.

The great opportunities of citizen science for science, education, and democracy, but also the risks of cooptation by scientific institutions and of populist undermining of professional expertise deserve serious critical attention from scholars and policy makers.

The report is available as a stand-alone report, and in a version that includes the conclusions and recommendations by the council.

SSCreport

New publication: Participatory citizen science

I’ve mentioned in the previous posts about the introduction and conclusions chapters in the book “Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy” and the chapter about citizen science in universities. The final chapter in the book that I would like to highlight is my chapter “participatory citizen science“. As Rick Bonney pointed to me, on the face of it, this title sounds like a pointless repetition because all citizen science is participatory science by definition, and therefore this title can be translated to “participatory participatory science” – which doesn’t make much sense…

However, I contend that it does make sense because the issue of participation in citizen science and “what exactly the word participation mean?” is not that simple to answer. A good demonstration the fact that participation is not that simple is provided through to frequent references to Arnstein ladder of citizen participation in the literature on citizen science. It is something that I have been exploring in various papers and in my research. The chapter itself is a polished, peer-reviewed, version of my keynote from the ECSA 2016 conference (and the blog that accompanied it). It is an investigation into the meaning of participation and starting to answer who participate and how they participate. The chapter leads towards a 2×2 typology of the type of participants and the depth of engagement across projects.

The highlights of the chapter are:

  • Common conceptualisations of participation assume high-level participation is good and low-level participation is bad. However, examining participation in terms of high and low levels of knowledge and engagement reveals different types of value in each case.
  • The spectrum of citizen science activities means some are suitable for people who have education and knowledge equivalent to PhD level, while some are aimed at non-literate participants. There are also activities suitable for micro-engagement, and others requiring deep engagement over time.
  • Issues of power, exploitation and commitment to engagement need to be explored for each citizen science project, as called for by the ECSA Ten Principles of Citizen Science, in response to the need for a more nuanced view that allows different activities to emerge

You can find the chapter here.

Table of High and low engagement and skills from the chapter

New publication: Integrating citizen science into university

In addition to the introduction and conclusion chapters in the book “Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy“, I have contributed to content chapters that are at the body of the book. Daniel Wyler, from the University of Zurich, led on the writing of the chapter “Integrating citizen science into university” and I joined as a co-author. Daniel has a significant experience as a senior manager at the University of Zurich and became interested in citizen science a few years ago. He led the development of the report of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) on citizen science in 2016, on which this chapter build. He also initiated a large citizen science centre at the university of Zurich and ETH – one of the first in the world.

The chapter was written in a way that it can be used to encourage universities’ senior leaders to adopt citizen science activities into their operations. We describe how it can enhance research activities, teaching, linkage to society, as well as open up the scope for new funding and resources. We also emphasise the unique role of universities in the field of citizen science and list nine challenges: identifying what is the right balance of citizen science projects in the wider range of projects; maintaining quality and impact; improve openness and transparency; strengthening learning and creativity; optimising organisation, communication, and sustainability; establishing suitable credits and rewards; increasing funding for citizen science projects; and striking a new balance between researchers and society.

The highlights of the chapter are:

  • Universities are an integral part of citizen science activities.
  • Universities gain breadth and strength in research by adopting and supporting citizen science, which consolidates their position and recognition in society, brings new resources and increases public trust in universities.
  • Universities contribute to citizen science by providing professional infrastructure, knowledge and skills; ethical and legal background; educational facilities for present and future citizen scientists; sustainable teaching; and funding.
  • University engagement in citizen science faces a number of challenges, which can be managed through project planning and the support of funders and policymakers.

The chapter can be found here (as the whole book – it is free for reuse).

image.imageformat.lightbox.1942538207[1]
The poster of the Zurich workshop that led to the LERU report

New publication: Citizen science to foster innovation in open science, society and policy

The previous post described the opening chapter of “Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Policy, Science and Society“, which apart from the first 7 pages, is following a fairly standard pattern of introduction chapters – an overview of the sections and explaining the logic behind organising the chapters and the order that they appear, and description of the case studies in the book.

The concluding chapter, on the other hand, was created with special effort to make it a synthesis and analysis of the themes that emerge from the book. The chapter “Citizen science to foster innovation in open science, society and policy” was created in a joint effort of the editorial team in the following way: first, we’ve asked each of the chapters lead authors to agree with their co-authors and provide 3 to 5 bullet points that summarise the main messages of the chapter. The purpose of these points is to be a quick reference for the readers about the chapter with more focused information than an abstract. You can find these “Highlights” in each of the chapters (though not in the case studies).

These highlights also served another purpose – as a starting point for the synthesis. We copied all the highlights into a Google Document, and then, in mid-September 2017, with all the chapters completed and ready for the final stage of production, Aletta, Susanne, Anne, and myself joined in two online workshops in which we discussed the themes and collaboratively  moved the bullet points around so we can gather them into common headings (science, society, science-policy interface, technology, science communication and education, and organisational/institutional). With the bullet points grouped, we started composing paragraphs from this “raw material” – it is fascinating to follow the versions of the Google Document and see the sections emerging in a short period of time.

As with the rest of the book, we were fortunate that Susanne, the lead editor, is also a very talented science communicator with a very good eye to graphic design. The final chapter includes pictograms that represent different audiences for the recommendations that are emerging from the book – policymakers, researchers, educators, etc (see example below). The effort by Aletta and Susanne on this chapter produced an excellent synthesis from the joint output of 121 authors – an excellent way to conclude the book in a meaningful way.   The end result can be found here.

Page in book with icons

New publication: Innovation in open science, society and policy – setting the agenda for citizen science

As part of the editorial team of the book “Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Policy, Science and Society“, I have contributed by working with the authors of chapters, organising the orders of the chapters, managing the peer review process, and so on. In addition, I was involved in the writing to 4 chapters out of the 31 in the book – this post, and the three that will follow it, are here to provide some context to them.

As common in edited books, the editorial team collaborated on the opening and closing chapters. For the opening chapter which is titled, similarly to the book “Innovation in open science, society and policy – setting the agenda for citizen science” the editorial team as a whole collaborated. In this chapter, we start by helping people who are not familiar with citizen science with some definitions, a bit of history of where it came from, and a note about the diversity of citizen science across scientific areas. We then introduce the three areas that the book covers in its sections: policy, society, and science. We start with policy and the way in which citizen science is being integrated into government operations and policies, with an example of the process in Germany. We then move to the societal contributions – such as outreach to new communities that are under-represented, or linkage to the higher-education system; Finally, we discuss the link between citizen science and Open Science. We then describe the different sections of the book and the logic of organising the chapters in the way they are, and finally cover the extensive set of case studies that are included in the book – One of the elements that we focused on during the development of the book so it includes a large number of them.

I am very happy that the chapter is opening with a quotation from Sharman apt Russel’s Diary of a Citizen Scientist (p. 14): “This is renaissance, your dentist now an authority on butterflies and you (in retrospect this happened so pleasantly, watching clouds one afternoon) connected by Twitter to the National Weather Service. This is revolution, breaking down barriers between expert and amateur, with new collaborations across class and education. Pygmy hunters and gatherers use smartphones to document deforestation in the Congo Basin. High school students identify fossils in soils from ancient seas in upstate New York. Do-it-yourself biologists make centrifuges at home.

This is falling in love with the world, and this is science, and at the risk of sounding too much an idealist, I have come to believe they are the same thing.”

The chapter is freely accessible, on its own, from JSTOR, here

CitSciBookAuthors

 

Five online training modules on citizen science

At the beginning of the year, as part of my work at UCL and together with members of the Extreme Citizen Science group, I launched a new postgraduate level course “Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing“. We have opened it for distance learners on the UCL eXtend platform. As a postgraduate course, it required a high time commitment, since such a course expects the students to invest about 150 hours over a period of 14 weeks, which translate to at least 5 hours a week. It was expected of students to read and prepare for class, follow the material, and do the practical element each week. Therefore, it was not a surprise that some of those that follow the course remotely found it challenging!

The Opening Science For All project (OPENER) provided an opportunity to create a lighter version of the course, which requires less time. Gitte Kragh from Earthwatch led on the selection of the elements from the full course that can be reused to create 5 modules that cover the following topics: an introduction to citizen science generally, focus on environmental citizen science, information technology in citizen science, understanding participant motivation, and evaluation. Each of the modules is designed to take about an hour and to be relevant on its own. Few slides were adjusted and re-recorded, to ensure that they make sense.

Selecting a platform for the course was challenging – after trying several options, which proved complex, we found the Wix is providing a template for a basic course structure. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide a forum for interaction between learners, but the general framework of providing the modules and sharing the material of the course is fairly good. As always, putting all the information on the website took time and after testing the course internally, by the OPENER team, we have released the course and you can access it here.

As Gitte pointed: “Each module should only take about an hour, including watching a couple of short videos, reading through the suggested publications (with focus on practical publications, reports and articles rather than core academic papers), and trying out the suggested activity. (If you find any bugs, please let us know!)

This course was created as part of the NERC-funded Opening Up Science for All! (OPENER) project @openupsci. We focused on making this short course more accessible to practitioners and less academic in nature.”

We hope that it’s useful!

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