ActEarly – outline paper published

ActEarly is a new project, which has started in September. The project is a 5 years “city collaboratory” in Bradford and Tower Hamlets to research early promotion of good health and wellbeing. The project is part of a set of projects that are funded under the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) scheme, which includes an alliance of funders, including multiple research councils, charities, and government bodies. The consortium that is involved in ActEarly is quite extensive, and the framework of the project and explanation of what it is aiming to achieve is now published in an open-access paper.

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ActEarly includes an explicit participatory element, and citizen science is an integral part of the research. You can find out more in the paper.

The paper abstract is: Economic, physical, built, cultural, learning, social and service environments have a profound effect on lifelong health. However, policy thinking about health research is dominated by the ‘biomedical model’ which promotes medicalisation and an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment at the expense of prevention. Prevention research has tended to focus on ‘downstream’ interventions that rely on individual behaviour change, frequently increasing inequalities. Preventive strategies often focus on isolated leverage points and are scattered across different settings. This paper describes a major new prevention research programme that aims to create City Collaboratory testbeds to support the identification, implementation and evaluation of upstream interventions within a whole system city setting. Prevention of physical and mental ill-health will come from the cumulative effect of multiple system-wide interventions. Rather than scatter these interventions across many settings and evaluate single outcomes, we will test their collective impact across multiple outcomes with the goal of achieving a tipping point for better health. Our focus is on early life (ActEarly) in recognition of childhood and adolescence being such critical periods for influencing lifelong health and wellbeing.

You can access the paper here.

You can also see the role of citizen science and community engagement in the logic model of the project:

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Published: Citizen science and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Back in October 2018, I reported on the workshop at the International Institute for Advanced Systems Analysis (IIASA) about non-traditional data approaches and the Sustainable Development Goals. The outcome of this workshop has now been published in Nature SustainabilityThe writing process was coordinated by Dr Linda See of IIASA, and with a distributed process that included multiple teams of participants of the workshop working on different parts (for example, I have helped in coordinating the section “Citizen science for new goals and targets”). The final outcome is providing a comprehensive analysis of citizen science as a data source for monitoring and implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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You can read the full paper here, and share it, as it is open access (in contrast to other Nature Sustainability paper, with funding for it provided by Steffen Fritz group at IIASA).

The abstract of the paper is: Traditional data sources are not sufficient for measuring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. New and non-traditional sources of data are required. Citizen science is an emerging example of a non-traditional data source that is already making a contribution. In this Perspective, we present a roadmap that outlines how citizen science can be integrated into the formal Sustainable Development Goals reporting mechanisms. Success will require leadership from the United Nations, innovation from National Statistical Offices and focus from the citizen-science community to identify the indicators for which citizen science can make a real contribution.

The UNEP team that participated in the writing, provided a blog post that explains why it is a valuable contribution to the discussion on SDGs (they also integrated a great music video within it!).

New paper: Does urbanization make emergence of zoonosis more likely? Evidence, myths and gaps

The final output from the Urban Zoo project is out (see the post about the previous paper, which was published in GEO). This one is a literature and analysis of the role of urbanisation in zoonosis. The paper is open access, so you can read it here. It was led by Dr Sohel Ahmed (and thanks to his effort it is published). The abstract is:

Rapid urbanization in the global South is adding epidemiological and nutritional challenges and increasing disease and health burdens for citizens. Greater movement of people, animals, food and trade often provides favourable grounds for the emergence of infectious diseases, including zoonoses. We conduct a rapid evidence scan to explore what is known and hypothesized about the links between urbanization and zoonosis emergence. This points to rapid demographic growth, migration and density, increased movement of people and animals, and changes in land uses as the main processes linked to the prevalence of zoonosis in the urban global South. We argue that this emerging global health challenge is also deeply connected with the urbanization of poverty and inequalities within cities. Tackling the micro-level causal relationships between urbanization and zoonosis requires urgent attention to living conditions, as well as the wider socioenvironmental transitions and structural drivers that produce and reproduce risk accumulation in urban settings.

The process of selecting papers and developing the literature review is provided below: 10.1177_0956247819866124-fig1

EU Research & Innovation Days 2019 – reflections

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The previous post is more of a summary of the conference, but this one is aimed at capturing my reflections from these three days of (fairly high level) science event. This wasn’t a typical event, and it somewhat felt like Carlos Moedas (the leaving commissioner) farewell action as a commissioner, to get the research community that is linked to EU funding on board of the vision that he set for Horizon Europe.

But as I pointed, while it was great to see that in terms of participation, the gender balance in science is getting better (trying to guess I would estimate 30% or more female participants), this conference was mostly middle-aged, affluent, white participants. One of the speakers in the sessions about science policy pointed out – we need to have conversations with people who don’t look like us, but will be impacted by the research and the investment. These people (and their representation in some form of civil society, youth organisations etc.) were missing in the rooms.

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A second reflection is that the conference provided a perfect parable for the problem of not involving research participants in the process, and using (a form of) algorithmic governance. On the second day, around lunchtime, the access to the first floor where a lot of sessions were held was blocked by the staff on site. Announcements asking people that finished upstairs to leave the place to allow others to go were made, however, the rooms were actually not full, nor the outside area.

So what was going on? this is what it looked like: the side is post-industrial and there are restrictions on how many people can be at each area for safety purposes, and the conference had to monitor it. The way they decided to do it is by stewards scanning the QR codes on participants badges. However, the scanning was done without an explanation why it was done and how it is linked to safety, so it felt like you’re being scanned when you get into a room, when you leave it, when you go upstairs, and when you go downstairs. Now (some) scientists are very happy to devise methods to monitor and analyse the movement of big crowds but don’t feel that it applies to them, and it did feel intrusive. So my guess is that by around lunchtime, there were plenty of ghost participants on the first floor – counted in, but not out – and no mechanism to adjust the calculation to the reality of not full rooms, and empty outside areas was in place. So no matter what reality said, the counting was indicating capacity and therefore stopping people and causing frustration. You can imagine that if, as you enter, the purpose of the data collection has been made clear to participants, the situation might be averted (and of course many other solutions are possible technically). It was strange to see how a mini example of bad science is impacting the conference itself!

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A third reflection is on the variety of how citizen science is understood in the policy circles, and how valuable it can be to have a clearer set of characteristics to help newcomers. e.g. this

It was also interesting to hear in the session about policy advice in a complex world one of the participant say “I’m a physicist, and I think that science can only be made by experts and it is going to change with the whole community participating, how do we going to give advice? Increase of the noise?”. There are multiple understanding and interpretation, and it was great to hear Karel Luyben in the Open Science session seeing a role for people outside academia not only in data collection but also in analysis and in using results of open science and more.

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The final point is something that I now calling the “deficit model bingo”. I’ve written before that the most common questions after introducing citizen science are about data quality, and then motivation. But I also realised lately that when I’m talking with people about a potential new project, the deficit model comes along quite regularly. If you’re not familiar with it, Wikipedia put it “the model attributes public scepticism or hostility to science and technology to a lack of understanding, resulting from a lack of information. It is associated with a division between experts who have the information and non-experts who do not. The model implies that communication should focus on improving the transfer of information from experts to non-experts.” At some point, the scientists will start setting out that what they need to do is to educate the public. What is especially odd about this is that there is no notion that the public continues to become more and more educated – just look at this graph from Eurostat . Some European countries have over 50% of the population with tertiary education. How much more education does this expert think we need to make people see the world the way that they see it?

So this is a thread that I put at the end, especially when there is an effort to work with policymakers, but I don’t see the same effort to create material that is suitable for a much wider range of stakeholders. For example, in scientific assessment there is a regular “summary for decision-makers”, but where is the “summary for educated public” or “summary for civil society organisation” etc.? For me, part of the issues that people face with acceptance of science is not because people are not educated – exactly the opposite. Filter bubble and other issues are important, and there are plenty of other mechanisms that impact people (it was great to hear talks about values, ideologies etc. as part of how people use scientific information, but it is interesting how fast scientists – even those who surely heard about the issue with the deficit model – default to it.

 

European Research & Innovation Days 2019

DSC_2012.JPGBetween 24-26 September, the European Commission Directorate-General for Research & Innovation run an event in Brussels, titled “European Research and Innovation Days”. This was a large scale event, with about 3900 participants, which served several purposes. With Horizon 2020 approaching to its end and Horizon Europe starting in about a year an a half, it provided an opportunity to have a large scale conversation about the changes in the direction of research that the new programme brings (with a move from silos of research areas to missions) and also to co-design and think about different aspects of research. The event was held in the Kanal Centre Pompidou in Brussels, which is an old Citroen garage and is a huge industrial space that still bears the signs of its previous use. The conference covered topics from the role of philanthropic foundations in shaping research directions, to the focus on support for SMEs. The general attendance in the conference was from research-focused organisations – both public and private. I hardly heard voices coming from civil society organisations that are outside the “research ecosystem”. Another aspect of the conference was to introduce the missions to the research community so they can start preparing to the new framework, while also getting feedback and comments from participants about the ways that they are shaping up. Sessions included reporters and online space for comments so the feedback could be gathered and shared by the commission staff. It was also an opportunity to share and celebrate research results.

Within the EU budget, research is something like 11% of the total budget. This is a significant sum (€13 billion), but it is an area that needs to continue and make the case to justify the investment. The EU R&I Days provided also the forum to highlight the wider policy issues of research investment – from balancing between excellence in research, with its inherent inequalities between countries in the strength of their science and engineering, versus efforts for widening involvement in science and considering the wider European Research Area (which goes well beyond the boundaries of the EU).

As part of the conference, I presented in two sessions, one dedicated to the pilar of “excellent science” and that was organised by the European Research Council with awardees at different stages of their careers and from different research area, as to highlight the value of scientists led research titled “Empowering scientists to dream the future – the ERC“, and the second was dedicated to “the promise of citizen science“. Interestingly, the first session was organised as a showcase without a dialogue – there were four presentations, without any space for Q&A. In contrast, the citizen science session included 30 minutes for dialogue and comments from the audience.

The ERC session included an address from the president of the ERC, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, and then a series of talks from an astrophysicist who was part of the Event Horizon effort to capture an image of a black hole; a plant scientist who work on genetically modifying plants to withstand drought (and raise the issue of making them politically acceptable to be used in Europe); and an Aerospace engineer who work on space debris. Our panel was a well-thought mix of gender balance, disciplines (natural science, social science, and engineering), countries and types of ERC grants (starting, consolidator, and advanced). You can watch the recording of the session here https://innodays.cdn01.rambla.be/player/?item_id=Wgx4p7 – my talk is at 24:20.

Following the talk, I gave a short interview which is below.

The second session included Rosa Arias who leads the D-Noses project, Carole Paleco who work with me on the DITOs project, and myself. The session covered how citizen science can contribute to research and to other societal aspects. You can see the session here https://innodays.cdn01.rambla.be/player/?item_id=AQzLb4 my talk is at 21:30 and my slides are below

 

 

Other interesting sessions that are worth watching are:

Open Science is the new normal, recorded here https://innodays.cdn01.rambla.be/player/?item_id=AKQRDm

Research and Innovation evidence: ingredient for better policy making 

Science advice to European Policy in a Complex World

 

 

New paper: Global mapping of citizen science projects for disaster risk reduction

I find it enjoyable when different strands of research come together. In many ways, research on the impacts of natural hazards on society – or Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), citizen science, and volunteer geographic information (VGI) are parallel research areas with research communities that work on each of them, and only occasionally come together. The project Citizen Science for Disaster Risk Reduction, led by Jenni Barcley from the University of East Anglia and funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is an example for such a link. One of the project’s outputs is a paper that carried out a literature review of citizen science projects for DRR, that is now published in “Frontiers In Earth Science”. Anna Hicks, from the British Geological Survey, led the effort, and the abstract is:

Citizen science for disaster risk reduction holds huge promise and has demonstrated success in advancing scientific knowledge, providing early warning of hazards, and contributed to the assessment and management of impacts. While many existing studies focus on the performance of specific citizen science examples, this paper goes beyond this approach to present a systematic global mapping of citizen science used for disaster risk reduction in order to draw out broader insights across diverse methods, initiatives, hazards and country contexts. The systematic mapping analyzed a total of 106 cases of citizen science applied to disaster risk reduction across all continents. Unlike many existing reviews of citizen science initiatives, relevance to the disaster risk context led us to ‘open up’ our mapping to a broader definition of what might constitute citizen science, including participatory research and narrative-based approaches. By taking a wider view of citizen science and opening up to other disciplinary practices as valid ways of knowing risks and hazards, we also capture these alternative examples and discuss their relevance for aiding effective decision-making around risk reduction. Based on this analysis we draw out lessons for future research and practice of citizen science for disaster risk reduction including the need to: build interconnections between disparate citizen science methods and practitioners; address multi-dimensionality within and across hazard cycles; and develop principles and frameworks for evaluating citizen science initiatives that not only ensure scientific competence but also attend to questions of equity, responsibility and the empowerment of those most vulnerable to disaster risk.

You can find the paper here.

New paper: The Value of Stakeholder Mapping to Enhance Co-Creation in Citizen Science Initiatives

A new paper, led by Artemis Skarlatidou, was just published in the journal “Citizen Science: Theory and Practice”, describing how stakeholder mapping can be used in co-created citizen science projects. The workshop was part of the COST Action on citizen science, and the NERC Engaging Environment project “Into the night” was one of the case studies, while DITOs science bus was used in another case.

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Beyond the output of the stakeholder mapping, the workshop and the paper provided an opportunity to link together different projects and people that were working on co-created citizen science projects – which is always a good thing!

The abstract of the article is:

This report aims to enhance our understanding of stakeholder mapping for co-created citizen science initiatives. It presents and discusses findings from an international two-day stakeholder mapping workshop with researchers, event organizers, communication experts, and artists realizing citizen science activities. Participants identified examples of co-creation in their work and mapped stakeholders for three co-creation initiatives from the “Doing It Together Science” project. For each case, we provide an overview of the stakeholder groups involved and the lessons derived from identifying actual and potential stakeholders in different phases of each activity and using different ways for mapping them. We demonstrate that not only stakeholder mapping can be diverse, but it may take different angles depending on the characteristics and project timescales, nevertheless adding significant value to any project. We argue that a better understanding of stakeholder involvement may contribute to more effective stakeholder communication, more successful implementation, and a greater impact for citizen science initiatives.

And you can find the full paper here.