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

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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).

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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

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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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UCL Sustainability week – a global university that is also Sommers Town local university

UCL is marking its sustainability week between 29th October and 4th November. As part of the activities to mark the Green UCL initiative. I was interviewed to this video, together with other researchers and professional staff who are committed to integrating sustainability into their work. The video was shot around UCL and the nearby area.

The video is aimed “to provide a sustainability induction for students and staff and to inspire students and staff with the range of sustainability solutions being developed at UCL; through our research but also through student and staff-led projects”.

I consider it quite an honour to be in this video which the interviewees’ list include Richard JacksonMark Miodownik, Helen Czerski, Andrea Sella, Kate Jones, and Sarah Bell and many more. My contribution to this is to point to our local commitment…

Nature article on citizen science: mixing typologies

About a week ago, the journal Nature published a feature article about Citizen Science No “PhDs needed: how citizen science is transforming research“, with the subtitle: “Projects that recruit the public are getting more ambitious and diverse, but the field faces some growing pains.” The report was written by the science journalist Aisling Irwin who contacted me, among many other people that are linked to the European networks of researchers that promote citizen science as an important research approach that achieves multiple goals – progressing our scientific understanding, developing new links to society, and raising awareness about environmental issues, amongst other. The European bias in the interviews is somewhat unfortunate, as it misses some divergence in views (e.g. the US view from the leadership of the Citizen Science Association).

The article is excellent and provides an up to date description of some of the activities that are currently happening, especially in projects that are funded as part of the EU Horizon 2020 programme. It focuses on large-scale projects, which can involve many thousands of participants. From air quality Antwerp, to Geo-Wiki project in IIASA, and the range of the applications in Ground Truth 2.0. It also raises some of the challenges – including, as expected, complaints about data quality, though it does recognise that there is a need for appropriate methods that are designed for citizen science to ensure quality.  The article is describing mostly the European perspective of citizen science, and the US, Australia, and other parts of the world are not covered as well.

One unfortunate thing in the article is a piece that is attributed to me: “Muki Haklay, a geographer at University College London, has outlined a taxonomy of involvement, from ‘crowdsourced’ citizen science, in which lay people contribute data or volunteer computing power, to ‘co-created’ and ‘collegial’ research, in which members of the public actively engaged in most aspects of a project, or even conduct research on their own.” I find this statement rather amusing since it is a mash-up of two typologies of citizen science. My classification from 2013, with the one by Jennifer Shirk and her colleagues from 2012 (which I call the 5C’s). I tried to compare the different typologies – the one by Andrea Wiggins and Kevin Crowston, the 5C’s and mine – you can see that they don’t match completely which might explain the confusion?

ComparingTypologies