Citizen Science @ Computational Foundry, Swansea, Festival of Ideas

The Computational Foundry at the Swansea University organised two days “Festival of Ideas” as part of the activities to celebrate its opening. The first day was organised by Ben Shneiderman and focused on aspects of AI, while the second day, curated by Jenny Preece, focused on citizen science. The summary here is from the second day, which was open by Alan Dix, the Foundry director explaining that citizen science is providing new ways of understanding the social impact of data and technologies.

DSC_1716.JPGSetting the Scene: New Agendas, Broader Impacts (Professor Jenny Preece, University of Maryland).  The Computational Foundry considering how to integrate citizen science. There are opportunities for those who are coming from the science side, and the computational side – but there are tremendous opportunities for those in citizen science and Human-Computer Interaction in the field of citizen science. This is a day of action – a range of speakers on citizen science, from doing face to face – in the estuary and the field; but also an online platform on a large scale – the Zooniverse. We see also citizen science in an overseas environment, and in the context of education and public participation in science.

Jenny’s journey to citizen science came from interaction design and information studies. The aim is for interactions – new agendas research, practice, managing a local project. The broader impact – making an impact here in Swansea, but also on the wider world. We might develop a report of these new agendas and impacts. The aim is to develop a report for CSTP. Her personal journey – love the environment, and keen birders – and when NSF put out a call about social computing, she saw an opportunity to get into this area. Citizen science has a very long history within science but not within computing. In 2009, citizen science was defined by Rick Bonney and Jonathan Silvertown in papers at the time, which mostly about a partnership between scientists and volunteers to collect and analyse data. This has now shifted to a wider definition – from setting questions to producing output, and this wider understanding of citizen science is important to the way it is thought off. The work that she’s been doing recently, include small, place-based projects in NatureNet: technology for community environmental learning – see the video at and a paper in PNAS 2019. The project is addressing crowdsourcing – what are the special computational there? You are not using ML, drones, AI or any of this. The idea of crowdsourcing the design – that was something that made it different in terms of the NSF way to fund it. When started, the aim was to suggest design ideas of the things that they like and what they want to change. Very few design ideas came forward on a website that was set to allow participants, but there was an issue of confidence. They spend a lot of time to help small community groups to deal with watershed monitoring – the goal of the researchers was to have a preliminary map of local action projects.  In the participatory design process, the designers were thinking about a community of practice – but the participants thought that they are communicating with each other, so how to consider affinity network of ideas, and create a much more open software for sharing and communication, working together. Also, there is highly important local leadership – which can change over the lifetime of the project: from managing a team to dealing with technology. One of their participants, who is a plumber, noticed that in heavy rain events the rubbish is swept to the local river, and took his plumbing students to learn about water issues through citizen science. dsc_1717.jpgAnother project that is known in citizen science is eBird which includes amazing data visualisations of species distribution, migration and recently machine vision that is being used. The scale is from 2002 – but over 370m sighting of 10,313 species. Loads of opportunities for people in the visualisation area. iNaturalist is a social network with 20k observation a day, with 1.4m users, and aiming for 50M by 2020. There are many projects. SciStarter, and as a place for opportunities to computer scientists. Major issues – for scientists – enough data, trustworthy data, and long-term citizen participation.dsc_1718.jpg

For citizens – learning and contributing, but then they want to be acknowledged and valued. For computer scientists – it gives an opportunity to contribute to issues that are important: privacy, managing data. Some of the things that we can think of: people – how to diversify and involve more people? data quality; project management; technology and tools; values and ethics; and policies – have some real bite in different parts of the world. For Jenny – want to see leveraging the skills of HCI and citizen science to advance both, and use our knowledge to mitigate the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. Alan Dix – the messiness of this data is putting challenges that are very valuable.


DSC_1721.JPGCitizen Science in Swansea and the Gower Peninsular (Professor Geoff Proffitt  University of Swansea). Trained as a botanist and marine science. Worked in the Wetland Trust and set a nature reserve in Wales, and habitat restoration – digging holes and filling them with water. Worked in GCRF work in the Gambia, to carry out recording in people in estimating the carbon that is locked in the mangrove, as part of REDD++ funding and can lead to mangrove restoration.  Citizen science in Swansea – the type of work that is being carried out. e.g. Dan Forman works on Barn owl diet project – getting local active natural history groups and students who are examining the food and see the changes in the diet of owls. Military sites are acting as a nature reserve – e.g. in Castlemartin and that is evidence of the botany of the site. Another project is about coastal otter and diets – people are reporting on dead otters, siting of them alive, and got over 3500 records from across the UK. They are being restored and help in formulating coastal otter strategy for the UK. In the site of Cym Ivy, which is an area that is on by National Trust, there is a new salt marsh as a result of a breach in the sea wall. Since 2016, and collecting otter spraints and understanding diets – also use camera traps. Within a year there is a growing salt marsh with rapid changes. The National Trust are considering what they’ll do in other sites. They also running Bioblitzes in Swansea with 30-100 members of the public: it builds confidence, interest, and awareness. The Rosehill quarry in the centre of Swansea, it is being used as a site. There are also – Clearwing moths distribution – using traps that imitate the smell of a female and that attracts species. The information allows the recording of many observations. Another project is the Oriel Science and the Swansea Science Festival (7000 people attending). The Oriel Science is op up discovery events with a wide range of engagement across the sciences and engineering. Managing to reach out to people who are from areas that are usually not involved in science (high deprivation index). dsc_1723.jpgAnother researcher, Richard Unsworth, involved in marine aspects – seagrass project to record them and collect evidence globally. The Seagrass spotter includes 900 people in 64 countries that projects evidence with 2100 observation. There is evidence in different places. and is allowing collecting and sharing data. The BTO also carry out data collection and there are projects in the area of Swansea. The university also has an SSSI nearby – Crymlyn Burrows.

Restoring habitats – there are lots of work that is inspired by it and the UN declare the next decade to focus on restoration. Logistics – recruiting people is through places where you meet people, link to existing networks, and helping to get volunteers through connections. It is challenging to get people involved in apps.

DSC_1724.JPGThe COASST Project (Professor Julia K. Parrish, Associate Dean, College of the Environment, University of Washington). COASST has been running for 19 years. Natural scientists – the science goes to scientific publications, and to decision making. We need to technology as a replacement of people, a way to play, a wall and disconnector. But let’s think of technology as an amplifier to connect to nature and community, it also can act as an extender of sense, patterns, and scale. Issues of Wellbeing, we need to extend from humans to Gaia – the planetary systems. Citizen Science is about science, community, education, and enjoyment. There are lots of goals of citizen science – she’s on the area of hand on. The usual view of science is about a process that starts with a hypothesis, then experiment, results and conclude – but there is the need to put in a discover of pattern and wonder before hypothesis and also bear witness. Coastal Observation focuses – monitoring dead bird. COASST – deconstruct science: evidence first, deduction second. Second Demystifying science – no jargon, explain the process. Using science – bear witness and take action. In the COASST programme there is a contract, to survey carcases of marine bird in a given area, collect the foot, standard measurements and digital information. Recording on paper is – because of economics, context (sun, water).

There is a process of identifying the bird according to the foot and other identifying. 950 monthly participants, 4700 people participate since inception. 33% of people are retired, and the economic means to be retired. Average age 51, 65% male. The training – only 50% of people that get into training know birds. As people collect more data they get better – over 70% accuracy and higher. There is also a seasonal pattern – after a year, most people know the about 85% get the correct answer. What are the high/low pattern over the year, and that is something that professional ornithologists don’t know and they develop a good concept of the yearly average,. Active people after a year – hands-on programmes retain people over a long time. With long term retention rates: asking new participants why they joined, and long term participants why they stayed. The new people are interested in birds, the environment. dsc_1731.jpgLong term is staying to be outdoor, to contribute to the science, and to the COASST programme. There is also an aspect of personal identity between new and long term participants. There are differences between people who are going alone and experience the data collection, and then there are people who are joining pairs – so they are going with multiple people (nexus person that goes with different people to the activities). We need to design for loners and for social connectors (nexus). The data provides a good understanding of yearly patterns. There are also die off events that happen and records. COASST help in climate impacts, harmful algal blooms, changes in predator distribution and much more. There is an ability to record a mass die-off event in St Paul Island. They back calculate how far carcasses will get to the beach and can estimate and model mortality, which was 60 to 70 times higher than normal. That led to Die-off alert, of just reporting people in Alaska – it’s a food source, and can’t collect eggs: important for local practices. DSC_1729.JPGThere are events of many events of the region – can see the large scale pattern over space and time. By looking at the temperature of above normal patterns and the heating in Alaska and you can see the impact of increased mortality of birds. There are impacts of science and people – impact on coastal communities in Alaska, and in Indian communities in Washington, and ocean acidification that harms mussels. Let’s think about technology as wellbeing: connect people to passion, creativity, allow people to learn, increase ownership and stewardship of the natural world, increase realization and help them to take action. Most people are curious, attached to a place, but a very small group of people want to become scientists – and people would fundraise for the project than the analysis, and they want to see the scientists doing the work. Not making everyone a scientist, but making everyone involved.

DSC_1733.JPGThe Wisdom of the online crowd – Citizen science with the Zooniverse (Dr. Helen Spiers, Biomedical Research Lead of the Zooniverse Platform,  Department of Astrophysics, University of Oxford). Coming from developmental epigenetics and started in 2016 and covering some of the work of the universe. Currently the development of mobile apps etc. Zooniverse started from the story of Big Data in many fields of science, and especially in astronomy – we need data curation and human pattern recognition. The story started with Galaxy Zoo. The algorithm of the time couldn’t provide morphological information of galaxies, as Kevin couldn’t calculate all the galaxies – but analysed 50,000 galaxies, and it became Galaxy Zoo. The project was successful – 70,000 classification per hours, but that allows to complete analysis in a matter of months instead of years. The data was of better quality than the expert could do – more eyes on each image. There are many scientific outputs from Galaxy Zoo, but also unknown unknowns – e.g. Hanny Voorwerp. That has moved into cells with electron microscopy (with Crick Institute). There is much data that need annotation – annotation tools that allow providing recognition of cell data. The volunteer data quality is as good as experts. This allows understanding the nuclei of different cells – it opens up the ability to new areas in biology. DSC_1734.JPGThe work of volunteers can form the basis for ML. 1.75m registered users, and projects across science, humanities, and supporting humanitarian efforts. The Zooniverse project builder allows the growth in the projects and supporting different types of source data and the types of activities that you can carry out with it. Challenges include the need to understand how to facilitate engagement and scientific efficiency and it provides an opportunity to learn across projects. Looked at the volunteers’ behaviour across 63 Zooniverse projects, but found out several things: artificial scarcity can be associated with engagement – in most projects that shows a peak at the start and then dropping to an activity. when the research team upload the data in each time when it was available on a weekly basis, it raised the interest in the project and provided multiple peaks. The lessons need to be learnt with caution. Some projects get into high participation inequality, and also age and gender bias and there is a tension between social inclusivity in contrast to scientific efficiency. There is a need to be inclusive in study design – e.g. a project about body organs and checking people anatomic knowledge – there was an aim to have a more inclusive reach. This is an unusual project: it’s about data collection and how it can be used in a different way. There is also exclusivity – specialised crowds can provide specific skills – when there are needed expertise or local knowledge, or maybe you want task naivety crowd. Zooniverse also offer a linkage between ML and human contribution. e.g. throwing images that are surely not relevant, and asking the crowd to classify only those that the computer wasn’t confident about. Algorithms and volunteers offer different behaviour. There is also a lot of value in algorithmic diversity – computers can also be used to create engaging tasks, but need to be careful about using it – removing images without anything, reduced engagement in the project (the Snapshot Safari example of removing all the blanks which reduced engagement). There is an ethical issue – are you wasting people time. The future of Zooniverse is about Human:Computer collaboration, need to have a smart subject assignment – allocating tasks and ensure an engaging experience and combining modes of citizen science – interoperable systems, giving feedback. The communities are changing – e.g. DSC_1735.JPGGalaxy Zoo is very proactive which meet offline, and there are questions about the nature and characteristics of communities. Don’t waste people time – the commitment is to ensure scientific efficiency and find other ways of engaging people in an interesting way. The issue of inclusivity – how is the Zooniverse management team gatekeep the community? there is a review process, and also sharing it with volunteers who are happy to review project application – 50,000 repeat volunteers, which are self-selected, who provide feedback and say if the project is suitable for the Zooniverse. Very few of the projects that are scientifically valid, failed. There was a project that was thrown out – about facial characteristics. There is a different review of scientific relevance.

Extreme Citizen Science Professor Muki Haklay, Professor of
Geographical Information Science and co-director of the Extreme Citizen
Science group, Department of Geography, UCL

DSC_1736.JPGCitizen Science Inquiry: Contemporary Approaches (Professor Eileen Scanlon, Open University) talking about citizen science enquiry – the nQuire team. Citizen science inquiry is the general approach to it. Eileen sees citizen science as a way to enthuse people in science and engage them. There is a lot of things that were talks: scientific literacy and wider STEM learning. Then there are issues of volunteers and how they are involved in data collection and analysis. From the point of history, citizen science goes back to the 17th C and been going for a long time. Modern citizen science provides new ways of engaging online – such as Zooniverse or iNaturalist. At the Open University, they’ve done nQuire-it, iSpot and Situ8 that is about annotating physical places.dsc_1737.jpg First, they look at the personal inquiry project – inquiry-based learning across formal and informal settings ( Was coming from an interest in digital technology and learning, and was focusing on 12-16 old, and were searching for outdoor settings that allow students to link to issues that are relevant to them and within their areas. Inquiry-based learning is appearing in the education literature, and scaffolding the process can help people to learn through inquiry. It can be used through different stages in the learning process. Personalisation is important, but you do need to have a limitation – e.g. you can’t work with teenagers about issues of their daily diet: sharing it with other people in their immediate social circle is problematic. In Milton Keynes and Northampton, they manage to engage students in the investigation of urban heat islands. The work is summarised in the book “orchestrating inquiry learning”. The work was developed within the formal approach. At the same time, work by Vickie Curtis lead to the analysis of online citizen science (in her book). dsc_1738.jpgThe research on who engage and to what extent, you get a different picture – Vickie was a participant observer, and in Foldit where the science was very high – the participants were interested in games. The positioning of the people who participate in citizen science. Next, they worked with Nominet Trust and developed nQuire-it – so using smartphone sensors. They’ve done a co-design of an informal system with students and created different ways of exploring the world. The investigations were called “missions” – develop things that the participants are personally interested in and also to the book on “Citizen Inquiry” – citizen science + collaborative inquiry learning + crowdsourcing. The way that they are seen Citizen Inquiry is to think about a link between inquiry learning and citizen science. Trying to think about how these things are brought together. Another project, by Jess Carr is looking about representing ‘publics’ – e.g. developing the workaround advocacy research groups. In inclusive research is part of the work. By the collaboration with the BBC lead to extend citizen inquiry to allow mass surveys (in which include confidential survey missions, and open social missions. The BBC helped in developing a joint platform and different missions were developed – from survey of sleep pattern, to work with FutureLearn, and to an authoring tool. One work that is currently happening is in the Forst 404 Experiment about different environmental sound and running a podcast. There are issues with owns data and ethical questions about such projects. There are also other activities – such as iSpot and Treezilla. Citizen science inquiry can provide about participation and personally relevant research. Evaluating learning is tricky. Open questions include how can citizen science projects raise interest in STEM and provide appealing science learning? Can citizen science have an impact on the participant’s identity – allow them to identify roles for themselves in the practice of science? The reputation system of iSpot is especially valuable (the Zookeys paper cover that).

The speakers had a common panel, exploring what are the new ideas and agendas that are emerging from the day. point of impact on the world, and science in general and can help; social inclusion that came in both days; growth in computing in challenges; including computers as participants; education;

From today – how we maximise the impact of the data that we produce and that we’re going to produce? How can we take the datasets that are being produced and how they are being used? Data can be repackaged and reused. Another thing is education and there is no impression of getting young people engaged with these types of project – informal involvement and practical science activity. There is a certain “flight from science” and we need to consider how to involve the youth into it. There are both men and women, and there are people who are leaving education (e.g. young males in the UK). There are lessons in museums that engage with citizen science: learning citizen science, DITOs, and the awareness of Ecsite and Aztec. From COASST there are issues about finding older adults because of the year-long needs of the project, but they do have cross-generation participation. There are also issues about the integration of citizen science and inquiry into education – but we need to be articulate about what we’re doing within citizen science. There is also a lot of data on different platforms, and linkage between seagrass and specific birds that are eating it and direct connection is something that ecologists don’t know how to link. There are also people who collected data over a long time and the data and in some cases, this is not shared. There is plenty of information on hatching and egg laying day when they are a very long time, but it is in small notebooks that need to be digitised and used – and this information needs to be collected, as otherwise will be lost. There are issues of a lot of unexpected information within environmental information – examples include the ozone layer reprocessing, or that looking at old records or mass die-off events are showing information that was not known before. This is an issue that we might want ML and other methods of uncommon analysis to provide us. There are also cultural identity issues – about the role of experts and the disrespect of experts: is citizen science are amateur scientists? Or are they are not like experts? Choice c – and there is a wider distribution. Mass mortality events that started in early 2000 made the front page, and right-leaning business groups wanted to hear about it as much as to conservation groups. The business groups was a demonstration of local people collecting information and managing their place. Citizen science is not left or right leaning and it gives a lot of communities to hold information and interpret it – that’s the democratisation. We are not doing the deficit model – bringing people to be like us. But is it useful to link citizen science to political debate? Citizen science can take out the politics and focus on the fact – using an agreed measurement and approach that is societally agreed. In the water projects, people became more educated about the situation so they could lobby the officials to act. There is also an opportunity to bring it the data as a way to challenge difference: it is about empowerment and not about right or wrong. Back to the engagement of kids – the ethical assumptions: if there is data collection then the parent is responsible for the data? In the OU system, there is a concern and that need to be addressed and it is an issue in school settings. There are also options for managing data by the teachers and let students deal with data, pictures, etc. It is tricky on how to engage in advance with parents and children – but it can lead to impacts on parents, too. There are also issues – e.g. reporting about the impact of pollution on an ecological site, and then claims that the site is spoiled so it can be used for development. There are lessons to be learned from Citizen Science: Theory and Practice special issue on ethics, and the Citizen Science Association ethics working groups. The ideas that are emerging and resources that are coming along is to find new questions.




CBC – The Current – How citizen science is changing the research landscape?

Following the publication of a paper in Nature Communications on the use of eBird data for conservation planning, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) dedicated a segment of their “The Current” programme to the role of citizen science. The section explored “How citizen science is changing the research landscape? Online communities and new technology are making it easier than ever for anyone to get involved in scientific research. But how reliable is user-generated data? And what value does it bring to major studies?”

I had the pleasure to be interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti for this programme, and you can hear the section on citizen science here.

Figure 2 from Schuster et al. 2019: Spatial clustering of species abundance comparison of areas prioritized for weekly and yearly planning. The geographical coverage would not be possible without citizen science data.

DITOs final event (2): Doing It Together beyond DITOs

This is the second part of the plenary element of the DITOs final event and again, I’m reblogging Alice Sheppard’s notes (and editing them lightly):

The second part of the This is a continuation after the morning’s sessions. The session is based on a panel of other projects that have done work in Europe separately from DITOs, but where there has been some collaboration at least in ideas and potential of taking the lessons from DITOs forward. The session was chaired by Colombe Warin, who is the project officer of DITOs. The projects include:

D-NOSES – Rosa Arias (Ibercivis)
D-NOSES is a project creating the “International Odour Observatory”, which will be co-created. Mapping for Change is in their consortium. It takes an “extreme citizen science” approach – any literacy level, socio-economic status and gender of participants should be able to take part without barriers. You can follow them on and @Dnoses_EU on Twitter.

Sparks – Maria Zolotonosa (Ecsite)
The project itself finished in June last year; was a project to bring RRI closer to citizens. Citizen science was understood in its broadest sense – data collection but also citizen input into policy making and research. It was officially public engagement, but citizen participation was crucial. They came up with a travelling exhibition into every member state of Europe; it was called “Beyond the Lab”. The exhibition is ongoing in Spain, Poland and the Netherlands. They took stories of citizen scientists, for example, a woman with Parkinson’s who uses self-tracking to monitor and take control over her disease, or a clean air activist in London who collaborated with parents to put air sensors on prams. These personal stories are very relatable to people, and they show how citizens can participate in science. Sparks introduced the “reversed science cafe”, in which people are asked to come up with questions to put to participants which can be investigated. Experts listen, change tables regularly, and bring back new things they learn to their countries. It takes inspiration from a regular science cafe in which an expert gives a talk and is asked questions – in this case, the roles are reversed and the scientist comes up with questions for the public! The citizens then discuss the questions, and the expert is often very surprised by the answers and gets new ideas for research. Lessons learned in exhibitions: personal stories are very important, exhibitions can be a catalyst for local mobilisation as long as a local partnership is established.

EU-Citizen.Science – Marzia Mazzonetto (ECSA)
A new project and website, a CSA or coordinated and support action. It has only just launched and is coordinated by the Natural History Museum in Berlin. ECSA has a large role. The main focus is to address what had been identified by the EC as a big need: to have a gateway, an entry point, into citizen science in Europe. There was an effort to involve as many European countries as possible. The platform should be a place for discussion to bring people together and ask about each other’s citizen science, or where citizens can find out what is in their area, or policy makers and science journalists to find out more. There are multiple stakeholders and there will be specific community needs.

WeObserve, Ground Truth 2.0 and other projects – Uta Wehn (IHE Delft)
In WeObserve, the project contains four communities of practice – academics, industries, communities of practice (such as DITOs partners!), citizens. Ground Truth 2.0 co-designs citizen observatories, which has a closer link with policy. Policy makers are invited into the room from the start. There are now six observatories, which each has a unique identity and has chosen its theme of research. They are liaising with policy makers. Many aspects are being re-used from other citizen science projects including DITOs; this has been made possible by sharing best practices. There is one more non-EU funded project called CSEOL, or Citizen Science Earth Observation Lab. DITOs has created a community of engaged citizens, Uta Wehn tells us – there is a huge base of people who now know what citizen science is and can participate.

Environmental Social Science Research Group – Balint Balazs, (ESSRG)
DITOs legacy – “rending invisible citizen sciences visible” – there is now a network of citizen science, including science shops. ESSRG is working as a science shop independently from universities, based in Hungary. The concept of invisible citizen science is connected to location and place. Many of us are not coming from the environmental perspective. Much of it has to do with cultural and institutional issues: what is each country’s science communication practice? Some examples of invisibility: Some citizen science projects are global; the academic papers’ titles often don’t reflect the fact that non-scientists took part. Environmental projects are often co-created and have social aspects. Do they lead to a transformative social innovation? Citizen science itself is often regarded as very niche and new, even by environmental aspects, and it is often feared that it would take a very long time for citizens to understand and develop coordinated scientific methods. There is also an apparent divide between east and west, the speaker, Balazs Balint, says – in his experience, the east has fewer established methods and celebration and also fewer academic papers. However, is invisibility an manifestation of something? How can we record the methods that are taking place, and what is the replacement for citizen science in these contexts? Are we seeing projects only funded through the EC? Are we drawing on a number of auxiliary terms? What kind of knowledge is provided, and created? Environmental citizen science can result from a state’s lack of action. Sometimes, there is knowledge that is not created by the state or academia. It is found that citizens would like to download and share data, and curate it. A culture change is taking place in several countries where democracy is a new (or “short, questionable”) experience. Many social sciences apps can be transferred or utilised to create citizen science projects, and create interesting opportunities for professionals, for example the collection and sharing of old private photos, a common digital heritage. Citizen activism is also going on, but never considered citizen science. FixMyStreet is an example of this – it has been running for 7 years in Hungary. There is a learning curve beyond these applications; people are reporting problems but would also like to take part in governance.

Q1) Language: regarding invisibility of citizen science – is this about language? eg black people’s contributions to science are often invisible and not put in the curriculum, which doesn’t mean they aren’t creating knowledge, they might simply call it something else? Is it about language, or is it about action, or some combination? (To a Black person, “invisible” has a very specific meaning and counter-narratives and counter-perspectives are very important.)
A1) a) There is colonial thinking! There is much going on that is invisible but is not called citizen science, partly because of the language but partly because of different knowledge. It is probably much to do with language, but not entirely. b) Language is only what we can articulate; what is in our heads is much broader. How can we tap into that knowledge base? Language isn’t the only method we have. (Answer b is from Uta, who has done work in Africa with water supply issues; she will be told by very knowledgeable local people: “You are the fifth person who wants to co-create a project with me on this, and I haven’t got time – I need to spend time in the field or my family will be hungry!”)

Q2) What is the potential for citizen science to open up the anarchy of science beyond the academic facade? What is it like to be a scientist?
A2) a) It is very mixed, and we get mixed up in the terminology. There are things we call citizen science, public engagement, etc – these terms have something in common. But to look from a more traditional point of view of data collection, it does play a role in science communication. It gives people the opportunity to feel like scientists. The people who participate in citizen science projects are often white middle-class men, which means we aren’t reaching a diverse audience (although DITOs reached 51% women, 49% men). b) Sometimes amazing experiences aren’t communicated to the outside world. The Journal of Science Communication is open access; it would be good to use lessons learned in here to reach more communities. c) We use many techniques to utilise communications. There are times when we simply collect data from citizens, but we can also use bottom-up work – and these two disciplines can enrich each other. There is also data journalism.

Q3) Do any of the panelists have a single particular action they would like to implement, or problem to solve, or policy change to make? For example, to insist that academic papers’ titles reflect the citizen participation? (There are papers who credit every single citizen who takes part.) Should not all participants be credited when there is funding?
A3) Co-design is brilliant, but we can be restricted by having to report all methods to funders – for example, needing to say who will be coders in advance, which then means citizens can’t co-design platforms. So one future change would be more flexibility!

Doing It Together Science (DITOs) final event talks (part 1)

This is a reblogging of the reporting from DITOs final event, which was blogged by Alice Sheppard (which I’ve edited, lightly):

Introduction to the day

Camille Pisani, the Director of RBINS praises numerous volunteers and collaborators who have worked together, and the way different activities have been aimed at reaching many different audiences. There have been many localised events, such as waste management or coastal environmental issues. What makes DITOs different in her views is the integrative approach to the multiple meanings of “citizen science”. Citizen science goes back a long way, but for some people it’s still a new thing, and we’re still in the process of reaching out, even with simple things like communication. At the other end of the scale are people who have been volunteering or experimenting in science outside the professional environment for a very long time. When Camille met Muki four or five years ago, she was extremely interested in the idea of the escalator model.



Muki Haklay is next on “The DITOs journey”. He starts with “the world needs more citizen science” and the DITOs video. The DITOs story started in the middle of 2013 with the launch of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA). As a fledgeling organisation, the question was how to get it going. In 2014, DITOs was set with a process in which UCL asked partners what they’d be interested in doing during the next few years, and design a project around these plans. They not only thought up the escalator, but also the thought of aiming at more bottom-up citizen science. UCL would lead, because ECSA was still building capacity and was not ready to lead a project. The initial bid was lost to Sparks, which was a wonderful project, but in 2015, a second call came out and in May 2016 DITOs began just after the 2016 ECSA conference. DITOs is very diverse, with a museum, NGOs, SMEs, universities, labs – a very diverse team with an original promise to run 500 events and engage 290,000 participants plus 1.3 million online. It was quite an ambitious target! Muki next mentions the “onion diagram”, which put UCL and ECSA at the centre with many activities and areas going on around them. The objectives included “deep public engagement”, a broad range of public activities, to strengthen ECSA, to do cross-European fertilisation and knowledge-sharing by way of a lot of interaction between the partners, and to reach out to excluded groups. Muki has rewritten the escalator model a few times to develop the ideas and have some exact numbers, such as precisely how many people in the UK are active in DIYBio, and how many watch Blue Planet or visit the science museum. Many more people “passively consume” science (such as the above activities) versus taking a more active role, such as recording birds in their garden. In many cases, people run out of time to do science, for example, while trying to support a family; the escalator allows people to move up and down according to their preference and ability. All the knowledge-sharing leads to project partners spending a great deal of time together, including in local citizen science such as visiting lakes or rivers, and all becoming friends.








Linden Farrer from the European Commission DG RTD (the department that is responsible for research and innovation) is next – DG RTD chooses which projects to fund, or not fund through open calls. DITOs was funded out of a part of H2020 which is dedicated to bringing people and science together (Science with and for Society – SWAFS). The objectives are, of course, bringing science and society together, but also fostering more talent for science and pairing scientific excellence with social responsibility. This can involve co-creation of agendas and policies by several stakeholders – which is quite broad, with a wide range of activities, and maybe discussing results or doing science with citizens. DITOs got funding under a topic called “Pan-European public outreach”, with the aim of increasing public awareness of science and RRI. Now, 2/3 of the way through H2020, they are concentrating on increasing the impacts and effectiveness of the programme, focusing on fewer topics but more closely – and one of such topics is exploring and supporting citizen science (others include institutional change, gender equality, etc – there are still quite a few you can find if you google Citizen Science in SWafS!). Linden lets us know that the future of H2020 and SwafS very likely involves working directly with citizens and civil society organisations.












The next several presentations are results of DITOs by many of its staff, taking five minutes each, moderated by Margaret Gold.

Judy Barrett, UCL, on the escalator model
Extreme Citizen Science group conceived the idea of DITOs in 2014, with the idea that citizen science should be driven by local needs, practices and cultures. UCL has mostly focused on WP6, “coordination, support and management”, which surrounds all the other work packages (such as policy). We’ve also produced a study of business models of citizen science. Our outputs from WP6 is itself a DITOs legacy, because other projects will be able to use it. We carried out 90 events, which we’ll see more of later. We implemented a MOOC (massive open online course) which has now been operating for 2 years, which has been signed up to by about 1000 people, and is also part of MSc programmes at UCL. Our events are aimed at equipping people with tools to answer their own scientific questions. We’ve made our own escalator model as “the consortium journey” – for several of us, it was our first experience of interdisciplinary work, or citizen science, or many other topics. It was therefore vital to create a supportive, communicative environment, with practice-sharing and exchange of ideas being vital. Some staff of partners were scientists with little experience of citizen science. But many individual staff members felt they had personally grown. Individual highlights include a dedication to progress in citizen science, collaboration with experts, and multi-stakeholder engagement.

Gaia Agnello, ECSA, environmental sustainability
The aim was to introduce citizen scientists and policy makers on developing methods for involvement, bolstering networks, promoting knowledge exchange and events all over Europe. ECSA particularly established the European BioBlitz Network, facilitating best practice exchange between anyone who runs BioBlitzes. Three DITOs partners subsequently established their first BioBlitz. MediaLab Prado created “Interactivos” of discussions and workshops on different topics each year, such as sustainable mobility, food systems, waste management etc. Kersnikova organised the Sister’s Lab, promoting transdisciplinary activities and gender equality, empowering women to collaborate through teaching and learning. UCL ran all-age workshops on air quality, including teaching people how to make environmental monitoring devices. European Green Week last year included discussions of environmental citizen science’s impact on policy. Lessons learned include: balance your organisation’s mandate with the values of the poeple involved; care for participants; co-design events as much as possible – talking to people before designing events; make sure the project has been felt by communities as their own because this will increase impacts; and take care of your team and yourself!


Imane Baiz, CRI-Paris, UPD and BioDesign
WP1 is Biodesign, which even the project leaders found a mysterious word at the beginning! It may mean art, or integrating buildings into the ecosystem, or synthetic biology (including the tools and methods). It connects people – for example, scientists with artists. It is interdisciplinary. It also connects ideas, too. We had a total of 700 events, which involved a lot of travelling and creating exhibitions, and partners showing their work to each other, going into schools, designing the Science Bus. It can be about empowerment – designing a sustainable future, inspired by nature. There were also different notions from different people – for example of extensive travel, but in fact, it’s like a group of superheroes who are trying to make the world a better place.

Paweł Wyszomirski, Eco21/Meritum, air quality
Polish cities are suffering from serious air pollution, especially in autumn and winter. Eco21 began to work with policy makers. They were creating data, which they decided to use to empower people to do something about the pollution – which involved teaching people how to use numbers to make decisions. This also allows people to talk with others in their neighbourhoods. Membership of ECSA allowed Eco21 to be invited to an air quality workshop, to learn how to empower and engage people in citizen science and in being able to do something about poor air quality. Pawel hopes that many people will come and ask him about European Clean Air Day.

Carole Paleco, RBINS, the escalator model at the museum
A way that RBINS have tried to apply the escalator model is to evaluate their activities and events, and also trying to involve the citizens at an early stage. At a citizen science cafe, for example, the monitoring and evaluation of feedback from participants has led to being able to give the facilitator feedback each time. They have a small touring exhibition that goes to schools in the Brussels region. They’ve organised biodiversity workshops with volunteers. They asked participants what they would put on a “Z-Card” which would go out to schools to raise awareness of biodiversity. She gave a report on a Phasma Meeting at RBINS, and organised their first BioBlitz last year. It was very focused with five scientists. The XperiBird has given out nestboxes to schools so that the children can observe birds nesting and bringing up chicks.

Simon Gmajner, Kersnikova, Bridging the Gap
Kersnikova aims to bridge the gaps between scientists and artists, also with participants and events. There was no phrase for “citizen science” in Slovenian, so it was translated best as “participatory science”. They then decided to organise exhibitions which would spur discussions. They did a BioArt exhibition which included science cafes which deepened discussion and complimented the artists’ and scientists’ modes of engagement. They managed to host the author of a book on biotechnology. A problem they ran into was people asking “What is art and what is science here?” which they found they could not always answer! They wanted to build an ecosystem that would support itself, which involved training people in interdisciplinary matters. They have a biotechnology lab and also ran workshops on biorobotics and soil tasting! They also trained mentors, so that citizens who had been coming for a long time could teach newer people.

Claudia Gobel, ECSA, Policy Engagement
DITOs has many public engagement activities, but also wants to talk to decision makers, which ECSA has focused on – at European, national and local levels. They’ve held 16 discovery trips, 17 stakeholder round tables, a pan-European policy forum and many more additional workshops and events. These took place in various countries. Policy briefs have come out of this, with a focus on open science and on responsible research and innovation. There is a diversity of voices in citizen science. It is very important to understand how citizen science is conceptualised and done – which is where the escalator was very important. There are different communities of practitioners. Citizen science needs cultural change and a plurality of voices, transparency, diversity, inclusiveness and these must be very important in our organisations. They also want to build more networks of stakeholders. Claudia also highlighted the citizen science book – if you’re here, please help yourself to a copy, or download it here.

Ted Fjallman, Tekiu UK, WP4 Policy Engagement
Across the project, we’ve managed to achieve 50% more events than we originally planned – DITOs has been very successful in the policy area, too. Tekiu is a for-profit organisation, though is not seeking to make a profit from DITOs. Ted observes that people are learning differently. He asked how many of us go to the cinema (nearly everyone); how many would be willing to pay what you’d pay for the cinema to attend a policy event? It was fewer people. Tekiu joined DITOs to understand how society is changing as a whole (which they cannot ask a single company). Discovery Trips are Tekiu’s brand; they take 10 to 25 people on a trip from one country to another to meet with their counterparts abroad so both parties can learn what the others do. Sometimes, participants may go on for example to join their city council. They plan to keep linking scientists with policymakers. They feel the future lies in active monitoring – we all have a phone, which has technology we wouldn’t have been able to imagine 30 years ago. It is, therefore, time to update the way we think.

Participants’ panel:
Cindy Regalado and Pawel Miedzinski from eutema moderating – Adam, Bernard, Roland, Mark, Pen-Yuan

Adam: Was part of Science has no Borders at UCL. Had a stall with an artist friend who collaborated on art and science of complexity. Attended film nights which included discussions of uneasy topics such as the history of eugenics. Attended Do It Together bio workshops, which taught him how to do simple biology experiments and procedures, use cutout microscopes, and learning about work at an aquarium and how to sample from the wild.
Bernard: Also worked with Rachel at the aquarium (as above), organised some workshops in Ireland with aerial kite mapping to which some environmentalist groups were invited; they hope to map their waterways in the future. They have also worked with young people from youth work in Ireland – they took some cameras which would otherwise have ended up in a landfill, and allowed young people to take the cameras apart to see what was inside them and convert them into near-infrared.
Roland – OpenWetLab evenings at Waag. His background is biology but he’s learning a lot of DIYbio and technology this way. Went to Kersnikova for a Bio-Art project and conference – all these were funded by DITOs; many participants in a Bio-Art movement came from around the world.
Mark – Was a Science Bus captain. Had already done a lot of outreach and engagement activities around Ireland. Science Bus involved travelling in a camper van around Europe collaborating with museums etc to work with the local public and get them engaged in workshops. The bus captains travelled together but didn’t always know each other beforehand! They taught the public how to carry out small DIY projects and gave them tools to investigate the world around them, also encouraging them to investigate and critique the world around them in this way. His favourite part was getting people interested who had never carried out scientific activities this way before. They were interested in the public’s life hacks and traditional remedies – how did people get information about what to do about (for example) what to do about bruises or mosquito bites when they didn’t engage much with science? A commonly stated solution was “urinate on it”!
Pen: worked with Cindy on delivering electronics workshops for the public, learning about open hardware and taking control over it and understand it. Has also worked with Cindy on DIY environmental sensing. He has also been investigating the nature of knowledge and creativity, such as creative commons licensing – how to creatively subvert copyright laws to share knowledge. He has, therefore, run many workshops in different places such as Italy, Scotland etc, and worked with hackerspaces. He has found that many people don’t know how to solder, so has used conductive thread.

Q: Has DITOs changed the way you do your work or practice?
Adam: Yes, now collaborates and gives talks, and works with many different people – DITOs was a big confidence-booster.
Bernard: Current role means diverting mattresses from landfill; quantifies work, work done manually – makes that work visible. Does mapping, community gardens, working with young people and getting them to understand the importance of data.
Roland: Has trained biohackers who then go on to train each other; has enjoyed watching skills spread. DITOs has personally influenced him to give workshops, feeling there is a mix between arts and science.
Mark: The Waag had the idea of the science bus; when he met them he felt they were wonderful but had a different way of thinking from how he would have carried out his work, so it taught him a new way of seeing things, which he felt was progressive. He applied these ideas to the science bus and his own work in Ireland. He returned to Ireland trying to find out how to engage the largest number of people possible – and has used the opening of Ireland’s new science centre to engage more people in citizen science and to see what they can do themselves.
Pen: Worked with a citizen scientist who built his own tools and developed his own methods for ecology – and discovered a population of deer near his village. This caught the attention of the local authorities, who built a protected area for the deer. Citizens do not just passively collect data. Science can make all of us become more engaged citizens.

European Citizen Science General Assembly 2019

DSC_1604.JPGThe assembly run at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) which is located in the Museum of Natural Sciences. ECSA Vice-Chair, Lucy Robinson, will be stepping down this time. ECSA have a team of 6 people that are involved in various projects and activities of the working groups. Some of the highlights from the work of ECSA in 2018. In 2018, ECSA has about 150 paying members. There is a reduction in individual members. The newsletter has over 1700 subscriber, the newsletter open rate is 25% which is good, but they want to increase. In the last year, the organisation worked on internal and external structures and accredited as an observer at the UN Environment Assembly. There are now 9 working groups, covering many issues. The development of the global partnership of citizen science organisation continued to evolve with engagement with the UN Environmental Assembly. ECSA is engaged in 6 H2020 projects – DITOs, WeObserve, LandSense, D-NOSES, EU-Citizen.Science and Panelfit. The DITOs project provided the ability to ECSA to support the development of citizen science networks in Italy, and also activities in opening up science, and considering how ECSA, as the legacy organisation of DITOs, develop more open and inclusive practices. So what came out of DITOs? the development of the ECSA, working groups and follow up projects. There are especially efforts in policy engagement work. WeObserve is another project where ECSA coordinated support across citizen observatories – key challenges include awareness of projects, the acceptability of the approach and data, and sustainability. WeObserve work as a range of communities of practice – on engagement, impact, interoperability, and the SDGs. The LandSense project is dealing with providing innovations in a citizen observatory around land use and land cover. D-NOSES address the scaling with recording odour issues – the Odourcollect is being used to collect data about smell issues and more case studies will start appearing in the coming year. EU-Citizen.Science is aiming to develop a sustainable platform and mutual learning space for citizen science in Europe. The Panelfit project is the facilitate the adaptation in the regulation of ICT research through open access guidelines for a citizen science project. The suggestion is to provide a data management plan for citizen science projects. They also consider how to address especially vulnerable population in Europe. ECSA budget, beyond the restricted funds that are linked to projects, is about €61,000 which enables the creation of new roles in the organisation.  The organisation is starting to build capacity and long term staff that is not tied to a project, but it is still limited in the financial support that it can provide to working groups.

The plan for the year ahead is to ensure that we can increase the sustainability and independence of ECSA. There is a special effort to increase transparency and have a clear procedure – e.g. what is the way in which the organisation participate in projects proposals. There was a step change in the number of project proposals were ECSA is being asked as a partner. In terms of governance, ECSA planning to have two Vice Chairs to the coming year and that in the future we will create a role of President, and then have a Chair and Vice Chair who are taking active work in the organisation. There will be also processed for conferences and General Assembly. ECSA is setting its processes with these procedures.

A new working group was set on citizen science networks and helping them to set abilities to share information, and setting minimum standards.

Next ECSA conference in 2020 is 25-26 May 2020.


Citizen Science 2019: Indigenous People on the Front Lines: Using Citizen Science to Improve Environmental Public Health


The session “Indigenous People on the Front Lines: Using Citizen Science to Improve Environmental Public Health” was organised by Judith Zelikoff (NYU medicine), Kathleen Vandiver (MIT), Esther Erdei (University New Mexico / Missouri Breaks Industries Research Inc.), Shirley VanDunk (Ramapough Lenape Tribe)

Judith  – they are part of the NIEHS, and Esther is in the Native Environmental Health equity Center. Citizen science use to improve health. The speakers are Dona Chavis from NC climate justice collective and FoE. The panel includes Jacie Curnick from U of Iowa and Jeff Currie II from Lumbee Riverkeeper.

DSC_1557.JPGDona – a daughter of the Lumbee nation and recognised the original people who were here.  Come from an oral tradition, and can tell a lot of stories – adding “to moving beyond the historical trauma” to the title – according to Maria is the impact of the loss of possessions, people, and places on a group of people. The connection on citizen science is that the impact of the past cannot be separated from the current reality. Every day is on the front line because of the historical trauma and the current struggle. In NC, the native tribes in NC developed a distrust and have been studied “to death” – even anthropologists checking hair, circumferences of heads etc. People were told that they have to participate in studies by the government. Because of that Citizen Science is a foreign concept. For her people, the relationships to water is critical, e.g. the area is a wetland and colonisation happened only in the mid 19th century. The area has a history of hiding – swampland was a place to live: food, medicine, clothing. The colonisation causes these to disappear. Now she’s working in the environmental NGO sector: suffering from CAFO, coal ash, trees are being cut down, and a gas pipeline. There are impacts from hurricanes. In Robertson County, Hurricane Mathew in 2016 and Florence in 2018, the last was massive and it covered and flooded the whole county. They still have elders who remember the pathways of the water, so the discussion on how to revive the waterway, and they realise that they had a traditional knowledge that can be used to address climate change. With Chapel Hill, they put a grant to monitor the water in the area – it moves forward in a way that includes the concerns and understanding of the community. It provided a way that matches community practice of starting the meeting at the community rate and the scientists were respectful of the community. Now they have the first baseline for the community on the impact of storms and what may be found and what should be done about it. Some methods are traditional, but they can be integrated. A big lesson is that inclusion has to start in the planning stage. Information should be released according to when, what, and how it is to be released.

Kathy Vandiver – a citizen science Passamaquoddy environmental dept. The study was done where the communities were highly involved, pleased with the results, high calibre research and sampling by citizen scientists and community input with a report back. Create a professional pipeline that was improved, and the literacy of the public regarding environmental health was improved. This started with the interest of masters students from civil and environmental engineering. The results – engagement of 22% of the population, 145 wells that tested for arsenic. The students (Abby and Tchelet) used a water sample for standing and running water samples from the faucet at home, checking for led, arsenic and so on. The kits were collected in the community offices – an early workshop didn’t work well, and the students delivered flyer. The results were useful as 26% were above the acceptable level and well owners were given advice on arsenic filters. There was an important aspect of improving the professional pipeline with the tribal environmental dept member who helped in the analysis.  The Passamaquoddy stayed on campus. The Masters engineering students learn how to run the meetings, and the project was also for the community to learn about EPA rules and the health effects of contaminants in the water. Helping to explain to people how to interpret the results. Students learned how to talk with the public, and also created a capacity for tribal members.



Judith Zelilkoff – empowerment of the Ramapough Nationa – a toxic legacy moved to action. Native Americans have a shorter life expectancy by 4.4 years and that is because they are exposed disproportionately to nuclear test sites, uranium mines, power plants, toxic was. 25% of Superfund sites are in Indian country. For 75% in 2013 didn’t have safe water to drink and then there are 61% of air pollution sources. The Ramapough Lenape – the tribal chief came to NYU and they are in New Jersy that are in a Superfund site where the nation lives, 50 miles from NYC. The tribal nation, there were iron mines in their area. In the 1960s, a Ford subsidiary disposed of paint sludge and car parts in the unused mines – with lead paint and for 10 years disposing of paint waste and electronic waste. The result is a 500-acre superfund site. In the area of Ringwood in 1970 they put tarpaulin over the waste, and high level of iron and other pollutants in the area and Ramapough made a lawsuit and got very little to the community. in 2013, statistically, there is an impact of the pollution with diseases, there increase in asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure. People have a lot of concern – they are scared of eating from the garden, can’t use the land, can’t fish and game. Done focus groups and studies on what they can do for them – concerns about water quality was high and they’ve worked together to have and collected water collection that was done by community members with help from graduate students. Tests for lead in the water was done by community members and other contaminants. They used community relevant test kits. Also some trace and toxic metals. In reporting back, they recommended not to fish in a specific area (Sallys Pond) and the chief was involved as a facilitator. Slides are reviewed by community members. Summary: restoring dignity and ownership over their community; prioritise a community research agenda, and change public policy. They back up community concerns with evidence and science.

DSC_1565.JPGEsther Erdie, work in Southeastern USA – 90% Native American are populating the area. There are 3% of the US population are native, there are 573 federally recognised tribes in 36 states. The Navajo Nation has 300,00 people. In 2004 there was recognition that environmental health is needed for tribal land-based cultures. The relationship to the land is very different from urban cultures, and lack of culturally-centred primary research. In 2015 there was a Mine Release in 2015 that impact a large area in Gold King Mine. There are over 4000 uranium mines, so big issue. There is a legacy of the extraction industry that leads to environmental injustice in the south-west US, there are airborne nanomaterial metals (U, V, Si), and lung exposure pathways because it’s an open cast mine. The Navajo nation when examined in 2010, showed 21% high level of Uranium in them. The citizen science goes to 1972 there were discharges and in 1979 tailing spill. There are problems lead to the sampling of radiation from 2002. In Church Rock uranium mine they took samples by community members who act as citizen scientists and identify 376 water source that is exceeding regulated level in 2011. There are problems in different sites and created a traffic light system to indicate how the water can be used. The issue is how the community want to use the information, the Navajo nation is focusing on the creation of a medical school and use the science to address issues. Education is important and needs to integrate traditional ways of thinking and considering issues.

DSC_1568.JPGJefferson Currie II from the Lumbee in North Carolina, and is a riverkeeper. The job is about citizen science, he comes from community background and the watershed that he deals with are brownfields, Swine and poultry CAFO, coal ash, oil and gas pipelines, etc. The approach that he takes is that he continues to talk with community members, and get information. His job is to stop pollution and hold people to account for it. They had a huge increase in poultry operations and there is a problem of not letting the operations growing. People say that the water becomes brown because of the swine CAFO and that is a way to identify violations. Floods – people who are older can explain things on how they are happening. They get reports on flooding that can be caused by solar farm and can local knowledge can work.

Judith – citizen science includes citizens and citizens. There are no short projects with communities and the Ramapough project is one that requires long term commitment and there is a long term commitment.

Dona – the distrust is when there is extractive knowledge an element of academia that is linked to funding, which researchers refuse to help because of funding. There are concerns about contaminations that require long term engagement. Beyond the funding, there will be leaders and people in the community that will continue to carry out the work. Consider other exchange – time, food and more. Need to maintain relationships.

Language – Judith went to learn the language, but there is wide use of English. In Esther case, 30% only speak Navajo and working with the community requires to have community members that are a local speaker, for example, there is a need to have female community researchers because of matriarchal structures. There are Native American that are becoming scientists. Dona – there is also a need to talk about the cultural language, not only the verbal language.

Vi – for true community based participatory research in different communities, ask them what is their area of concerns and help them to design the research and make sure that it is their data. Native American can tell their own stories and their own knowledge. Need to consider. Judith – there can be an interaction, that includes people who with an agreement that they will be the voice of the community.

There are panels that need to be considering the inclusion of different groups, such as black communities is needed to be included from the start of processes and be represented by themselves.

The suggestion of developing long terms relationships with community

Consortia of native academics who are building protocols with native communities to maintain knowledge by the communities of people that integrate traditional and scientific knowledge in themselves. The native academics didn’t experience disconnect – maybe the language and jargon, but there is a need to start with the people first and then it is how the relationship is being built. Native academics are fostering. In terms of self-determination – concepts of Free, Prior and Informed Consent is central. Bottom determinant.


Citizen Science 2019: Ethical Considerations in Funded Citizen Science: Implications for Broader Impacts


The session Ethical Considerations in Funded Citizen Science: Implications for Broader Impacts, organise by Jacqueline Vadjunec (NSF), Fay Cobb Payton (NSF), Todd Kuiken (NC State University), Lisa Rasmussen (UNC Charlotte), Brenda Wilson Evon Connally (UNC Charlotte), Stacy Lynn (, Caren Cooper (NCSU), John Parker (NSF)
The Jacquie is in the Geography division of NSF, and the goals are the challenges in democratising funding and discuss institutional mechanisms to support citizen science. Citizen science is funded in different ways and it included scientists and citizen scientists that are involved in NSF projects.

NSF mission is to promote the progress of science and the budget is about $7b, promoting thousands of projects mostly 3 years. Funding basic knowledge that can be generalisable. The intellectual merit and broader impacts are both important. Broadening participation of underrepresented STEM groups came from work in 2008 and now have the includes programme. Creating people where everyone has an opportunity for a career in STEM – dealing with geography, gender, ethnicity etc. There are about 150 projects that are being funded to 225 at any given moment. Citizen science has intellectual merit – theory of citizen science, or broader impact – engaging new groups.

Omega Willson – in NC and 45 miles west of Raleigh and have been doing 25 years where they work on citizen science and started to engage 2 years ago. The relationship with the CSA is to diversify the conference through a sub-committee of the conference that paid attention to it which was in the panel yesterday. 60 scholarship for community organisations to bring people to the conference and increase representation. There are issues of labelling of community research and the process of networking will help in labelling and a way to increase support.

Fay – in the division of computer network systems, and they are funding a big chunk of projects and they are not under the label of citizen science. In the division, there is an effort of increasing participation in computing engineering – e.g. AI, smart cities, etc. They defined broadening participation very broadly – lots of identity markers to bring people into the portfolio. It is about equitable engagement – in the community, by the community. A process and a measurement effort. What does it mean to inform the PI and what should be done. Part of it is to understand the review process and they include criteria for broadening participation in their panel: less about diversity and more about inclusion. Cultural and organisational change in the NSF, e.g. in large grant call. Also involved in NSF Includes and it is more nuanced in its criteria and the ethical issues are embedded – working with community partners etc require to define shared goals, vision, how to sustained the efforts and how it is measured. How to evidence it.

Todd – part of the DIY Bio community and funding community biotech labs, and try to raise some of the issues with such grants. Applied for community biotech for the Baltimore centre that is at the forefront of engagement – inner city and touching underrepresented community. The review was very positive, but one of the issues was that no partnership with a university was too high (e.g. BUDD) and concerns about bio-safety and biosecurity. An organisation that is very small it is very difficult to get into but they are the places where innovation in Includes happened and creating STEM opportunities. The Wilson Center couldn’t pass the criteria of NSF, which a small organisation that run by volunteers cannot pass this hurdle. Partnering with universities means losing lots of money. Money in the crowdsourcing area have a particular opportunity to raise a significant amount of money and what are the ethics of funding projects and how to avoid selling false hopes, or what about the data that come from such a study that it wasn’t coming from the same place.

Stacy  – was created in 2007 and it engaged broad participation in research anywhere, with access to technology. The system is about “helping you to do great science” and it is defined very broadly. Through conversation with potential users, decided that it’s not their job is to police participation or projects, but they need to create a platform that will allow people to make decisions about their projects and their ethics (in the new issue of CSTP). The project manager can decide who can participate in the project – from open completely to selected individuals. Openness decision about the data is also for each project because of privacy, or endangered animals. To make it available to most users, governance is done by people who know their project. The NSF funding came from multiple programmes. They’ve done business modelling and got funding as an infrastructure. Ethics is a complex issue and long engaged conversation about the choices.

Lisa – as a philosopher and teaching research ethics, and there are many places where research is done outside regulations and done a workshop on ethical issues in citizen science and it is a very complex problem. Citizen science and DIY bio can reimagine the way we govern research – research framework that was articulated in the 1970s and in IRB you don’t consider community harm, so broadening participation changes the way we engaged. At the moment there is a struggle exactly how to create a framework – possibly a philosophy of trust, and including ensuring data quality, trust with community members, and trust with the ethics. There are ethical worries: there are things that you might fall into, and nefarious people – the grandfather of Alt-science: separating good science from bad science.

Caren – discussed topics as Vespucci and it came up in citizen science projects and got interested in it. She now teaches ethics and makes the students grapple with ethics issues. Problems from her own projects – top-down projects with different funding and outcomes. The IRB oversight treats them as human-subject research. Sparrow Swap is about contaminant and it falls between NSF and NIH. There are issues with IRB and assuming participants are anonymous, but that will mean that we can’t acknowledge them! In Sound around Town, there is an issue of informed consent and everyone is open about it and need to get third-party consent to recording sound. In a new project about testing for lead pipes, they want to pass the responsibility to the participants to decide what will be shared and how. She also develops norms around data ethics. Good data also means that it was collected ethically.

Regarding sharing information – the participants decide which data should be shared and with whom. Omega – questions about race and racism in communities, and there were cases of professors sharing information with officials about names and not realising that they should respect other people. They had to get lawyers to force the researchers out of university for revealing details. They had to tell some researchers not to come to their area again. There is sometimes a need to use lawyers and a legal settlement with research institutions. The moral issue needs to be addressed.

Regarding issues of data – Stacy working with communities in East Africa and the data need protection, and with CitSci.rog there is a need to co-create protocol for doing projects to work through a series of questions: is it for people, and providing tools and procedures. If you work with communities, have you consulted the community about it. Pre and post work checking to inform the decision making. Fay – skipping a level, the implications of sharing are overlooked – data literacy and implication. Lead pipes are one thing, but there can be an impact on education funding for the area due to a drop in house prices. What are the implications and making the decision require an understanding of the lived experience? We have to consider the implications. Even with contributory projects, there aren’t communities and it interacts with individuals and if there isn’t a framework or organisation that addresses community consent.

Issues of community harm perspectives in terms of reviewing the ethics is always done at the individual and not with groups. In crowdfunding and crowdsourcing – there are side effects: figuring out the person that collected the data, addressing groups and not individuals. Crowdfunding might be completely outside the control of institutions. There will be a potential that lots of research will be outside the IRB regulation, and Lisa says that the CSA need to put structures in place. Tom – there is a risk that data will not be available for use by researchers in the universities. Todd – the DIY Bio community have its own code of ethics that was created bottom up, and in iGEM there is an effort to educate people in the competition to consider ethical and societal aspects. Universities should be educating students about ethical issues. John – However, there are different ethical codes for DIY Bio between US/Europe which indicates the cultural difference, so need to have both a top-down approach for responsibility and some role for institutional oversight. Omega – we need to discuss issues of the legal framework.

Fay – there are specific ethical guidelines (e.g. from ACM), and the citizen science and inclusiveness are included with the general way in which the field operates. There is a call about starting to teach computer scientists to understand the implications of technological development and ethics. Stacy – teaching all undergraduate students in the ethics of their work, and starting early. Caren – the citizen science approach might cause us to rethink frameworks that we have, such human subject research. We might need a poly-centric framework for oversight. Fay – the issues of collectivism and individualism are coming to the fore in citizen science. Ellen – because the NSF is spending federal money, they need to stand certain standards to get through a Federal Audit and that blocks organisations.