Experiments outside the laboratory: Who should decide? (notes)

These are the notes from an event at UCL on 1st July 2019 part of Scaling (H2020 project) – innovations in Living Labs. The chair was Jack Stilgoe  – Associate Professor, Science and Technology Studies, University College London. The second part of it emerged from Tom Wakefield at the ETC group which is looking at early stages of technology development and hold groups into account. The ETC group is interested in technology that will profoundly change the relationships of the public with experiments. The object of interest for ETC is ecosystems themselves and having unintended consequences. Consent and legitimacy are at the centre, with GM mosquitos modified to address malaria through gene drive.

We look at a film that is addressing gene drive (above) – in particular, the proposed testing of gene drive mosquitoes and the upcoming release of genetically modified mosquitoes by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Target Malaria project in Burkina Faso. The film “a question of consent – about Burkina Faso experiments with mosquitos in Target Malaria experiment with a gene drive with to eradicate the mosquito through gene transformation. There was permission to release GMO mosquitos to the wild. There is an experience with the failure of GMO cotton. Target Malaria is stating that they work with the local agency and care about the health and environmental consent. People ask questions about what will come after the eradication – which insects will thrive and what will they do?  Local people are stating that they are not informed or that consent was asked from them. People are not aware that the project is the first gene drive example in the world.

Zahra Moloo – independent researcher and director of the film “A Question of Consent: Exterminator Mosquitoes in Burkina Faso”. The background to the film – the issue has been in the media for a while, and she’s working for the ETC group and therefore the context is as a journalist and as part of the group, trying to see what people at Burkina Faso to know what the local people know. Most journalists were taken to the place with the project people. They went in October 2018, and there was also a GMO demonstration – on the ground, there are people who are telling a different story. Today, some GMO drive mosquitos will be released and they say that they obtained consent in the village Bana and the film shows that this is not the case. The release today is GMO male mosquitos, but not gene drive. There are open issues of consent and who should decide.

Lim Li Ching – Senior Researcher, Third World Network. The first point is that it is not only about gene drive, but many other examples of application – e.g. using GMO viruses to crop and other mechanisms, can lead to unexpected biodiversity impacts. Gene drive is deliberate ways to influence wild populations and eradicate species potentially. It’s a new power of humans. This raises legal and moral questions for society. Who should decide and choose which species are expandable and can be removed? The international community – the parties of the treaty on biodiversity decided that any environmental releases that can impact local communities and indigenous people, then a free, prior and informed consent is required. It’s a very involved process – the FPIC process is based on rights for self-determination – the right to be consulted, the right to participation, and the right for land and resources. That is based on the rights of indigenous people. Need to respect the decision making the process of the processes. The process has been integrated into any intervention that influences indigenous people, their environment, and resources. The process of consultation is as important as achieving FPIC. There are many examples of not carrying out the process properly. There is also the right of redress – who is allowed to do it? It’s a serious exercise and project proponents should demonstrate.

Brice Laurent – Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, ParisTech (formerly Paris School of Mines). The example is an extreme example of carrying out a policy through experiments – a version of evidence-based policy, being responsible with public money. Experiments are presented as collaborative and participatory. The example is not to take it for granted, and to consider how to make policy decisions through experiments – e.g. RCTs that are a basis for policy. In contrast, the experiments of electric scooters in cities, which are released as something new to test the regulatory framework. it is important to test collective decisions through these experiments. The problem: the boundary is not clear when people are entities that collect data but don’t know that they are collecting data for companies and experiments with technologies. The second reasons not to take for granted is about the expected benefits – e-scooters: the investors are the one that will benefit, this is an economy that provides the investor. So who benefits from the experiment? Who benefits? Most autonomous cars experiments can be about other things – e.g. using sensors in order to learn about them and use them in another context. It’s not clear who should be impacted. With experiments – it is another political philosophy about the rule of the state, when we do intentional irreversibility we restrict political choices in the future. Politics of acceptance – how to create new testing grounds, changing regulatory frameworks.

Lim/Zahra – in some cases, specific consent of the individual is not possible. It depends on consent. It should be a process of dialogue and not just a simple consent for one activity. Consent is not a yes/no. Need to think who push the study and why. Some people from the Target Malaria who were invited to public debate didn’t come. Do you know where the money comes from? Are there alternatives?

Brice – consent is thought as a single person and as a one-time event, and it doesn’t consider groups and communities.  How to identify the communities and who should be involved?

Q: experiments in the open – how do identify when it is an experiment? In many cases, we have a need to define when an action is an experiment? Another question is what constitutes the information that should be shared? Who should be consulted and how to decide how to include the difficulties of making these decisions? The gene drive is argued to be a way to open up acceptance to GMO.

Answers: Brice – the history of things being released over time, but there is a contemporary consent of conducting test and experiments, changing regulatory rules and seeing what they lead to. For example, creating sandboxes where removing constraints to allow people to experiments. There is colonial and postcolonial involvement. Li – there are moving from lab to the field, and the power of this technology, and the large scale ecosystem engineering. We don’t see the use of precautionary principles, and a tendency of technologies to move fast and a rush to use the technology. The race to innovate become a justification all by itself. People feel that that they haven’t been involved – more stakeholders engagement then consent.

There is something new, but we need to consider a collective consent – we rely on representatives to provide consent, but maybe we should ask which consent and which experiments we should allow? What is the role of government in it? The work needs to be done to get to the stage where people can ask for consent? What a trust-worthy process looks like? Incompetence and herd mentality are important factors to understand why things happen the way that they are going.

The opportunity to be innovative – we have existing agreements and we need to innovate around them and accept them and need to understand precaution when working with indigenous groups. When there isn’t a long tradition of consultation, especially with indigenous groups. Including more people in the decision-making process – we need to consider who needs to be included and who need to be convinced. If we want to apply the Precautionary Principle, we need to keep it in mind and make it operational.

NGOs and businesses – in terms of good/bad – GMO was supposed to feed the world, and what we get golden rice, which didn’t work too well. We can look at the power differentials between NGOs and corporate NGOs. There is an issue of accountability and NGOs.

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

 

Barbara Hoenig’s “Europe’s New Scientific Elite”

Book cover I never knew that with respect to the European Research Council (ERC), I belong to a (small) group called “Dual role incumbents”. Not until I’ve read “Europe’s New Scientific Elite: Social Mechanisms of Science in the European Research Area” – A book by Barbara Hoenig which came out in 2017. The way I heard about the book is very appropriate – in June 2017, after the end of an ERC panel and a long week of interviewing and making decisions about ranking proposals, the sociologist Peter Wagner mentioned that the first book that analyses the ERC has come out. Being both a grantee of an ERC Advanced Grant and a panel member, this interested me. Although the book is written in a fairly technical language and not an easy read, the message that is emerging from it is important and should be noted.

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European Research Area (source: EU video)

The book is analysing the processes that are happening in the social organisation of science in the area that is under the influence of the European Union research investment over the past few decades, and in particular, the role that the ERC has been playing within it in the past 10 years. The EU Framework Programmes have slowly become a dominant funding source and they are shaping the focus and operation of science and technological research across the European Research Area (ERA) which includes 24 member states and 5 associated countries, with agreements with further countries, such as Israel, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, etc. (trying to figure out the purpose, operation, and practicalities of the ERA is not a simple task!). For the purpose of understanding the area of influence, the map above provides the geographical region of influence of the ERA.

Hoenig takes an analytical sociology approach where she collects and analyses a significant amount of statistical information, qualitative information (e.g. CVs), and interviews, and then build up the narrative of micro and macro actions that lead to an explanation of how the system operates (see below her core system from Figure 4.3 in the book). She’s following Robert Merton in using “middle range theory” of the sociology of science. While I haven’t read Merton, it looks like Hoenig is following Merton in her focus on the sociology of science and in the methodologies that he used.

Micro Macro theory of science in EuropeThe book includes an analysis of different science systems across Europe, showing how cultural differences between countries lead to different types of systems – e.g. the UK system which is market-oriented, versus the German one, which is state-led, or the nature of programmes to promote “excellence” in different countries. She also explores the anxieties of European policymakers regarding the position of European research in the world, and the balancing of investment between different fields of science (e.g. social science vs. natural sciences).

The core of the analysis is the change in the purpose of the European Union research funding from sharing knowledge, improving collaborations, and enhancing capacities of the weaker countries and places so they can benefit from investment in science and technology, to a system that emphasises “excellence”, and then define it with a set of parameters that provide advantages to some actors, who are then becoming dominant (Hoenig call this process “Oligarchisation”). In particular, the analysis is concerned with the Matthew Effect: “independent of the actual achievement of researchers, those having already gained a reputation in science will gain more, whereas those who had not yet made their mark are literally deprived of their efforts.” (p. 26)

A later part of the book is dedicated to the analysis of the ERC itself – both in the characteristics of grantees (unfortunately, she didn’t have access to the CVs of all applicants, so we’re looking at a survival bias of those that secure the grants and therefore can be identified), and at the composition of the panels of the ERC, who are the gatekeepers which define what excellence is through the act of giving (or refusing) funding. This is where the “dual role” come in since the ERC integrates grantees in the panel – likely based on the assumption that those who are doing excellent research can judge one. It is interesting to see how in some scientific fields, European based research is used to define excellence, while in others, the reference is to research in other parts of the world. There are also issues about disciplinary funding allocations – e.g. for humanities and some areas of social science, there are no equivalent large-scale fellowships from national funders (e.g. in the UK, as expressed in the British Academy report on the ERC) while in other cases, the value of the ERC is in kudos, and researchers have other sources of large grants that they can go after.

Hoenig points out that the focus on excellence lead to some unintended consequences: “1) A huge grant concentration in only a few countries and institutions of Europe, instead of overcoming a fragmented landscape of integration; 2) a perpetuating ‘European Paradox’ of deficient innovation investments when compared at a global scale; and 3) a diminishing concern for promoting public research of societal relevance for European citizens” (p. 118) – since I’ve already participated closely in about 6 European projects through FP7 and Horizon 2020, and especially since “Doing It Together Science” is part of the Science with and for Society, I have seen points 1 and 3 in operation. I’m lucky to be in one of the institutions that are noted in 1, and there are many mechanisms that reinforce the Matthew Effect: from a very experience office at UCL that can support both the application process and the management of projects, to the existence of multiple examples for successful applications, which are accessible to researchers inside the institution and, therefore, increase their likelihood of securing further funding. Point 3 is also clear from the little funding that the Science with and for Society received in Horizon 2020 (only 0.6%), and the fact that no such funding is expected (at this time) in the next Framework Programme (Horizon Europe).

One aspect that I found missing in the analysis is how the focus on excellence moved from groups and institutions to individuals, which is quite central to the process that led to the way the ERC operates. I have a personal experience in this since on the one hand, I’m a beneficiary of the switch from the thinking that excellence is coming from groups to a view that individuals should be at the focus of these initiatives. You can see that in the transition from the way the UK examined groups of researchers in the Research Assessment Exercise, to the Research Excellence Framework that scores individuals along a scale of excellence. In a more explicit way, this is appearing in personal fellowship for people in early stages of their careers – in other words, “picking winners” (and by necessity, creating a big group of losers). I benefited from the EPSRC Challenging Engineering, and then from Further Investment that was given exclusively to this group, and now from an ERC Advanced Grant. On the other hand, I fundamentally disagree with the assumption that the world is driven by unique individuals, and that thinking this way can contribute to creating a toxic environment (as Athene Donald described) as some (many?) people who get the message that they are special, adopt the wrong idea about their own importance. If you look at all the three projects that I secured through the excellence programmes, I’ve done them in teams – for example, in the collaboration with Dr Jerome Lewis, which is noted clearly as co-director of the Extreme Citizen Science group in our ERC application. As someone who read a fair amount of applications, I can say that the message that is received by researchers is that they need to present themselves as these special individuals. This is a very unhealthy way to develop science (and a fourth side effect to the list that Hoenig identified).

There is a big clash between this “special individuals” concept with the demand for “interdisciplinarity” which is common in general European Union funding and in particular in ERC expectations and applications. Hoenig pays attention to this aspect too, but the individualism aspect reinforces the project: It can be difficult to have a fair exchange that can lead to new ideas across a research team if the individual grantees are thinking that they need to be such omnipotent, potential Nobel laureates researchers. They are positioned, a priory, as the principal investigators that set the whole project and set the direction to the people that they hire, and I’ve already heard about cases of the toxic issues that were pointed about, which happened with early career researchers under these conditions. Somehow, I would think that ERC for small teams will be much better to address interdisciplinarity – beyond the Synergy model that is currently offered.

Overall, the book is written as a series of papers in rather factual, dry, prose. Yet, I found it very helpful in positioning my experience within these wider processes. A summary of it can be an excellent introduction to ERC panellists to think about the way their judgements shape the landscape of European Research.

The book is also up to date, and also point to the Brexit science impact: “the EU current political disintegration merges into the paradox that those universities and researchers that perform most successfully in attracting ERC grants are placed in a country whose population’s majority voted against continuing EU membership.” (p. 118) This might be another indication of point 3 above – not clear enough links between societal concern and researchers actions…

Justice and the Digital symposium notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Digital Shorts include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lessons learned from Volunteers Interactions with Geographic Citizen Science – Afternoon session

The context of the workshop and the notes from the first part of the workshop is available here. The theme of the second part of the day was Interacting with geographical citizen science: lessons learned from urban environments

Volunteer interactions with flood crowdsourcing platforms – Avi Baruch talk is based on a completed PhD on the aspects of volunteers in flood monitoring and response. There are different types – incident reporting floodline, media outreach, online volunteering, and collaborative mapping. He looked at Tomnod as a system that is currently used to engage volunteers in tagging satellite images. Looked at forums and interviews with the most active participants. Most volunteers where over 50 and there is a good balance by gender. 23% stated that they had a long-term health problem – finding it addictive and spending 8-10 hours a day. Engaging volunteers is an issue: there was not enough feedback on how the information was used and how they are performing, which Tomnod team haven’t done. at least 10% of comments were concerned with the quality of their contributions. Without feedback, it is hard to judge. Tomnod allow people to explore the map and they can share location, but then people concentrate in one area. Restricting people to an area didn’t work well. Core motivations were based on altruistic reasons, and retirement, disability and health were reasons for engagement. The second part of the PhD project includes the development of a citizen science platform to report (floodcrowd.co.uk) and doing the development through an iterative process. The form allows people to report flooding incidents. All the information that is provided is location, and type of flooding, and then people can report further details. In communities, that experience flooding preferred a hard copy. All sort of information was submitted, mostly about surface mapping – many people who are potential participants didn’t want to engage with the app. Need further co-production with the people who contribute the data.

Volunteers Interaction in Technology Driven Citizen Science contexts: Lessons learned from senseBox and openSenseMap – Mario Pesch & Thomas Bartoschek SenseBox have been developed over the past 4 years. It came out from teaching computer science in school – focus on environmental sensing which the students wanted to see on the web. Sensing temp, humidity, pressure, light, UV-light. People wanted to participate in the project from outside school. in 2014, they had 50 sesneBoxes – most connected only for few weeks (8m records). After a while, people find it complicated and they wanted to do something on their own. They created a DIY sensing box for home and for school. The component allows people to create things without soldering. They set out reference stations next to official monitoring station – people asked about it. You always need to consider the limitation of the system. SensorBox home 2.0 was looking more at air quality and more options to send the data – measuring in places without WiFi so they added GSM and now they have 1500 sensing stations and people also want to work with the data and you can do basic interpolation. The platform is device independent and people use it for other systems. Also supporting mobile stations, They keep the project open – it can be adjusted to people own needs.

Lessons learned from volunteers’ use and feedback of the Cyclist GEO-C App – Diego Pajarito, Suzanne Maas, Maria Attard and Michael Gould the experience of the cycling app is part of the PhD network GEO-C – open city toolkit. A lot of application target sports or data collected but not linked to the experience on the road. The location Cyclist GEO-C app is for Android and can be competition or cooperation based, and collect GPS tracks and up to 3 tags. Tried in Castello, Munster and Valletta and Malta. There are different levels of cycling used. 20 participants – that commute regularly and using an Android phone. Different participation methods – as a group to get common views. They captured 793 trips, the response was generally positive. People seeing a potential for personal use but also to lobby and promote cycling. Can be a motivational tool for beginners. They also identify the issue of remembering to use the app when the need to use it, improve control over recording and improving the tags. Ideas about mapping interface and using wearable devices, social interaction and gamification were suggested.

Invisible Citizen Science: the case of Járókelő in Hungary – Bálint Balázs & Le Marietta thinking of the citizen science in Eastern Europe, which thinking about modes of public participation in scientific discourse and policy-making, there are multiple silences: there are many projects that offer it, and in the level of initiative – the term haven’t exist and used. The interview from an NGO suggested lack of familiarity. In eastern countries in Europe, citizen science is only recently emerging, not many initiatives, and little-published articles and only a few members of ECSA, and how it is connected. Methods are limited. Need to reconceptualise. There is invisible citizen science – the specific knowledge that is produced in the projects that they are looking at it are uncommon to scientists. An example for this is jarokelo – for addressing local issues – looking at the example for “fix my street” (or “letter to the mayor” in the Czech Republic). Civic technology to report street fixing and there are 20 volunteers who can transfer it to the authority – there are 50-100 reports per day and the reporting back from the authority can take 30 days. Most authorities report back, they also received reports on homeless people and had to agree on what to do with this types of report. The issue of participants is about trust in the state and also think of cooperative research ideas – analysing users’ statistics, thinking of involvement pathways and better communication.

Citizens as Shoppers: Lessons learned from the EnvBodySens application – Eiman Kanjo  looking into mobile sensing – the challenge for retail in the centre of cities and there is also all sort of noise and air pollution that people are concerned about. Done work around a popular shopping area in Nottingham city centre – what kind of sensors – environment, physiology, motion, timestamps, location, continuous self-reporting and the zoning (understanding which shops they are in, or the area that they are visiting). Issues of collecting data involve selecting types of sensors (e.g. the characteristics of the sensors). There was issue of demography, shopping behaviour (men/women), challenges with how many volunteers you get and how to prepare volunteers – but for shopping, we need them to be relaxed and enjoy the shopping and how you start the experiment. There is also the aspects of the journey (real-life shopping experience and temporal aspect of it) which also raise ethical concerns. They needed to consider if the phone is on all the time or should it use voice and audio information. Self-reporting and self-assessment is something that needs consideration. They ended with 50 participants, wristband devices and mobile phone and a 45 shopping journey – they looked at the impact of noise and they also consider how they can visualise all this information.

Lessons learned from the recent landlside mitigation efforts: citizen science as a new approach – Sultan Kocaman & Candan Gokceoglu volunteer contribution can provide important information – increase world population and climate change (extreme weather) is a major natural hazard. Wanted to explore how citizen science is relevant to address uncertainties because there is a lack of reliable temporal data. Risk assessment s base on knowledge of past events – then assessing susceptibility, hazard assessment and then you can understand the risk assessment and manage it. Landslide susceptibility requires a lot of information and data. The risk assessment needs all this information as otherwise there will be too much uncertainty. The majority of landslides are in mountainous areas and we can’t have sensors, but information is coming from observers evidence, and volunteers can provide the time and location in a better way. Shallow landslides disappear after a short period. Need volunteers at the right time and the right place – distributed participation. The scale of movement can also be measured with volunteers. Currently working on the project and consider what can be done – what the frequency and quality of spatial and temporal data and in any case rely heavily on local knowledge but need to be improved.

Citizens as volunteer cartoghraphers: A pedestrian map case study – Manousos Kamilakis exploring the field of cartography for pedestrian – based on ideas from VGI so people can share information. Most of the online maps are focusing on motorised transport, and less about the aesthetic pleasantness of the journey, the condition of the pavement etc. The two journeys are suggested as equivalent and only one of them is offering a better journey. Created an app for pedestrian reporting and recording the journey, then evaluate and review the journey and also editing a path. They carried out an experiment with people who never edited a map and had various motivations – the leaderboard wasn’t of interest, although half were motivated by gamification and were willing to cheat to score points. Creating motivation is difficult – need to design gamification carefully and external incentives encourage unacceptable data uploading – consider peer review. People do not volunteer to all tasks in an equal way.

Interacting with Community Maps – Mapping for Change Louise Francis and Rosa Arias cover the development of international odour observatory.  Building on Principle 10 of Rio and the right of access environmental information – different authorities produced maps, such a noise map.When talking with communities, people are pointing that they have a different experience and reflect their own understanding of their local conditions using citizen science. Citizen collect information and Mapping for Change visualise it on behalf of the community. Community evolved over the years. it is a flexible system that allows people to decide on the grouping of information – the themes are being groups in different ways. There is also a need to make conversation – interact with contributions that other people added. The data is to drive change – for example leading to a change in buses through campaign and publicity to change things around them. Lessons learned: communities, where adding data – demonstrating that community members wanted to share a lot of data and they wanted information on their balcony and putting a point on top of a point, wasn’t possible in the past and require changed. The map is allowing clustering that shows 115 points in a small area. Some communities wanted to have their own classification – so they took the data and created their own visualisation. We learned that and want to be part of the D-Noses: odour pollution. The top-down approaches to address issues of odour and there is fairly little addressing of issues. OdourCollect focuses on bottom-up approach – using the nose to notice odour problems. The OdoucrCollect allow data capture.

A Case Study on the Impact of Design Choices on Data Quality in Geographic Citizen Science – Jeffrey Parsons, NL Nature design choices – ecologist and looking at data management and data quality. Looking at a specific design choice. Looking at two archetypes of systems – on one end well defined and stable use of data (close) precise focus on data collection and data collection standards – citizen scientists with requisite domain knowledge and motivated to do the work well. The other end ill-defined, open use, which provides opportunities for data collection in an opportunistic way, ambiguous data collection standard and unclear domain knowledge. eBird is an example of a project that is towards the closed version. The research setting in traditional science lead to design principles for closed citizen science and these don’t work in open and that can lead to a problem in the application. Information quality is a major challenge in User Generated Content (UGC) – there is all sort of comments about it. Fitness for use is a major one – in close: training, data collection protocol, clean data – but this is a problem in an open environment and it can inhibit contributors from communicating unique knowledge. They suggest crowd IQ – from the contributors’ perspective (Lukyanenjo et al 2014). The question is how do we design in such a way that matches the contributors’ mental models of the information and align with contributors’ capabilities. Design principles focus on conceptual modelling – describing in a way that you use a class-based approach of setting the categories and the model drive the design. Design choice of conceptual model of the producer and not necessarily of the contributors. The alternative is to do instance-based modelling which is based on an ontological view of a world made of things and cognitive approach. The information quality impacts – if you think about data completeness as a way to describe the engagement of volunteers to add information. They checked a website that was focused on species only and another one that focuses on the attributes. The hypotheses are that they’ll get more observation and novel species. NLNature.com is about observations of wildlife. They allow people to type species name or the Latin name, the other option is typing whatever you want. They collected data over 6 months, they have 4 times more observations in the instance based condition, and also observe that class-based condition frustrated the contributors and left compared to the class-based case. They got many more species in the instance based when it is open to people to define insects, fish. They even discover a new type of wasp. The bottom line, modelling choices affect dataset completeness – class based lead to fewer observations and especially of species that are not in the schema.

 

From paper prototyping to citizen participation: Co-designing geolocated cultural heritage applications that trigger personal reflection – Kate Jones – looking at cultural heritage. The aim is to create a serendipitous outdoor exhibition to reflect on historical topics and encourage thoughtful play on historical issues. The topic that they focused on was that of migration – 45% of the population is made of migrants in Luxembourg and that influence way to thinking of a location for historical and contemporary memories and experiences. Two places – Luxembourg city and Valletta and they are both touched by migration and are UNESCO sites. They have Mobile app, moderator app, and point of interest management system and they check the information and want to use CrowdFlower to moderate. The application is to allow people to tag history places and be able to record journeys and stories about spaces and memory. Complexity is being hidden behind the levels. The app informs the user that they are being tracked. It was designed in an iterative process – user scenario, requirements, wood game to try how people use the application action – then develop and evaluate. A board game prototyping allowed the development of scenarios. Postcards symbolic of the user interface. The content needs to be valid, and interesting – want to reflect when people are out and about it the city. They included game designer and the developer and they can see the perspective of the player. People used stickers on the board card to indicate what they liked and disliked – people wanted a stronger connection between migration and experience. They used a digital humanities methods and figured out that it can be too complex so the levels can help in unlocking it. Questions had to be changed to address the emotional response of participants, and the multi-city connection was complex and need to develop carefully. A board game for the design was fun and collaborative but also helped in the development of the game. Going t the field, the launched the application in September 2017. out of 500 students, 40 app download, and only two trajectories. They created a new iteration. People don’t like reading the lengthy text – so they put it text to voice and that brought different issues with the interface. They see different types of people in the user population. Exploration have led to a change in perspective in the final application and grounded in participant experience. How do we give people the motivation to give it a go?

Geographical expertise and citizen science: planning and -design implications – Colin Robertson & Robert Feick considering different levels of geographical expertise – what does it mean to be a geographical expert – what are the expert/non-expert into a spectrum. We can look at some ideas of expertise: Collins 2013 pointed to the 3 dimensions of expertise – contributory, interactional and esotericity – exposure to tacit knowledge in a domain, recognised accomplishments or is it expertise that is common or uncommon we can look at it in a continuum – locale familiarity: place-based expertise related – might be fuzzy. Other geographical knowledge is about place-types – say urban environments or glacial environment. We can think about expertise in the cube – for a soil scientist it is in position A, long-term residents of the area might be a huge locale expertise B and so on. We can think of different projects – from Stresscapes – tweets as a place-based emotional expression but realise that this need validation with participants to check if the tweet related to the surroundings. The engagement was trying to be generic and ignored place and context. Everything was done through surveys on Twitter. RinkWatch looked at outdoor rink skateability – over 2000 rink people are passionate about it. The – a level of skateability level. the level of expertise is high in local knowledge and in thematic specificity. The Wildlife Health Tracker – where dead animals are – knowledge from hunters to capture information about what they have seen. Information that was reported is the type of animal – moderate thematic and local knowledge and low domain knowledge. The participants weren’t involved and much interested. The GrassLander is looking at private land – birds and habitats. Looking at farming community reporting. The cases here are where they’ve seen two types of birds (bobolink or eastern meadowlark) and – high thematic specificity, and moderate to high local knowledge and moderate domain knowledge (two species identification). Farmers were involved and there was a need to restrict access between participants. No project required high domain knowledge, the successful cases include place type or locale familiarity knowledge – though it’s a small sample. Many questions: metrics, credibility and trust models are all interesting.gfg

Following the day, group discussions explored the issues with people, technology, and future directions. Here are the future directions that were supposed in the group that I chaired with the help of Dan Artus (a future report from the workshop will be available)

 

 

GSF-NESTI Open Science & Scientific Excellence workshop – researcher, participants, and institutional aspects

The Global Science Forum – National Experts on Science and Technology Indicators (GSF-NESTI) Workshop on “Reconciling Scientific Excellence and Open Science” (for which you can see the full report here) asked the question “What do we want out of science and how can we incentivise and monitor these outputs?”. In particular, the objective of the workshop was “to explore what we want out of public investment in science in the new era of Open Science and what might be done from a policy perspective to incentivise the production of desired outputs.” with an aim to explore the overarching questions of:
1. What are the desirable (shorter-term) outputs and (longer-term) impacts that we expect from Open Science and what are potential downsides?
2. How can scientists and institutions be incentivised to produce these desirable outcomes and manage the downsides?
3. What are the implications for science monitoring and assessment mechanisms?

The session that I was asked to contribute to focused on Societal Engagement: “The third pillar of Open Science is societal engagement. Ensuring open access to scientific information and data, as considered in the previous sessions, is one way of enabling societal engagement in science. Greater access to the outputs of public research for firms is expected to promote innovation. However, engaging with civil society more broadly to co-design and co-produce research, which is seen as essential to addressing many societal challenges, will almost certainly require more pro-active approaches.
Incentivising and measuring science’s engagement with society is a complex area that ranges across the different stages of the scientific process, from co-design of science agendas and citizen science through to education and outreach. There are many different ways in which scientists and scientific institutions engage with different societal actors to informing decision-making and policy development at multiple scales. Assessing the impact of such engagement is difficult and is highly context and time-dependent“.

For this session, the key questions were

  • “What do we desire in terms of short and long-term outputs and impacts from societal engagement?
  • How can various aspect of scientific engagement be incentivised and monitored?
  • What are the necessary skills and competencies for ‘citizen scientists’ and how can they be developed and rewarded?
  • How does open science contribute to accountability and trust?
  • Can altmetrics help in assessing societal engagement?”

In my talk, I’ve decided to address the first three questions, by reflecting on my personal experience (so the story of a researcher trying to balance the “excellence” concepts and “societal engagement”), then consider the experience of the participants in citizen science projects, and finally the institutional perspective.


I’ve started my presentation [Slide 3] with my early experiences in public engagement with environmental information (and participants interest in creating environmental information) during my PhD research, 20 years ago. This was a piece of research that set me on the path of societal engagement, and open science – for example, the data that we were showing was not accessible to the general public at the time, and I was investigating how the processes that follow the Aarhus convention and use of digital mapping information in GIS can increase public engagement in decision making. This research received a small amount of funding from UCL, and later from ESRC, but not significantly.

I then secured an academic position in 2001, and it took to 2006 [Slide 4] to develop new systems – for example, this London Green Map was developed shortly after Google Maps API became available, and while this is one of the first participatory GIS applications on to of this novel API, this was inherently unfunded (and was done as an MSc project). Most of my funded work at this early stage of my career had no link to participatory mapping and citizen science. This was also true for the research into OpenStreetMap [Slide 5], which started around 2005, and apart from a small grant from the Royal Geographical Society, was not part of the main funding that I secured during the period.

The first significant funding specifically for my work came in 2007-8, about 6 years into my academic career [Slide 6]. Importantly, it came because the people who organised a bid for the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), realised that they are weak in the area of community engagement and the work that I was doing in participatory mapping fit into their plans. This became a pattern, where people approach with a “community engagement problem” – so there is here a signal that awareness to societal engagement started to grow, but in terms of the budget and place in the projects, it was at the edge of the planning process. By 2009, the investment led to the development of a community mapping system [Slide 7] and the creation of Mapping for Change, a social enterprise that is dedicated to this area.

Fast forward to today [Slide 8-10], and I’m involved in creating software for participatory mapping with non-literate participants, that support the concept of extreme citizen science. In terms of “scientific excellence”, this development, towards creating a mapping system that anyone, regardless of literacy can use [Slide 11] is funded as “challenging engineering” by EPSRC, and as “frontier research” by the ERC, showing that it is possible to completely integrated scientific excellence and societal engagement – answering the “reconciling” issue in the workshop. A prototype is being used with ZSL to monitor illegal poaching in Cameroon [Slide 12], demonstrating the potential impact of such a research.

It is important to demonstrate the challenges of developing societal impact by looking at the development of Mapping for Change [Slide 13]. Because it was one of the first knowledge-based social enterprises that UCL established, setting it up was not simple – despite sympathy from senior management, it didn’t easily fit within the spin-off mechanisms of the university, but by engaging in efforts to secure further funding – for example through a cross universities social enterprise initiatives – it was possible to support the cultural transformation at UCL.

There are also issues with the reporting of the impact of societal engagement [Slide 14] and Mapping for Change was reported with the REF 2014 impact case studies. From the universities perspective, using these cases is attractive, however, if you recall that this research is mostly done with limited funding and resources, the reporting is an additional burden which is not coming with appropriate resources. This lack of resources is demonstrated by Horizon 2020, which with all the declarations on the importance of citizen science and societal engagement, dedicated to Science with and for Society only 0.60% of the budget [Slide 15].

Participant experience

Alice Sheppard presenting her escallatorWe now move to look at the experience of participants in citizen science projects, pointing that we need to be careful about indicators and measurements.

We start by pointing to the wide range of activities that include public engagement in science [Slide 17-18] and the need to provide people with the ability to move into deeper or lighter engagement in different life stages and interests. We also see that as we get into more deep engagement, the number of people that participate drop (this is part of participation inequality).

For specific participants, we need to remember that citizen science projects are trying to achieve multiple goals – from increasing awareness to having fun, to getting good scientific data [Slide 19] – and this complicates what we are assessing in each project and the ability to have generic indicators that are true to all projects. There are also multiple learning that participants can gain from citizen science [Slide 20], including personal development, and also attraction and rejection factors that influence engagement and enquiry [Slide 21]. This can also be demonstrated in a personal journey – in this example Alice Sheppard’s journey from someone with interest in science to a citizen science researcher [Slide 22].

However, we should not look only at the individual participant, but also at the communal level. An example for that is provided by the noise monitoring app in the EveryAware project [Slide 23] (importantly, EveryAware was part of Future Emerging Technologies – part of the top excellence programme of EU funding). The application was used by communities around Heathrow to signal their experience and to influence future developments [Slide 24]. Another example of communal level impact is in Putney, where the work with Mapping for Change led to change in the type of buses in the area [Slide 25].

In summary [Slide 26], we need to pay attention to the multiplicity of goals, objectives, and outcomes from citizen science activities. We also need to be realistic – not everyone will become an expert, and we shouldn’t expect mass transformation. At the same time, we shouldn’t expect it not to happen and give up. It won’t happen without funding (including to participants and people who are dedicating significant time).

Institutional aspects

The linkage of citizen science to other aspects of open science come through DITOs bus in Birmingham participants’ right to see the outcome of work that they have volunteered to contribute to [Slide 28]. Participants are often highly educated, and can also access open data and analyse it. They are motivated by contribution to science, so a commitment to open access publication is necessary. This and other aspects of open science and citizen science are covered in the DITOs policy brief [Slide 29]. A very important recommendation from the brief is that recognition that “Targeted actions are required. Existing systems (funding, rewards, impact assessment and evaluation) need to be assessed and adapted to become fit for Citizen Science and Open Science.”

We should also pay attention to recommendations such as those from the League of European Research Universities (LERU) report from 2016 [Slide 30]. In particular, there are recommendations to universities (such as setting a single contact point) and to funders (such as setting criteria to evaluate citizen science properly). There are various mechanisms to allow universities to provide an entry point to communities that need support. Such a mechanism is called “science shop” and provide a place where people can approach the university with an issue that concerns them and identify researchers that can work with them. Science shops require coordination and funding to the students who are doing their internships with community groups. Science shops and centres for citizen science are a critical part of opening up universities and making them more accessible [Slide 31].

Universities can also contribute to open science, open access, and citizen science through learning – such as, with a MOOC that designed to train researchers in the area of citizen science and crowdsourcing that we run at UCL [Slide 32].

In summary, we can see that citizen science is an area that is expanding rapidly. It got multifaceted aspects for researchers, participants and institutions, and care should be taken when considering how to evaluate them and how to provide indicators about them – mix methods are needed to evaluate & monitor them.

There are significant challenges of recognition: as valid excellent research, to have a sustainable institutional support, and the most critical indicator – funding. The current models in which they are hardly being funded (<1% in NERC, for example) show that funders still have a journey between what they are stating and what they are doing.


Reflection on the discussion: from attending the workshop and hearing about open access, open data, and citizen science, I left the discussion realising that the “societal engagement” is a very challenging aspect of the open science agenda – and citizen science practitioners should be aware of that. My impression is that with open access, as long as the payment is covered (by funder or the institution), and as long as the outlet is perceived as high quality, scientists will be happy to do so. The same can be said about open data – as long as funders are willing to cover the costs and providing mechanisms and support for skills, for example through libraries then we can potentially have progress there, too (although over protection over data by individual scientists and groups is an issue).

However, citizen science is opening up challenges and fears about expertise, and perceptions about it risking current practices, societal status, etc. Especially when considering the very hierarchical nature of scientific work – at the very local level through different academic job ranking, and within a discipline with specific big names setting the agenda in a specific field. These cultural aspects are more challenging.

In addition, there seem to be a misunderstanding of what citizen science is and mixing it with more traditional public engagement, plus some views that it can do fine by being integrated into existing research programmes. I would not expect to see major change without providing a clear signal through significant funding over a period of time that will indicate to scientists that the only way to unlock such funding is through societal engagement. This is not exactly a “moonshot” type funding – pursue any science that you want but open it. This might lead to the necessary cultural change.

From environmental management to organisational strategy development: Using Drivers-Pressure-State-Impact-Response with ECSA

This week, together with Margaret Gold, I facilitated a strategy meeting of the European Citizen Science Association.31520287784_20489a734e At the moment, because a recent lecture in the Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing course that was dedicated to environmental citizen science, the “Driving forces-Pressures-State-Impacts -Responses” (DPSIR) is in the front of my mind. In addition, next week I’ll participate in a workshop about Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) where I would discuss citizen science in another context where DPSIR is a common framework.

However, if you are not familiar with large-scale environmental management, where it is widely used since the mid-1990s,  you’re not expected to know about it. It got its critics, but continue to be considered as an important policy tool. DPSIR start by thinking about driving forces – trends or mega-trends that are influencing the ecosystem that you’re looking at. The drivers lead to specific pressures, for example, pollution or habitat fragmentation. To understand the pressures, we need to monitor and understand the state of the system – this is lots of time where citizen science and sensing data are used. Next, we can understand the potential impacts and then think of policy responses. So far, hopefully clear? You can read more about DPSIR here.

I haven’t come across the use of DPSIR outside the environmental area (but maybe there is?). However, as I was thinking about it, as we prepared for the meeting, I suggested that we give it a go as a way to consider strategic actions and work for ECSA. It turns out that DPSIR is a very good tool for organisational development! It allowed us to have a 20 minutes session in which we could think about external trends, and then translate them into a concrete action. Here is an example (made up, of course, I can’t disclose details from a facilitated meeting…). I’m marking positive things, from the point of view of the organisation, as (+) and negative as (-).

Let’s think of a citizen science coordination society (CitScCoSo). in terms of drivers, an example will be “increase recognition of citizen science”, as Google Trends chart shows. Next, there are the pressures which include (-) the growth in other organisations that are dedicated to citizen science and compete with CitScCoSo, which mean that it will need to work harder to maintain its position, (+) increase in requests to participate in activities, projects, meetings, talks etc which will create opportunity to raise profile and recognition. CitScCoSo current state can be that the organisation is funded for 5 more years and have a little spare capacity for other activities. The impacts can be (+) more opportunities for research funding and collaborations or, (-) demand for more office space for CitScCoSo (-) lack of IT infrastructure for internal organisational processes. Finally, all this analysis can help CitScCoSo in response – securing funding for more employees or a plan for growth.

When you do that on a flipchart with 5 columns for the DPSIR element, it becomes a rapid and creative process for people to work through.

As I pointed, a short exercise with ECSA board showed that this can work, and I hope that the outcomes are helpful to the organisation. I will be interested to hear if anyone else know of alternative applications of DPSIR…