Citizen Science 2019: Citizen Science in Action: A Tale of Four Advocates Who Would Have Lost Without You

DSC_1533.JPGJessica Culpepper (Public Justice), Larry Baldwin (Crystal Coast Waterkeeper), Matt Helper (Appalachian Voices),  Michael Krochta (Bark). 
Jessica – there can be a disconnect between the work on the ground and how it is used in advocacy. On how to use the information to make the world a better place, and hold polluters to account.
DSC_1534.JPGFirst, Michael Krochta (Bark) from Portland, OR – NGO focusing on restoring forests about Mt Hood. Doing volunteer surveys.  They carry out ground truth by volunteers to inform management but also litigation in case of logging – a project about an old growth forest that was suggested, but volunteers identify rare species habitat which stopped the logging. The Mt Hood provide drinking water, but also an area of commercial logging activities. There are programmes of logging from the forestry service – an area is going through EIA according to NEPA, and if it is suitable, it is auctioned off. The national forest management act requires them to have a forest management plan, especially concerns over spotted owl from the 1970s. At each time, there is a large area that is being analysed for exploitation, and they don’t analyse it well enough. The ground truthing is to train volunteers are checking the information and demonstrating, for example, that an area that is the map indicated as only 30-year growth is actually an old growth one. Ground truthing include taking images, checking a diameter of a tree, and assessing the canopy cover. The forest service (USFS) have limitations and they do very simplistic analysis and apply an analysis of a small area over a large area – e.g. an area of 11,742 acres that through an effort by the NGO they dropped 1531 by demonstrating that aspect and slope are greater than 30%. There is a requirement to use more complex equipment.
The forest service is describing “desired future conditions” and demonstrating that the conditions are already there. Another evidence is “survey and manage” – the forest service require to survey and manage trees that are over 80 years old. There is an example of the Red Tree Voles (which the Spotted Owl) and because it’s hard to find the next of the voles, they don’t climb trees – once people are trained to climb Douglas Fir, they can collect evidence – the forest service is doing only ground-based surveys. A detailed map of the area helps in removing places that are within a radius from identified nests. There are also protected plant species that they identified by volunteers. Existing legal hook – National Forest Management Act on land allocation and current ecological conditions, NEPA in terms of baseline conditions and cumulative impacts, Endangered Species Act, “Survey and manage” from Northwest Forest Plan. bark-out.org
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Volunteers demonstrate misclassification of an old growth area
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Surveying Red Tree Voles nests

DSC_1538.JPGMatt Hepler – Appalachian Voices – part of Appalachian Citizens Enforcement alliance, is doing engagement with people about the Clean Water Act to monitor their watershed and bringing local knowledge to the front. People feel disempowered and don’t interact with state agencies – gave up hope or don’t know how. Holding state agencies and coal companies accountable. The sites that they are researching are hot spot – word of mouth on local knowledge, use of Google Maps and Google Earth and also use QGIS, and they look at Discharge Monitoring Reports – the mines are supposed to produce DMRs for each stream, and these can be examined and can also grab location so they can carry out their own analysis. Spending as much time analysing the maps to decide where to take samples as much as doing in the fields. Mapping is important – but not every community members are not good with computers or explaining how to use GPS and coordinates. The maps are important for not trespassing so to find places that it is possible to properly sample. There can be intervening sources that can impact the sampling site. They are using equipment in a library – using a pH buffer bottle, using instruments and people monitor pH, temperature, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and Conductivity. If there is low pH or high conductivity they do further tests for heavy metals and sulfates and lab methods. It’s important to have QA – training on how to calibrate, how to not trespass and upload the data. There is limited editing access for data so it can be controlled. Calibration of probes before landing them. Using Virginia Tier II water quality data standards – checking that it’s good enough for state-level monitoring and evidence. There is also polaroid justice – provide photographic evidence for the work that they do so it can be submitted “Polaroid Justice”. They have a website http://www.act-project.org and now considering replacing it with smartphones with EpiCollect and ArcGIS Online, as it allows offline data collection. ArcGIS online can pull data from the EPA, state agencies and other sources and that are useful. Some successes – in specific streams (Kelly Branch and Penn Virginia) for illegal discharge of selenium and that led to Supplemental Environmental Project that bring money to remedy, reporting water quality violations, also found abandoned mines locations, and increased knowledge and awareness. Data have been used by academics who are interested in water quality in Appalachia.

DSC_1541.JPGLarry Baldwin – talking from multiple organisations that he involved in: crystal coast waterkeeper and coastal Carolina riverkeeper. The issue is Coal Ash and CAFO – the residue for coal that is used in power plants, and CAFO is concentrated Animal Feeding Operations from pork and poultry (turkey and chicken) because of industrial farming. They got information from a farmer about coal ash spill in the Dan River and took to the air, showing a spill from coal and CAFO sources. They had volunteers who recognise the discharge and people took photos for weeks. There are quite a few sites like that. The issue with CAFO that come from factory farms that got a “lagoon” which is a cesspit – a hole in the ground that include the sewage from the swine and then sprayed on the ground as a “fertilisers”. There are issues of discharge from CAFO – you find it out from neighbours who are checking the information, Trespassing is an issue, and they allow the organisation to go and sample. There are big mountains of poultry waste – with nitrate, bacteria and all sort of other things in it. There are 2400 swine “lagoon” mostly near low-income communities and black and Hispanic communities. So they provided tools to allow communities members to collect evidence from aerial monitoring with volunteer pilots – who have their own aeroplane who are willing to fly over the property, with attempts not to allow flying a drone over a facility because that is not allowed by law. After hurricane Florence, when it hit on Saturday, they flew for 8 days, to document the impact of the storm. Used a sign on the board of the local airport and recruiting pilots this way (covering the fuels). Also doing campaigns which get people involved – including billboards. The industry got upset about the billboards that they put their own campaign. Use an innovative way to engage people – they pay for themselves in terms of participation. Going to lawsuits only as last options – using clean air act or legislative actions to campaign and change things. Lobbying, campaigning, the court of public opinion is also important – using the information from volunteers to put it in front of the public, conventional media (print/radio/TV), documentaries – bringing people from Russia, China and other countries to avoid the problem in their own country, and finally social media. Training people to take samples and teaching people to use equipment to prove the point in a specific issue. If it is not part of the volunteers who step up to be part of the solution.
DSC_1546.JPGJessica Culpepper  – Public Justice is a national advocacy organisation and they have lawyers and been doing it for 7 years. There are environmental lawsuits that are based on citizen science and it is important to use it in these cases. There are also gag laws that are being put even to block access to public land (the Wyoming law). These laws are there to stop citizen scientists to identify problems. Public justice is to identify the problems in the energy and agricultural sector – coal ash, water. The Food Project try to support dismantling industrial agriculture towards a regenerative form of animal agriculture. Believe in deep partnership with communities and representing farmers, rural communities, consumers, and workers. Focusing on communities that don’t have clean water because of nitrates. Poultry has issues of working rights and other issues. The Burton et al v Mountaire Poultry – in a Milsbrough they experience water pollution that a community of colour was exposed to without knowing. There is row poultry waste sprayed on the field, and when the incident happened, the environment agency sample 11 wells and just sent water softener without explanation how it will help the situation. A group at the Sussex County Del. , with a group keep our wells safe, and explain to community members that their water is not space, and stepping up is very scary – losing a job, excluded from a local church, children being bullied etc. There is a disposal field not far away from the community. There was a child who died from asthma, limb loss for diabetic patients – all associate from nitrate. They start by community well sampling project -and went door to door to do onsite nitrate and discovered that a lot of wells are contaminated. Used Google Earth to map Nitrate and also got evidence through freedom of information. As a lawyer, she can demonstrate that it is a facility that can be blamed It is possible to demonstrate the link – without citizen science and community science that enabled data collection. They also show that the trend is going up since the farm happened. The chart was created by one of the citizen scientists in the community. The data enabled to collaboratively create a groundwater flow map through a hydrogeologist – and they could prove that could bring a lawsuit on behalf the community – and there was a question of what they want to get out of it. They also did media blitz in USA Today and asked why senators don’t show up  in the communities, and that influenced the advocacy – it led to the America Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 to get a grant to monitor and if the polluter is identified, they need to cover the costs – that despite the link between Tom Carper link to Poultry industry in Delaware. You need a positive vision, show up and document, willingness to be out in the media by the community, work with a wider network – work of citizen scientists is amazing. Burnout is real, and you need to work with different groups – an effort by communities and fighting for 25-30 years, and there is a personal price that they pay, with threatening family members.
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Mapping with tools such as Google Earth is valuable in EJ legal cases as it shows the vicinity of pollution sites to houses
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Analysis by a community member provides evidence linking the development of the facility with pollution
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New publication: Participatory citizen science

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

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

The highlights of the chapter are:

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

You can find the chapter here.

Table of High and low engagement and skills from the chapter

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

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

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

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

Social Innovation and Citizen Science in Shanghai & Shenzhen

During the 22 to 29 October, I visited Shanghai & Shenzhen together with Michael Norton (CIVA), who organised the visit, and Liz Barry (Public Lab). This was a packed tour, with two all-day workshops that are dedicated to citizen science (one in Fudan University, Shanghai, and the other as part of the Asian Environmental Innovation Forum (AEIF) 2018 in Shenzhen at the Open FIESTA facility in Shenzhen), talks and visits to social enterprise hubs and social innovation activities, as well as participation in the Asian Environmental Innovation forum. This was my first visit to China, and as a result, it was an overwhelming experience – with a lot of things to try to make sense of, such as considerations for cultural practices (in other words, trying not to offend anyone unknowingly), or how the internet and mobile applications are experienced within the Great Firewall. This post is about some of the things that I’ve noticed during this visit.

Despite the fact that the three of us are focused on community action, the workshops and talks were designed as a general introduction to the area of citizen science, highlighting the potential for participation that is suitable for people who want to do something with little time investment, all the way to the DIY science approach that Public Lab promotes and dedicate significant time to such an activity. We also emphasised the link between getting involved in an activity as part of a wider awareness and actions that address social and environmental challenges. In the workshops, we started with an introduction to citizen science (me), followed by a talk on the ethos and activities of Public Lab (Liz), and finally about the use of information and insight for action (Michael). Next, we designed a session in which participants could experience different types of activities – from using two Zooniverse projects – the Wildes’ Wildlife Watch and Snapshot Serengeti, which provide different complexity in wildlife classification; A second group used their phones to install soundscape monitoring apps – the Chineses-based Participatory Soundscape Sensing using the SPL Meter app, and the German-based HushCity with the HushCity app. The participants downloaded and registered in class (only HushCity require registration), and then went out to collect information for about 10 minutes; A third group build the Public Lab DIY microscope and examined water taken from a local river; The last group focused on balloon mapping, which was the most involved task, culminating  in all workshop participants going outside for an aerial selfie. We have repeated the session twice, and allowing people to experience two areas of activities. Finally, there was a group work, on developing ideas on how to address plastic pollution with the help of citizen science.

The workshop in Fudan attracted about 35 participants, while 60 came to the one at Open FIESTA. In both cases, there were many students (with more postgraduate students in Fudan) as well as people from NGOs and civil society organisations. We also had a talk with about 10 people present and many more online through webcasting at Bottledream office which is an online network for social innovation and change makers, and a talk to about 30 people, many of them expat who live and work in Shanghai at Green Initiatives.

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Shenzhen workshop

Across the workshops and the talks, it was a pleasure to receive questions that were insightful and show real engagement with the potential of citizen science. The “data quality monster” (or should it be a dragon?) was dormant most of the time, although the second common question on motivations and reasons for participation did appear. I was asked several times about the inclusion of game elements and competition in citizen science project as a way to increase participation, and I pointed to the challenges that such an approach requires (dealing with cheating to score points, short engagement cycles etc.). There was a good question about the ownership of data and images and the intellectual property rights from a law student, and another one about ethics and the way in which consent is being secured in citizen science. Another valuable question was about the implications of Machine Learning (AI) on citizen science. People also asked about a specific area of application – e.g about projects that deal with coastal and marine issues. At the Bottledream talk, we explored the potential for social enterprise and investment in the area of citizen science. Finally, and not surprisingly, in each talk and workshop, the issue of collaboration with officials and the potential conflict in government did appear, with a lively discussion about different types of citizen science – those that are about helping progressing scientific knowledge vs. projects that are more aimed at civil action, and how to navigate these challenges based on our experience.

Technically, the Great Firewall helped in demonstrating the need for adapting apps and IT infrastructure to specific contexts – especially in view of the global initiatives for citizen science which must include China. Oddly, Zooniverse website was accessible in some networks (e.g. Fudan University), but in other places –  though it was mostly accessible if somewhat slow. But the issue with access especially stood out in the soundscape mapping. The SPL Meter app was easy to set up, and the results could be shown on the website and thus providing the all-important immediate feedback. HushCity (leftmost screenshot) could not show the information because it rely on Google Maps as background – which is also not available in China (middle). In contrast, I could demonstrate Mapping for Change community maps, because it relies on MapBox tiles, which are available in China. This, turn out, is not solving the whole problem, there is also the issue that China is using a different datum for its maps, which in plain language mean that there is a GPS shift that needs to be taken into account. There is a clear interest to share knowledge and best practice beyond the challenges of accessing a specific platform. There is also the issue of language. Hopefully, resources in citizen science can be shared by CitizenScience.asia and or the Open FIESTA.

Another insight was provided by the very different “app ecosystem”  in China. Because of the ubiquity of WeChat (equivalent to WhatsApp), which also have the ability of add-ons (which WhatsApp doesn’t), there is a whole range of applications that are possible which combine the intimacy of contact in a managed group with the ability to do more things. I learned about three applications which are relevant to citizen science. First Respond is a Chinese social business that provides first aid support for large public events – such as marathons. As part of the work with their volunteers, they organised crowdsourced mapping and checking of AED (Automatic Defiblerator) in which volunteers verify the location and preparedness of AED across a large area. Another example is the Sengo organisation of environmental volunteers who use WeChat to report river pollution incidents. Finally, the volunteer cleaning effort fo PickUpChina was using an app to record places that need a cleaning effort, and getting people to join and carry out a cleaning day.

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Shanghai Impact Hub

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were recurring theme throughout the visit at both social innovation spaces and universities – in the Impact Hub in Shanghai they are prominent, and at the workshops and the AEIF conference, they were mentioned frequently as a framing for education, social innovation, the wider regional support in the region (e.g. Laos, Cambodia), and also in thinking about the opportunity for citizen science. Thinking again about global initiatives, there is a need to link them to the SDGs since although they are not high on the agenda in say, the UK, they are a common language (as Liz describe them) between initiatives.

In addition to the SDGs, litter and addressing the challenges of plastic pollution was a recurring theme, and we have used it in the workshops as a final exercise, in which participants were split into 3 or 4 groups – government, industry, consumers, and young students (in the second workshop). The discussion between the group was lively (we asked them to discuss in Chinese), and it was clearly an issue that raises concern and interest to address it.

The social enterprise activities were also impressive in their ambition and content – from meeting Shiyin Cai, the founder of Dialogue in the Dark which provides an encounter with blindness for people who can see, to hearing from Xia Li, who founded Shenzhen Power Solution Ind who is committed to providing lighting and energy to “bottom of the pyramid” people, or Songqiao Yao, who founded Wildbound to link young people in China to global environmental issues. Visiting the two incubators in Shanghai –  the Impact Hub, but also 724 Cheers Hub – was fascinating and educating. DSCN3155

The final note is that looking at the participants during the hands-on session was delightful. As Michael pointed to them during the feedback session at the end of their experiences, they looked interested and engaged in trying and experimenting like “someone who is 9 years old“. Indeed, there was an active learning that was apparent in every stage, but especially during the flying of the balloons. The flying of the balloons to take a picture of the participants create a “focal practice” that brings people together, make them focus on the communal activity, and bring meaning to technological design and implementation.

The level of enthusiasm across the meetings and workshops was very high, with students giving up their weekend, or professional giving up a workday to attend an event. There was also a lot of generosity and help in working through language differences, helping to navigate the city, running a group at the workshops, or volunteering to translate a discussion. I was continuously grateful to all the lovely people that we met and talked with. Below you can see the “balloon selfie” from the Shenzhen workshop.

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Non-traditional data approaches and the Sustainable Development Goals workshop

The workshop took place in IIASA, which is located in Laxenburg in Austria. The workshop was hosted by the earth observation and citizen science group at IASSA. The workshop focus on the interface between citizen science, earth observation, and traditional data collection methods in the context of monitoring and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A contextual/perspective academic paper is an expected output of the workshop, so this post is only a summary of the opening presentations. There is also an overlap with the aim of the WeObserve project and the communities of practice in it.

The Earth Observation community geared up already to how it can contribute to the SDGs. EuroGEOSS workshop identified several SDGs where there can be a contribution of citizen science: No. 3 in wealth and wellbeing (e.g. greenspace in cities), No. 4 on quality of education, No. 5 in gender equality, No. 6 on water quality and flood management, No. 11 on sustainable cities – air quality, noise, empty houses, No. 14 – plastics, and No. 15 in species monitoring, disease, and finally on Global Partnership (No. 17).

DSCN3119Australian Citizen Science Association view – some awareness to SDGs and few projects that are linked to SDGs explicitly, though there is an issue of details. From the US CSA, the view is that there are projects that can be linked – water monitoring, CoCoRHaS, phenology, and eBird. Examples also include grassroots environmental monitoring, or the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. CitizenScience.Asia is a new network – in the context of China, people collect data to understand the environment, to collect evidence and protect rights, and for pure curiosity. The Blue-map used to report water pollution, it then goes to the government, and after being vetted it is shown, and some of it does not show. There are contributory DNA commercial project, but also “China Nature Watch” or Bauhinia Genome project that asks people to share information in Hong Kong. There are bottom-up projects, which include selling test kits for water which is used by people who share it on an online map – after 400-500 data points, the website was shut down by the government. There is also links to Public Lab – creating an automatic water monitor for flow. DSCN3122 Citizen Science Africa Association (CitSAF) – in Kenya the SDGs is getting attention (following the MDGs). NGOs activities are not synced with the government. Government pay attention to health, water, and education. CitSAF emerged from links to UNEP and focused on Kenya – air quality, some research on Malaria, and they can see interest in Nigeria, South Africa and other countries. CitSAF wants to increase the involvement and responsibility of citizens in African countries towards their natural and socio-cultural environment, especially in monitoring the SDGs. The SDG/CS Maximisation group which works across the citizen science associations (which Libby Hepburn coordinates) pointed out that the challenge is the bottom-up – from practitioners, and top-down from the UN and different countries. There is work on the credibility aspects of citizen science. There are is a need for facilitation between the CS community and the SDG community to progress things. The Citizen Science Global Partnership – launched in December 2017, as a network of networks to support citizen science activities. The global partnership has ideas and interest in working with the SDG but they are aspirational at the moment. They include – a platform for coordinating citizen science under the banner of SDG.

The Stockholm Environment Institute analysis of citizen science and SDGs: SEI has worked on environment/development over 30 years with many participatory activities, and worked explicitly on citizen science for the past 10 years. In the analysis they identified that citizen science can be used to refine and define goals; then monitoring; and even for achieving – e.g. in education, gender. The Citizen Science Centre in Zurich focuses on a platform – to allow projects, knowledge in the area, community of citizens and scientists, and projects. The open seventeen challenge is a good example for challenge-based workshops that help people to develop projects. There is an aim for developing an SDG citizen science toolkit. The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has created an inventory of citizen science activities and mapping them against the SDGs with results being published soon. In addition, there is an effort of a standard for citizen science data and metadata with links to COST Action effort. There is a potential for recording aspects of participants if that is appropriate in the metadata. There is a specific effort of developing guidelines for environmental reporting in a process that will allow it to be cross EU.

SDSN – Sustainable Development Solution Network set up by the UN for the implementation of the sustainable development, with 800 members of universities, and other groups. Within that, the TRENDS group focuses on data governance? How people can integrate data from new sources. 20 expert members and focus on strengthening the data ecosystem, improve learning and data sharing, developing policies, and inform investment. The work is framed around data governance and use. The POPGRID project is attempting to reconcile different sources of data to get good population estimates. Another UN effort is the UN-GGIM have done work on identifying geospatial sources that can be used in SDG with an analysis to understand the indicators at different tiers – the http://ggim.un.org/UNGGIM-wg6. There is an opportunity to understand which indicators information is considered relevant, and where are data gaps. The thinking about crowdsourced and citizen science data is how to find it how to have metadata, understanding comparability and good usability for an SDG indicator. The is an issue about the global spatial data infrastructure for citizen science and crowdsourced data. There is a need to budget for data management, metadata recording and sharing of information from crowdsourced projects. There is a call for good practises and lessons learnt about the SDG indicators in the sustainable development knowledge platform.

UN Environment pointed that the SDGs includes 244 indicators, and they were developed through the inter-agency and expert group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDG). The custodian agency is developing a methodology, improving capacity, and getting and using the data. The three types of data include country submission of data, data that is complimented with international estimates, and some global data products. There is an effort to consider a mapping exercise and then think where it can be used. A way forward is to identify one indicator, and try to get it accepted – need to be Tier 3. So the opportunity for citizen science is in an indicator that needs to be tier 3, but without an internationally established methodology or standard.

 

How many citizen scientists in the world?

Since the development of the proposal for the Doing It Together Science project (DITOs), I have been using the “DITOs escalator” model to express the different levels of engagement in science, while also demonstrating that the higher level have fewer participants, which mean that there is a potential for people to move between levels of engagement – sometime towards deeper engagement, and sometime towards lighter one according to life stages, family commitments, etc. This is what the escalator, after several revisions, look like:

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I have an ongoing interest in participation inequality (the observation that very few participants are doing most of the work) and the way it plays out and influences citizen science projects. When you start attaching numbers to the different levels of public engagement in science, participation inequality is appearing in this area, too. Since writing the proposal in 2015, I have been looking for indications that will support the estimation of the number of participants. During the process of working on a paper that uses the escalator, I’ve done the research to identify sources of information to support these estimations. While the paper is starting its peer review journey, I am putting out the part that relates to these numbers so this part can get open peer review here. I have decided to use 2017 as a recent year for which we can carry out the analysis. As for geographical scale, I’m using the United Kingdom as a country with very active citizen science community as my starting point.

At the bottom of the escalator, Level 1 considers the whole population, about 65 million people. Because of the impact of science across society, the vast majority, if not all, will have some exposure to science – even if this is only in the form of medical encounters.

However, the bare minimum of engagement is to passively consume information about science through newspapers, websites, and TV and Radio programme (Level 2). We can gauge the number of people at this level from the BBC programmes Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II, both focusing on natural history, with viewing figures of 14 million and about 10 million, respectively. We can, therefore, estimate these “passive consumers” at about 25% of the population.

At the next level is active consumption of science – such as visits to London’s Science Museum (UK visitors in 2017 – about 1.3), or the Natural History Museum (UK visitors in 2017 – about 2.1m), so an estimation of participation at 10% of the population seem justified.

Next, we can look at active engagement in citizen science but to a limited degree. Here, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) annual Big Garden Birdwatch requires the participants to dedicate a single hour in the year. The project attracted about 500,000 participants in 2017, and we can, therefore, estimate participation at this level at about 1% of the population. This should also include about 170,000 people who carried out a single task on Zooniverse and other online projects.

At the fifth level, there are projects that require remote engagement, such as volunteer thinking on the Zooniverse platform, or in volunteer computing on the IBM World Community Grid (WCG), in which participants download a software on their computer to allow processing to assist scientific research. The number of participants in WCG from the UK in 2017 was about 18,000. In Zooniverse about 74,0000 people carried out more than a single task in 2017, thus estimating participation at this level at 0.1% of the population (thanks to Grant Miller, Zooniverse and Caitlin Larkin, IBM for these details).

The sixth level requires the regular data collection, such as the participation in the British Trust of Ornithology Garden Birdwatch got about 6,500 active participants in 2017 (BTO 2018), while about 5000 contributed to the biodiversity recording system iRecord (thanks to Tom August, CEH) and it will be reasonable to estimate that the participation is about 0.01% of the population.

The most engaged level include those who are engaged in DIY Science, such as exploring DIY Bio, or developing their own sensors, etc. We can estimate that it represents 0.001% of the UK population at most (thanks to Philippe Boeing & Ilia Levantis).

We can see that as the level of engagement increases, the demand from participants increase and the number of participants drops. Not that this is earth-shattering, though what is interesting is that the difference between levels is in order of magnitude. We also know that the UK enjoys all the possible benefits that are needed to foster citizen science: a long history of citizen science activities, established NGOs and academic institutions that support citizen science, good technological infrastructure (broadband, mobile phone use), well-educated population (39.1% with tertiary education), etc. So we’re talking about a best-case scenario.

It is also important, already at this point, to note that UNESCO’s estimates of the percentage of UK population who are active scientists (working in research jobs), is 0.4% which is bigger than the 0.111 for levels 5,6 and 7.  

Let’s try to extrapolate from the UK to the world.

First, how many people we can estimate to have the potential of being citizen scientists? We want them to be connected and educated, with a middle-class lifestyle that gives them leisure time for hobbies and volunteering.

The connectivity gives us a large number – according to ITU, 3.5 Billion people are using the Internet. The estimation of the size of middle-class is a bit smaller, at 3.2 Billion people.  However, we know that participants in most citizen science projects which use passive inclusiveness, where everyone is welcome without an active effort in outreach to under-represented groups, tend to be from people with higher education (a.k.a tertiary education). There is actually data about it – here is the information from Wikipedia about tertiary educational attainment. According to UNESCO’s statistics, there were over 672 million people with a form of tertiary education in 2017. Let’s say that not everyone in citizen science is with tertiary education (which is true) so our potential starting number is 1 Billion.

I’ll assume the same proportion of the UK, ignoring that it present for us the best case. So about 250 million of these are passive consumers of science (L2), and 100 million are active consumer (e.g. going to science museums) (L3). We can then have 10 million people that participate in the once a year events (L4); 1 million that are active in online citizen science (this is more than a one-off visit or trial) (L5); about 100,000 who are the committed participants (mostly nature observers) and about 10,000 DIY bio, makers, and DIY science people (L6 and L7).

Are these numbers make sense? Looking at the visits to science/natural history museums on Wikipedia, level 3 seems about right. Level 4 looks very optimistic – in addition to Big Garden Birdwatch, there were about 17,000 people participating in City Nature Challenge, and 73,000 participants in the Christmas Bird Count, and about 888,000 done a single task on Zooniverse – it looks like that a more realistic number is 3 million or 4 million. Level 5 is an underestimate – IBM Word Community Grid have 753,000 members, and there are other volunteer computing projects which will make it about 1 million, then there were about 163,000 global Zooniverse contributors (thanks to the information from Grant Miller), 130,000 Wikipedians, 50,000 active contributors in OpenStreetMap, and other online projects such as EyeWire etc. So let’s say that it’s about 1.5 Million. At level 6, again the number is about right – e.g. eBird reports 20,000 birders in their peak day. For the sake of the argument, let’s say that it’s double the number – 200,000. Level 7 also seems right, based on estimations of biohackers numbers in Europe.

Now let’s look at the number of scientists globally: in 2013 there were 7.3 million researchers worldwide. With the estimation of “serious” citizen scientists (levels 5,6 and 7) at about 1.7 million, we can see the issue of crowdsourcing here: the potential crowdsourcer community is, at the moment, much bigger than the volunteers.

Something that is important to highlight here is the amazing productivity of citizen scientists in terms of their ability to analyse, collect information, or inventing tools – we know from participation inequality that this tiny group of participants are doing a huge amount of work – the 50,000 OSM volunteers are mapping the world or the 73,000 Christmas Bird Count participants provided 56,000,000 observations or the attention impact of the Open Insulin Project. So numbers are not the only thing that we need to think about.

Moreover, this is not a reason to give up on increasing the number of citizen scientists. Look at the numbers of Google Local Guides – out of 1 Billion users, a passive crowdsourcing approach reached 50 million single time contributors, and 465,000 in the equivalent of levels 5 to 7. Therefore, citizen science has the potential of reaching much larger numbers. At the minimum, there is the large cohort of people with tertiary education, with at least 98 million people with Masters and PhD in the world.

Therefore, to enable a wider and deeper public engagement with science, apart from the obvious point of providing funding, institutional support, and frameworks to scale up citizen science, we can think of an “escalator” like process, which makes people aware of the various levels and assists them in moving up or down the engagement level. For example, due to a change in care responsibilities or life stages, people can become less active for a period of time and then chose to become more active later. With appropriate funding, support, and attention, growing the global citizen science should be possible. 

Papers from PPGIS 2017 meeting: state of the art and examples from Poland and the Czech Republic

dsc_0079About a year ago, the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, hosted the PPGIS 2017 workshop (here are my notes from the first day and the second day). Today, four papers from the workshop were published in the journal Quaestiones Geographicae which was established in 1974 as an annual journal of the Faculty of Geographical and Geological Sciences at the university.

The four papers (with their abstracts) are:

Muki Haklay, Piotr Jankowski, and Zbigniew Zwoliński: SELECTED MODERN METHODS AND TOOLS FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN URBAN PLANNING – A REVIEW “The paper presents a review of contributions to the scientific discussion on modern methods and tools for public participation in urban planning. This discussion took place in Obrzycko near Poznań, Poland. The meeting was designed to allow for an ample discussion on the themes of public participatory geographic information systems, participatory geographic information systems, volunteered geographic information, citizen science, Geoweb, geographical information and communication technology, Geo-Citizen participation, geo-questionnaire, geo-discussion, GeoParticipation, Geodesign, Big Data and urban planning. Participants in the discussion were scholars from Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the USA. A review of public participation in urban planning shows new developments in concepts and methods rooted in geography, landscape architecture, psychology, and sociology, accompanied by progress in geoinformation and communication technologies.
The discussions emphasized that it is extremely important to state the conditions of symmetric cooperation between city authorities, urban planners and public participation representatives, social organizations, as well as residents”

Jiří Pánek PARTICIPATORY MAPPING IN COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION – CASE STUDY OF JESENÍK, CZECH REPUBLIC “Community participation has entered the 21st century and the era of e-participation, e-government and e-planning. With the opportunity to use Public Participation Support Systems, Computer-Aided Web Interviews and crowdsourcing mapping platforms, citizens are equipped with the tools to have their voices heard. This paper presents a case study of the deployment of such an online mapping platform in Jeseník, Czech Republic. In total, 533 respondents took part in the online mapping survey, which included six spatial questions. Respondents marked 4,714 points and added 1,538 comments to these points. The main aim of the research was to find whether there were any significant differences in the answers from selected groups (age, gender, home location) of respondents. The results show largest differences in answers of various (below 20 and above 20 year) age groups. Nevertheless, further statistical examination would be needed to confirm the visual comparison”.

Edyta Bąkowska-Waldmann, Cezary Brudka, and Piotr Jankowski: LEGAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE USE OF GEOWEB METHODS FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN SPATIAL PLANNING IN POLAND: EXPERIENCES, OPINIONS AND CHALLENGES “Geoweb methods offer an alternative to commonly used public participation methods in spatial planning. This paper discusses two such geoweb methods – geo-questionnaire and geo-discussion in the context of their initial applications within the spatial planning processes in Poland. The paper presents legal and organizational framework for the implementation of methods, provides their development details, and assesses insights gained from their deployment in the context of spatial planning in Poland. The analysed case studies encompass different spatial scales ranging from major cities in Poland (Poznań and Łódź) to suburban municipalities (Rokietnica and Swarzędz in Poznań Agglomeration). The studies have been substantiated by interviews with urban planners and local authorities on the use and value of Geoweb methods in public consultations.”

Michał Czepkiewicz, Piotr Jankowski, and Zbigniew Zwoliński: GEO-QUESTIONNAIRE: A SPATIALLY EXPLICIT METHOD FOR ELICITING PUBLIC PREFERENCES, BEHAVIOURAL PATTERNS, AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE – AN OVERVIEW “Geo-questionnaires have been used in a variety of domains to collect public preferences, behavioural patterns, and spatially-explicit local knowledge, for academic research and environmental and urban planning. This paper provides an overview of the method focusing on the methodical characteristics of geo-questionnaires including software functions, types of collected data, and techniques of data analysis. The paper also discusses broader methodical
issues related to the practice of deploying geo-questionnaires such as respondent selection and recruitment, representativeness, and data quality. The discussion of methodical issues is followed by an overview of the recent examples of geo-questionnaire applications in Poland, and the discussion of socio-technical aspects of geo-questionnaire use in spatial planning”

These papers provide examples from Participatory GIS in Poland and the Czech Republic, which are worth examining, as well as our review of the major themes from the workshop. All the papers are open access.