Citizen Science and Policy – possible frameworks

Back in February, my report ‘Citizen Science & Policy: a European Perspective‘ was published by the Wilson Centre in the US. As I was trying to make sense of the relevance of citizen science to policy making, I used a framework that included the level of geography, area of policy making and the type of citizen science activity. This helped in noticing that citizen science is working well at the neighbourhood, city and national scales, while not so well at regional and international level. The reasons for it are mostly jurisdiction, funding and organisational structure and scale of operation.

Later on, at a workshop that was organised by Prof Aletta Bonn on Citizen Science and Policy impact, the idea of paying attention to the role of citizen science within the policy cycle was offered as another dimension of analysis.

Last week, at a workshop that was organised by the European Environment Agency (EEA) as part of their work on coordinating the European Protection Agencies (EPA) Network, I was asked to provide an introduction to these frameworks.

The presentation below is starting with noting that citizen science in an EPA is a specific case of using crowdsourced geographic information in government and some of the common issues that we have identified in the report on how governments use crowdsourced information are relevant to citizen science, too. Of particular interest are the information flows between the public and government, and the multiple flows of environmental information that the 3rd era of environmental information brought.

After noticing the individual, organisational, business and conceptual issues that influence use in general, I turn to the potential framing that are available – geography, stage in policy formation and mode of engagement, and after covering those I’m providing few examples of case to illustrate how specific cases fit into this analysis.

It was quite appropriate to present this framework in the EEA, considering that the image that was used to illustrate the page of the report on the Wilson Center site, is of the NoiseWatch app which was developed by the EEA…

VGI and indigenous knowledge – COST Energic Video

The COST Energic network has been running now for 3 years, and one of the outputs from the network is the video below, which explore a very valuable form of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI). This is information that is coming from participatory projects between researchers and indigenous communities, and this short film provide examples from Bolivia, British Columbia, and the Congo Basin, where researchers in the network are working with local communities to collect information about their areas and issues that concern them.

The video was produced by Lou del Bello, and include some stock photos and footage. The images that are marked with titles are from COST Energic Activities. Lou has also created a short video on the work of the Extreme Citizen Science group in her report on Mapping the Congo on SciDev

The video is released just before a meeting of the COST Network, held in Tallinn, and hosted by the Interaction Design Lab of Tallinn University.

AAG 2015 notes – day 3 – Civic Technology, Citizen Science, Crowdsourcing and mapping

The sessions today covered Civic technology, citizen science, and the new directions in mapping – Open Source/Crowdsourcing/Big Data

First, Civic technology: governance, equity and inclusion considerations, with Pamela Robinson – Ryerson University (Chair) and Peter A. Johnson – University of Waterloo, Teresa Scassa – University of Ottawa and Jon Corbett – University of British Columbia-Okanagan. The Discussant is Betsy Donald – Queen’s University.

The background of the panel is participatory mapping (Jon), government use of open and geoweb tools (Peter), law (Teresa), urban planning (Pamela), and geography (Betsy) .

First question for the panel: what are the challenges to civic technologiy support government?

Peter – taking technology perspective. Looking at Chicago Open Data site – had a section that doesn’t only deliver CSV that is, actually, specialised knowledge. They have a featured data set – you can download it, or look at it on the map. The ‘problem landlord dataset’ only show points on the map – no information what does it mean or how it came about. The focus is on tech-savvy users that will access open data, and assumption of tech-intermediaries who will use it for civic purposes. If that is the case, shouldn’t it be city staff who use the data and act as infomediaries? Pamela – looked at civic hackathons (see yesterday). City staff are asked to make  a business case for open data and hackathon. It ask to bring business thinking into something that is not about civic engagement (how you monetise that?). It’s a weird tool in terms of the aim of the process which are not financial. There is also pressure to demonstrate an outcome of ‘killer app’ and they are more about bringing people together with tech knowledge and civic minded people. Teresa – open data is equated with free – from regulations, costs, no limitation to use. There are costs associated in making the data free in the first place, and that is a problem in terms of government not giving thought to these costs. Datasets are being opened without due thought to privacy concern. Is open data just a subsidy to companies that use to pay for it? Also free from regulations – part of neoliberalism view of removing all the bureaucracy that is halting the market. But part of it is there with social justice perspective – e.g. requirement about accessibility, language, regulations that are there to protect vulnerable people against abuse. So the concept of free is not simple. Also what happen when the government pass it to the private sector, so they circumvent their own regulations, or the private sector to use the data but without protection. Jon – problematise the question. Relationship of municipal and state. There are examples in Canada that don’t fit the model – e.g. first nation governance. There the data is not that simple. The other issue is the support to government – is the open data movement can be used to resist and challenge government? Renee – the non-profit open north use data to cause problems to the city and demonstrated corruption in government – a very tech-savvy  organisation. Pamela – some forms of collaboration is to get out of the way of community organisations to allow them to do the work. Jon – there can be high level of cynicism on how the data is going to be used. Access to data is not the same as accessibility. There are issues of scale – in large cities there are enough capacity but in smaller cities there is no capacity in government and or civic society to deal with data. Pamela – in Toronto there are urbanists community coming in search of tech support. There are blurred lines between civil servant and civic engagement in free time. Thomas (audience) – in Chicago, people build visualisation at a county budget, also exposing data about closing schools. Also good applications such as streamlining expunging negative records to allow people to develop new career http://www.expunge.io/. There was also the city lands project – http://largelots.org/ – you can buy a lot for $1, and that can be a burden to people who are involved. Renee – heterogenise the state, not to think about local government as ‘them’ and it is organisation in which people make decisions about opening or resisting opening data. There are plenty decisions that are done at individual level. Also worth looking at prior data acquisition. There are examples of extracting data from the city and relationships before the open data. Betsy – what open government mean? What about digital divides? gender, age, social-economic background. Mike – there is a need to consider Marxist notion of free – it is not free in reality as it just allow people to be consumed into a system with different power relationship. I’ve raised that ‘open government’ is coming from view of ‘government as platform’. Renee – civic tech is a mutating terms over the years. Teresa – open government rhetoric are around transparency and accountability where the agenda is around innovations and market solutions to civic problems.
The second question was: How would we start to evaluate the impact of civic technology? Peter – what metrics will we use? money (time saved, internal and external benefits, eyeballs – evaluating hits). Municipal staff want to measure that they do and are looking to justify their work. Jon – need to evaluate impact and value. Scale, and point of evaluation. Scale of interaction and intervention. Should projects be evaluated by the number of people involved? We usually evaluate during the project lifetime but fail to do longer analysis. need to understand long term impacts – beyond page views. Teresa – which impact – economic? use? engagement? from privacy perspective – when government encourage engagement through Google or Twitter – you are actually giving data to Big Data engines not just the government. There is erosion of public/private distinction in services, leading to erosion of citizen rights and recourse? When transit apps record information, there is plenty of information that leaks to private sector companies who don’t have the same responsibilities and obligations. Pamela – civic for whom? when there are income distribution is so different in cities, and we need to understand digital divide at the city level. Teresa – some of the legal infrastructure to deal with protection and access to information when private sector work so closely with the government. Betsy – there are groups that work in big tech companies, which were curios of geographers and what they do, but no idea of social science. Privacy have been given away. Jon – there are windows of opportunity around edifices of open data, where are we going to end up? Teresa – contracting out to external companies can lead to issues of data ownership and that require managing it at the contracting stage.

Citizen Science and Geoweb, with Renee Sieber (Chair) with talks covering a range of areas – from cartography to bird watching.

Andrea Minano – University of Waterloo – Geoweb Tools for Climate Change Adaptation: A Case Study in Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Her work explores the link between participation and citizen science. In terms climate change adaptation it is about understanding impacts in local context, lack of risk awareness – and it also political issue. The participatory Geoweb can be used to display and share information online. She carried out research in Nova Scotia which rely on fisheries, most people live by the shore. People are aware and they’ve seen climate change in front of them – Municipal Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP) are being developed. Each of the 5 municipalities that she worked with created plan and they are concerned with flooding. They had 3D LiDAR data and can visualise prediction of floods and return periods, but they didn’t know how to use it and what to do with it. She created two prototypes and tested them. She used satellite images as backdrop, she made LiDAR data usable on the web. AdaptNS allow multiple geographic scales and temporal scales – allow people to show concerns and indicate them on the map. Carried out a workshop of 2 hours with 11 participants. People were concerned about critical infrastructure – single road that might be flooded. The tool help people to understand what climate change mean and adaptation discourse at wider scales.

Jana M Viel – UW-Milwaukee – Habitat Preferences of the Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) in Cities and Villages in Southeastern Wisconsin. Nighthawk is active in dawn and dusk – new tropical migrants, they don’t do much during the day. They nest on the ground or flat gravelled roofed. They experience slow population decline in the last 40 years. Maybe there is lack of roof sustrate – not enough gravelled roofs – volunteers started installing gravelled section on roof with little success. In Wisconsin, they try to understand the decline with data from breeding bird survey , Wisconsin nightjar survey, Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas – studies don’t cover urban area and lacking observation in dusk. There is a limitation, that need to do the study in the months when the birds are there. The aim of the research is to help monitoring and improve methodology. The study measured some variables in the field but then used other geographic information for analysis. There was help from both volunteers and organisation – there was special volunteer trianing – easy because it’s one type of bird that people should recognise. Volunteers – reason: love birds, fun, help conservation. Half of the people that participate are retired and most people with education and not for profit. Some volunteers drop out but not too many. People used phones to navigate to survey site. People use point count with paper forms. Information was also recorded on eBird. Results – total 31000 survey hours, with 1412 survey in which 98 nighthawks where detected. Isseus: no data, problems with Google Maps, unfamiliar with technology. The summary – success in carry out baseline survey. Clear research question, clear protocol, training and resources, need coordinator that is active, researchers need to update about the analysis and do outreach and thanking volunteers. Sustainability and who will continue the work is an issue – answering phone calls.

Kevin Sparks, Alexander Klippel &Jan Oliver Wallgrün – The Pennsylvania State University with David Mark – NCGIA & Department of Geography, University at Buffalo – Assessing Environmental Information Channels for Citizen Science Land Cover Classification. Kevin looked at COBWEB goals – the project is enabling citizens to collect data and working with them to deal with data quality. Geo-Wiki project which allow people to manage information about land cover. Kevin looked at Degree confluence Project – collected 770 photos and link them to land cover database, and corresponding value to each one of them. – they have 7 samples in each class of the 11 land cover classes – then compared lay participants, vs educated lay participants vs experts. They ask people to select class and say how confidence they are. They created experiment with ground-based photo and another with ground & aerial-based images. Participants recruited through AMT. There was 45.97% agreement with National Land Cover Data. when shown the aerial image, reduced to 42.97% – when looking at the confidence level, the success goes to 71.91% agreement. Variation in participants, interface and stimuli – you see similar patterns that are not influence by these factors but by the semantic nature of land cover classification. Aerial photoes favour more homogonized classes.

Robert Edsall – Idaho State University –  Case Studies in Citizen-enabled Geospatial Inquiry. Exploring from cartographic perspective and interested how society interact with maps. How maps being intermediaries in citizen science projects. From Citizen Science 2015 ocnference, he noticed that there is a growing understanding of the potential of citizen science to be collaborative or co-created projects. In Geogrpahy, we got success in VGI. Asking people to develop hypotheses is less developed, although that happened in PPGIS and PGIS. Participatory GIS and citizen science are parallel in helping the shaping of the environment. Rob is interested in visualisation and visual analytics. Collabroative citizen science does seem to be a good match for visual analytics. Although the tools are sometime design for experts, they can be used by citizens. Incorporating serious games seem to work in some cases – and attract citizen scientists (MacGonigal 2012). We can think of volunteered geographic analysis. Now we can look at examples – nature mapping in Jackson Hole to suggest to people that they can analysed their data, after a while, people disengaged and didn’t want to expose their data and other reasons. The second case study is about historical data – images from different collection, but they are not catalogued or geolocated. They are doing Metadatagems project that helps people to locate information. People can specify ranges and location. We can enable engaged citizens in higher levels of the analysis.

New Directions in Mapping 2: Open Source, Crowd-sourcing and “Big Data”. With Matthew Zook – University of Kentucky (chair) Sean Gorman – Timbr.io Inc. ,  Andrew Hill – CartoDB, Courtney Claessens – Esri , Randy Meech – Mapzen and  Charlie Lloyd – Mapbox.

Questions: future of the map and the mapable? question that what can be mapped doesn’t need to be mapped. Definition of what is the map and what is mappable changes. Mapping is becoming so pervasive that it ‘disappear’. Fear about view of the world that is not representative – only of the digital haves. If the future of the map is crowdsourced what should we do about places that are left out? History the map was always biassed.

What does ‘open mapping’ mean? Is open source/FOSS still a real thing and how do we maintain an open mapping ethos? agreement on the panel that open source is here to stay, and a belief that open mapping where companies and different bodies collaborate to share data openly will win over proprietary datasets.

How do we address the uneven nature of crowd-sourcing and its impact on what and where is mapped? Assumption that people want to map empty areas and it is less motivating when the map is full (wonder if that is true). Issues of what do we do if the crowd falsify information. It is not either/or, we should have an hybrid of government and crowdsourced information together. Need to understand that community diverse and data is diverse – imports, power users, one timers, local and people from far away.

How might we push geographers/mappers ‘beyond the geotag’ and consider other other (and non-spatial) aspects of data? By dragging just the geo part from data in its context, we are losing a lot of important information. Need to tell stories about geo and integrate narratives. We need to tell real stories more naturally. Need to consider relational mapping – we are in network society and extending into different spaces. Adding meaning to mapping has remained difficult – maybe should promote slow mapping. People do create maps and get meaning from them. Fast mapping – it’s easy to make bad map that doesn’t give you any information that help you to understand place. What people are getting out of maps? What happen when you produce bad maps and how to tell it to people?

AAG 2015 notes – day 2 – Public Participation GIS symposium

The second day was dedicated to reflections on Public Participation GIS or Participatory GIS. The day was organised by Rina Ghose and Bandana Karr with some comments from Renee Sieber and me at some stage. It turned out to be an excellent symposium.DSC01463

The following are my notes from the different talks during the day.

Jon Corbett, Associate Professor – University of British Columbia-Okanagan
Rachelle Hole, Associate Professor – University of British Columbia Okanagan: Plain Language Mapping: Rethinking the Participatory Geoweb to Include Users with Intellectual Disabilities. Jon talked about the background of participatory mapping – starting from development context. Within the geoweb, it is easy to forget what the aim of the system. He describes people who are with intellectual disabilities, and because work is so meaningful in society, they wanted to enable such people to share experience about employment. They wanted to especially focus on positive experiences that can be shared. They started created an employment mapping tool using the GeoWeb, to understand how to overcome barrier for employment. They are working with different stakeholders  – and  the map uses classification with the job type and the process stage. They see it as opportunity for people to share details and create a network of support. They used co-design which included people with intellectual disabilities. There are issues in the design – dealing with ‘contribution bottleneck’ and change the interface of the wizard that enter information to the system so that is not text driven. The assumption of tech poverty for people with intellectual disabilities is wrong – but they use it differently to other users, so need to recognise what they use (e.g. smartphones) and adjust to them. Hammering spatial literacy – do we need to solve everything with maps? Can we solve it without it? it is a thing that we need to ask.

Greg Brown – University of Queensland –  The Vexing Problem of Spatial Aggregation in PPGIS/PGIS/VGI for Sustainable Land Use. The problem of spatial aggregation and crowdsourcing. Over 25 studies from different planning contexts  – described at www.landscapevalues.org . Within participatory mapping, terminology is maddening: is it PPGIS, PGIS or VGI? In reviewing the area, he suggests PPGIS (west), PGIS (development), VGI (technology). In PPGIS, which Greg focused on, it is dominated by rational, synoptic planning – but there is an alternative, radical planning that make it all contextualised and situated. Participatory mapping bring three aspects about places: place ecology, place phenomenology (experience) and place management. The breakthrough in PPGIS/PGIS was to move from GIS that focuses on the physical world, to one that is about values and the experiences that people have. We need to get beyond the rhetoric and in participatory mapping we need to improve the substantive quality of decision-making. Is public participation is the wisdom of the crowds or the tyranny of the masses? Crowdsourcing can get better decision-making through Surowiecki type analysis on ‘wisdom of crowd’. In many participatory mapping we haven’t made difference – and there are multiple reasons for it, from concern about the role of expert and the public to regulatory reasons. When you aggregate the data, you have a challenge of how to count the voices. PPGIS/PGIS/VGI have not substantively influenced land use decisions – technology is search of actual impact. The issue is political – how to weight and agree on weighting etc. Bridging the spatial and the political is the challenge.

Patrick Oberle – Syracuse University – Web-Mapping Practices and Challenges in Syracuse, NY. Covering experience in Syracuse Community Geography programme. Syracuse is very poor, and community-based organisations (CBOs) have an important role in the city with lots of CBOs. The main points to explore are neogeography and alow citizen ‘scientists’, democratisation of knowledge production and considering local information. He run a series of local workshops on how to use Google Maps Engine to CBOs and to what degree they support CBOs. He looked a the Syracuse Poster Project (public art with poems), and PEACE inc. which is community action agency, with ‘head start/early start programme for children, and other poverty-reduction programmes. They wanted a map to show where they presented their posters – they created an effective map with details that lead you to prints. It took them 7 months to create map. They had a sense of place that made it easy to adopt cartographic viewpoint – they had narrow goals. PEACE wanted to engage with population and had vague goals of managing their places. They had broad organisation mission and complex needs – which mean that the effort was not successful. They found it hard to dedicate staff to focus on the task. However, even for the poster project it was challenging to work through and deal with technology. Data is also not accessible – in contrast to NYC, Syracuse cannot afford to prepare data for sharing and provide open data. We need to engage the producers of the technologies, need experimentation with technology and processes, and help people to understand the paradigm of data-driven perspective. It is not obvious to unfamiliar organisations and groups. Now that Google Map Engine is discontinued they need to figure out how to move it to a new ways of delivering, but they are capable of recruiting interns.

Muning Wang – University of Washington and Isabel Carrera Zamanillo – University of Washington – Comparing institutional resistance between PGIS VGI, Citizen Science implementation in environmental management. Looking at the way that the information that is provided by the citizens – who use them and for what. From a literature review, they analysed what people do with volunteer collected  geographic information. It is described in education and outreach, land value investigation of landscape planning, TEK in management of fish population, and decision-making support for community conservation. Barriers: credibility, administrative jurisdiction, conflict with existing hierarchies, time that it takes to create collaboration, information capabilities and insufficient direct benefits to managers. Current synthesis – Francis Harvey volunteered vs contributed, Tulloch VGI data/knowledge creation vs PPGIS uses data to make decision, while Lin 2013 aruge that they are intertwined. Haklay argue that VGI/Citizen Science doesn’t provide enough participatory space. Trying to explain the differences is challenging! One way to look is to explore cases. To do the cross-case comparison, they are trying to generalise patterns, using systematic review or meta-analysis. A workshop helps to carry out the analysis of cases. They suggested meta-categories: prupose, environment focus, role of technology, actors interaction and other factors. They analysed 12 cases – but they want to compare more. They want to carry out cross-case comparison and provide analysis across cases, completeness of data collection. They are aiming to demonstrate the diversity of PGIS, VGI, and citizen science projects

Stephen R Appel – University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Department of Geography  – Information Justice and Public Geospatial Data. The aim of his research was to understand the scope and purpose of access to data and in what way data is accessed. The run a survey of municipalities, counties, land information association and then interviews with participants and web site survey. Referred to GIS & Society literature. The aspects of power in access the data and legal issue with data. He found variety of practices among counties in terms of opening and licensing the data. Most counties have web services, but it is variable. Conclusions are – extreme variation in policy, availability, and activities. Most allow academic use, and academic users need to get ready to use web services.

The second session 2253 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session II started with a short discussion, due to gap in the schedule.

Some discussion points started to emerge: how data should be integrated with other systems? how to be inclusive? but also how to make the data active and relevant to decisions and results? How to give voices to people who are marginalised – all participatory process have double objectives: empowerment but also want content that is actionable. Sometime they contradict each other. A very small group of people are participating . Though need to accept that all democratic processes are messy.

Yoshiki Wakabayashi – Tokyo Metropolitan University & Mikoto Kukimoto – Oita University –  Possibilities and Limitations of Childcare Support Maps from the Viewpoint of Participatory GIS. The GeoWeb in Japan became part of the technologies used by government. The relationship between the voluntary sector and government is something need to be explored. Increase maps of childcare support, with about 10% of the total of online maps. There are more working mothers and childcare is an issue that concerns local government. He analysed 360 maps of childcare support in Tokyo Metropolitan Area, defining 3 levels – Level 1 – static, 2 some interaction, 3 – adding data (participatory), using the Sieber and Johnson framework. There are only few examples of level 3. More than half of the maps are interactive, but only few are truly participative. You also see the use of Google Maps as basemap and that increase usability. There are also maps that were made by voluntary group – made by mothers in the Meguro Ward. The group funded by local government, and core group of 5 mothers collected the data. The technical skills include Google Docs, Yahoo! mailing lists. Maps were printed and delivered in community meetings. They also include comments on the map (e.g. ‘cannot enter with buggy’ but also ‘delicious bagel’). The voluntary group cross jurisdiction issues. Maps were also shared on facebook – the purpose of the maps is to make link between community members, exchange childcare information and facilitate face to face communication – so they didn’t want an online map. The conclusion is that the local government maps while web-based, are not encouraging participation.

Renee Sieber – McGill University. Frictionless Civic Participation and the Geospatial Web. The increasing view of participation as frictionless. ‘Participation is very easy now – you just harvest sentiment from twitter or other social media’. She wonder if participation is effortless and in the background – just getting it from extracting what people say on media. In Smart Cities there is a view that the city need to be frictionless. Observations: 1. via frictionlessness participation is increasingly rooted in technocratic governance. The technocracy is setting the problem and the solution, but it’s not to be discussed but to be communicated. 2. Participation is not a transaction. Making public participation as a transaction and not engaging democratically. Relationship between government and citizen as transaction and consumptive experience. 3. Frictionless participation is increasingly unitary & lacks resilience – individuals interacting separately and therefore can’t build movement. 4. Geo-carpetbaggers who can ‘deliver participation’ much faster – computer scientists offer it in a faster way, what is the point in deep engagement if it is possible to create an app in 2 hours. 5. Participation is not 140 characters – it’s not about harvesting stuff for meaning. There is algorithmic regulation to set why you are engaging and who you are. Conclude: we make the assumption that the web/mobile is  democratising – we problematise the government or the private sector, but citizens want convenience and we should challenge them too. Also public on the Internet can be trolls or game the system.

Mike McCall – Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico, with Jeroen Verplanke – ITC University of Twente and Claudia Uberhuaga – Technical University of Madrid – What does PGIS have to learn from VGI/Crowd Sourcing, so that we survive and prosper? PGIS and VGI have common purpose? there are changes in image of authority and offering alternative authority (UGC, citizen science, counter-maps, promoting feelings of Agency. Maybe we should think of VGI.2 – vulgar grounded intelligence. PGIS offer verification – trust, interaction, reputation & accountability. It’s physical, tactile, material, visual and sharing the process which is meaningful. Participation has to be slow and costly per unit of information – even volunteers need compensation. VGI provides speed, currency. Less manipulation – it is very cheap per quantitative unit of information. But the downside of VGI that it doesn’t give 2-way interaction and feedback, no rich data, no FPIC (Free & Prior Informed Consent), transparency and commercialisation. Both forms are open to ‘Elite Capture’. PGIS the question who control the framing or the inputs. The framing is easy to manipulate and take over. Very easily to control. VGI control the aggregation and the framing. The question is: can we speed up PGIS when we need it? That will mean the focus on the results. Most PGIS are short-term work done by NGOs or research organisations. It is one-off because of funding. Also need to think about the scale beyond parochial – broader dissemination in time, broader dissemination in place, share good practices fast. Scale can be in online participatory mapping and we want to make it more participatory – even hinder elite capture. Not to have naive belief in community solidarity or in crowd wisdom. Also where the trust come from -internal and external.

Rina Ghose – University Of Wisconsin Milwaukee – Deconstructing Citizen Participation and Spatial Knowledge Production. Rina looks at places where people are marginalised along class and race – multiple marginalisation. Working since 1993 with community groups in inner city neighbourhood. Very racialised landscape. Strong digital and other divides, and geospatial divides. The context of PPGIS is that in many cities there is a mandate for community participation in the US, participation is not smooth due to neoliberalisation in different form. It leads to inequities and poverty. The collaborative governance model is about public private partnership that are shaped around restructuring the role of the state and reduction of funding to community organisation and social welfare. Service delivery is not done by the state. She use political economy analysis from Kevin Cox work – spaces of dependence where there are some spaces of engagement , with politics of turf. Rhetoric of citizen participation is done through performative acts – volunteerism, self help (right to the city – prove that you are good enough to deserve the rights). Many activists led organisations are being put out of action by removing the funding. In Milwaukee university there is a long tradition of supporting CBOs and can see the complex network. CBOs have challenges such as reduced funding, and they wanted to bring facts to demonstrate the needs are not being met. Role of activists are shifting, but they are asked for rationale for investment and demonstrate professionalism. There is on going data collection and using maps for traditional activities. Using paper maps overlays . Neoliberal rationalities are dictating the way CBOs operate and work. Maps were used to communicate, plan and create spatial strategies – e.g. mapping liquor stores, but also asset mapping to show potential for economic development and show successful project outcomes. Maps are ‘brag sheets’ – demonstrate fiscal outcomes or client demand, dealing with health issues. Neoliberal impacts: spatial knowledge production is shaped by rationalities as project goals. The organisations lack GIS abilities and it is crucial for them to get support from the university and other people who offer help. Politics shape use of data. Is there also neoliberalisation of PPGIS in terms of how it operates? This is an open question.

the third session 2453 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session III included the following

Kumkum Bhattacharyya – Eastern Michigan University, Aditi Sarkar – Indian Statistical Institute – Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) Change Detection in the Ganga-Damodar Region – A Participatory GIS Perspective, which covered participation at government scale, in water and resources management.

Pamela Jean Robinson – Ryerson University and Peter Johnson – Waterloo – Civic Hackthons: New Terrain for Citizen-Local Government Interaction? They been looking at civic hackathons – the empowerment of local communities and their meaning. civic Hackathons are linked to the concept of open data – they are time-limited event (weekend), mix of people – lots of people who can code, with open data and prizes and government host. People work to create the data into play. There is a difference between the civic hackathons and app competition is very different. Are they a form of procurement – are they getting a product outside the usual processes and did the events led to change in government activities? Secondly there is the issue of citizen engagement. In terms of backdoor procurement – is it getting technology for free? Are they get products without proper scrutiny? People have mixed view if open data will improve accountability and processes. Are people exploited and fairly compensating for software development effort? Are there obligations for government to treat people differently?
Civic hacking is new form of civic engagement (Levitas 2013). They went to core values of public participation as defined (core values for the practice of public participation). In hackathon people decide and design how they want to participate and have the information. This is one-off event so how impactful it is. Early finding from researching with government that done hackathon. Actually, there are no products coming out of them and very little procurement happening because sustainability of app development is an issue. There is no concern within participants about virtual sweatshops, but there are concerns in the terms of employment of the municipal staff who spend big part of the weekend on this activity. In terms of engagement, the most important aspect is new space for interaction between municipal staff and community. Different kinds of sharing expertise. What do hackathons mean over time and they are developing hackathon assessment tools. How you have ethics form so it doesn’t kill the process.

Nancy J. Obermeyer, PhD, GISP – Indiana State Univ – Preserving Small Town Cinemas through Crowdsourcing. Nancy talked about how using kickstarter to community asset. The town Batesville, IN is small – 6500 people, Germanic roots. Have industrial history – furniture, medical equipment etc. The Gibson Theatre was around from the 1920s, in small towns, the relationships are familial and know people personally. There was a kickstarter campaign to preserve the place, and they reached out to news stations and that helped them to raise the funding. One of the emerging question in the discussion is the degree of ‘crowdfunding’ community assets, and the abdication of local and national government from protecting and funding heritage – another form of neoliberalisation in which the communities are left to fend for themselves, and because of inequalities, it’s the people without major financial assets who are expected to volunteer their income to such services.

Zachary A. Jones, MA, MS, PhD (ABD) – Eastern Michigan University Using Charrettes and other Pedagogical Tools to Develop Participatory Geospatial Technology Plans and Support Ecojustice Planning Decisions. Using technology in master planing and find a way to education and group pedagogy -and avoid reliance on mechanism and scientism. The knowledge base is usaully of experts, but local stakeholders have lots ofknowledge and there are people without voices – children, non-humans. Sophistication level necessary for GIS operation is high and only small group of experts can use it – surely not general population. A consortium of municipalities (SEMCOG) doesn’t have geospatial information and technology plan as part of their master plans. Growing reliance on GIS and geographic technologies in decision-making creased a deficit for local stakeholders. Would like to adopt PGIS to democratise geospatial information collection and use. Borrow tools for educators and planners -lesson plans (to deal with deficit thinking) and charrettes to encourage decision-making by community members, and expect that to be run by municipalities. Aim to run workshops that explore issues and technologies. Initial sessions explored expectation from PGIS and where it fails. That will be followed by the need to address concepts – master plans, feed of information act, privacy issues, Geographic Information Technologies plan.

Antonello Romano – DISPOC, Università di Siena – Noise busters: noise detection and perception through citizen science approach and crowdsourced information. Exploring gamification of experience about noise in the city aim to increase user contribution. The idea is to put gamification to engage people in problem solving. The aim is to improve data collection – game your place. not to emphasise the competition but to have the playfulness. The objective is to encourage participation and collect data about loudness pollution – used NoiseTube to do data collection. The basic elements are to create the game board, game rule, finding a way to create a situation that everyone win. Game elements are trying to encourage participation and not about the observation itself. The first results – they had 123,500 measurement and 28h of data collection in a week. The geography of games covered the whole city centre. A closer look at the data show level of noise across the area. Highlighting the participatory layer: everyday life, participation, VGI, sociability, problem solving and discovering places.

Finally we had a panel session 2553 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session IV, including Bandana Kar (Chair), and Renee Sieber, Nancy J. Obermeyer, Melinda J. Laituri and myself as panellists.

Renee started the discussion – PPGIS past, present and future, and using a definition which we had many discussion that complexify every aspect of it – is it about marginalised people or increase participation? Skills and abilities continue to be challenges for practitioners. You need to be system admin and developer to run system and maintain them. There is also a numbers game – how many people are involved? Also Social Darwinism – if you can’t deal with the system, it is your problem and we can’t help. PPGIS is seen as effeminate participation compared to proper masculinity in VGI and crowdsourcing. Losing sight of boundaries that matter – such as jurisdictions.

Nancy Obermeyer, students understand that they need GIS knowledge and expertise. GIS is poorly integrated into the curricula of public administration. In public administration and participation – how we get more input from the people that will be effected by the actions that they are making.

Melinda coming from the participatory GIS approach, thinking about fine scale data collection with TEK and indigenous groups – what people want to map and not, how to deal with ethics and what should be mapped. The relationships with the community are complex – what the impact to the people who change the community and long-term changes. To work with responding to disaster and deal with rapid response and activities like mapathons through Mapgive – learning from the success in Haiti response. We need to unpack that a bit more. We need to look linkage between participatory mapping and remote collaborative mapping. Making digitising fun because of the context and atmosphere. Thinking about VGI/PGIS – this is a different approach but need to explore opportunities. 1. start with a blank map or an image? 2. in experience with state department: academics are fish out of the water – what academics need to figure out with the practice? 3. digital divide – don’t assume access to technology and need to think about that 4. education 5. excitement about data collection – how do we analysed that? how that enrich our information base?

My take own take away from the day where the following:  First, in PPGIS there is always an element of ‘conforming (to) the opposition’ (Renee paper from 2001 is relevant here) – and this is how the external governance structure set the agenda of the processes. Secondly, we need to work beyond individualism & neoliberal framing of citizenship and development: this has clearly gone worse over the past 20 years, so in many ways it is not more difficult to do PPGIS. This also mean that we must position PPGIS within the wider context of technology and society (with issues such as 99% and inequality, prevailing cyberlibertarian modes of thinking in technology products that shape society etc.). We need a more nuanced concept of participation: work hard so all voices are heard – but allow people to ‘delegate’ and not actively participate. Some people will be happy just to attend meeting to check that views are like theirs, and other will happy to trust a friend. We should allow for that. The next thing is that because of Big Data, more attention to the end use of the data, ownership and credits are important signifiers of purpose and values. Finally, because of the way tech companies are hijacking social terms, we need to explicitly define empowerment, inclusion, marginalisation, participation and democratisation.

Piotr Jankowsi mentions the power of numbers. We started doing PPGIS on the premise that the right of people to have a say on decisions that influence their life – that’s what PPGIS is about. We try to facilitate the ability to pass information to those in positions of power. Numbers do matter – between 5, 10 or 2000 people. Those who are in position of power tend to listen to bigger groups. When we facilitate public participation, we need to give an avenue for larger number – in order to make it effective.

Cristina Capineri –  noted the need to recognise changes and the way that we need to understand opinions and values which then opened the door for new ways and methodologies that are being used. when we are mapping we deal with problems and challenges in society and work at hyper local levels.

Peter Johnson – increase focus on separation between science and decision-making, how does that fit into encouraging the public to carry out research and doing the work itself? The general view was that it is working side by side with science – not replacing.  There is also funding and stopping funding to the bits of science that are inoffensive. However, I noted that there is a huge increase in people with higher education, and that does create an issue for decision makers, as the general population is more sophisticated and can use information.

Greg Brown pointed that we must notice the mega-trend is that people are losing civic engagement, we have lost of connection to place and decline and knowledge and connection to place. PPGIS works again these trends.

Bandana Kar – there is marginalisation within the PPGIS community, we should keep links. Though it might outlast GIScience.

Piotr – part of the problem with civic engagement is lack of impact. People participate but see no outcomes and they don’t feel that they see the impact. Something need to be done with the results. Greg – need to see the process and the outcomes, and people need to see how the outcomes of the process are based on the consultation.

Mike McCall – there is participation fatigue that growing, and we need to ask question about representativeness which can be manipulated by those involved. Who is selected (even deciding women participation) is important. Using individual maps is different from the community mapping. Can do snowball mapping where the size is growing with each maps. Another point is that starting with a blank map is that people mark their territory, and within it. Satellite or image can be used in suitable context when they are relevant – need to consider context.

Finally, a question was raised to what extent questions are rising from the communities themselves?

UCL Fossil Fuel Divestment debate

UCL organised a debate about fossil fuel divestment, with 7 knowledgeable speakers (all professors), raising argument for and against the suggestion that UCL should divest from fossil fuels and sell its £21million invested in the industry. In the room and on the panel there were more people who supported the motion than those who opposed it. Interestingly, at the end of the discussion more people switched to support divestment. I took notes of the positions and what people mentioned as a way to map the different views that were expressed. So here are my notes, the tl;dr point of each argument and something about my view at the end of this longish post.

Anthony Costello opened the debate and discuss that research from UCL provided evidence to justify the Guardian ‘keep it in the ground‘ campaign. The aim of the debate is to explore different views and see what the general views of the people who attended it.

Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet opened with some comments officially Chaired the debate – there is a movement around divestment from fossil fuel that is very rapidly growing across society and different places. Universities are special in their role in society – they are creator of knowledge about public policy issues, but they are also a moral space within society, where position can be taken. Some of UK universities decided to divest – Glasgow, SOAS. Other university didn’t decide – e.g. Oxford. It is appropriate to ask what UCL should do, it is leading on considering the impacts of climate change on society at large – e.g. risk to health?

Chris Rapley, opened with nothing that we are the first humans to breath at 400ppm of CO in the atmosphere as a basic composition  – it is above the levels for the last 800,000 years. 40% rise is the same increment between ice age and interglacial age. The change is taking place 100 times faster than anything natural. The conclusion is that it is unwise to increase above 2C from pre-industrial levels, and we have very little left to burn. 80% of coal and 50% of oil are unburnable – we don’t have a solution for carbon capture and storage yet. The first reason to divest is that it’s prudent – it’s the energy of the past, and renewable are the future. The valuations are a bubble so it is best to put the money elsewhere. second point, we need to be put on a trajectory away from fossil fuel by this December – and lot of issues play out in Paris will not be ratified until 2020. We need to connect the trajectory that we are currently on and the future one, so we do it properly. The CEOs of BP and Shell suggested business as usual, and the recent budget gave 1.2 billion to North Sea oil, so the government is not following its own statement. UCL as radical thinker need to do a gesture in the right direction. We are all part of a web of carbon intensive world, and we need to manage the transition.

My TL;DR Rapley: Science is showing the need combined with need to change trajectory 

Jane Holder argued for divestment from the point of view of a teacher of environmental law. The meaning for teaching and learning – the movement that has gone on for the past 20 and more years to increase environmental education at university level. Helping students to deal with contested knowledge, uncertainty and environmental issues. UCL has done a lot of work over the years – changes to the estate and the curriculum, from this perspective, the UCL campaign make a connection between the estate, curriculum and its finance. There is linkages between environmental education and the learning and teaching of UCL. Significance of informal curriculum – the intangible way in which institution instil values in students – there is publicness of university building and the way it treat staff. Secondly, there are broader changes in university – in terms of education, students explained that since tuition fees, the student is viewed as a consumer, and not citizens of the university community. The divestment campaign allow students to act as citizens and not consumer. University is a site for environmental activity and the roles should be combined.

My TL;DR Holder: teaching and learning imperatives and finance is part of it. 

Anthony Finkelstein argued, this is not question of expertise, starting point that accepting the need to change – but expect to see change in energy sources happening with technological advances. The speed and extent of change is complex feedback systems. Generally, he adopts a precautionary view. However, fossil fuel will be part of our future because of their properties – we need to deal with consumption and not production. Consumption is within a political context and the condemnation of fossil fuel is about political failure. UCL should invest according to regulatory aspects. Ownership of asset can be used to exert influence, the concern is about research and UCL strategy – it’s hypocritical to use money from fossil fuel companies for research, but not to invest in them – it sends the wrong message. A lot of research in engineering is supported by fossil fuel companies – also raise the issue of academic freedom. It is not right to ask or to question ethics of people you disagree with. (see the full argument on Anthony’s blog)

My TL;DR Finkelstein: deal with consumption and not production, we are using a lot of funding from fossil fuel companies and there is a risk to academic freedom. 

Hugh Montgomery – fossil fuel helped humanity, but it need to stop. Energy gain to the planet is equivalent to 5 Hiroshima bombs a second. 7% will stay 100,000 years. Health impacts will be in all sort of directions – and these concern also among military bodies, or the WHO. Not only from ‘extreme left wing’ organisations. Even to reach 2C we have 27 years or even more like 19 years – if we are to act, we have to keep 2/3 of fossil fuel in the ground. There is over-exposure to stranded assets. Why divestment? it’s not ‘rabid anti-capitalist agenda’ – we should change market forces. The aim of the divestment is to force fossil fuel companies to go through transformative change. UCL should do what is right, not only the amount of money, but as a statement. The stigmatisation will be significant to fossil fuel companies.

My TL;DR Montgomery: it’s not only left wing politics, even if you are fairly conservative in outlook, this make sense. 

Jane Rendell – stated that she concerned about the environment and stood down from the Bartlett research vice-dean position because of BHP Billiton funding. Leading on ethics and the built environment in the Bartlett. From her view, investment in fossil fuel is not compatible with UCL research strategy of dealing with judicious application of knowledge to improve humanity. The investment is incompatible with its own ethical guidelines and its environmental strategy. It’s also incompatible with UCL research itself about the need to leave fossil fuel in the ground. The most profound change will come from breaking down practices of finance – it’s not acceptable for fund manager to hide behind claims to ignore their responsibility to everyone else. The only argument is for shareholder engagement, and there is no evidence for it – as well as Porritt declared recently about the uselessness of engagement.

My TL;DR Rendell: incompatibility with UCL policies, and there is no point in engagement. 

Alan Penn – Universities should concentrate in their place in society – relatively new institutions and important in generation of knowledge and passing it to future generation. The ability to critically question the world. We are all invested in this companies – we benefiting from tax from North Sea oil, pension funds. Arguing that money is just transactional property and therefore doesn’t hold value. Arguing that people should invest and force companies to change through engagement.

My TL;DR Penn: don’t mix money with values, and if you want change, buy controlling stake in shares.

After the discussion (with Anthony Finkelstein having to defend his position more than anyone else), there was more support for divestment, although most of the room started from that point of view.

Finally, my view – I’ve started my university studies in October 1991, and as I was getting interested in environment and society issues in my second year of combined Computer Science and Geography degree, the Earth Summit in Rio (June 1992) was all the rage. The people who taught me have been in the summit – that also explains how I got interested in Principle 10 of the Rio declaration which is central to my work. This biographical note is to point that Earth Summit was also the starting point for the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which opens with

The Parties to this Convention,
Acknowledging that change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind,
Concerned that human activities have been substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, that these increases enhance the natural greenhouse effect, and that this will result on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere and may adversely affect natural ecosystems and humankind …

So for the past 23 years, I’ve been watching from the sidelines how the decision makers are just not getting to the heart of the matter, nor acting although they are told about the urgency. The science was clear then. If the actions of government and industries started in 1992 we could have all been well on the route for sustainability (at least in energy consumption). It was absolutely clear that the necessary technologies are already around. I therefore find the argument of shareholders engagement as unrealistic at this stage, nor do I see the link between investment, where you don’t have control over the actions of the company, and careful decision on which research project to carry out in collaboration and under which conditions. This why I have supported the call to UCL to divest.

 

I still need to find the time to write the academic paper to follow my blog post about the role of my research area in fossil fuel exploration

Diary of a a citizen scientist by Sharman Apt Russell

The academic literature on Citizen Science is expanding quickly, with hundreds of papers that are published in peer review publications every years about it. These papers are written by professional scientists and practitioners, mostly for an audience of other professional scientists and practitioners. A very common concern of researchers is to understand the motivations and incentives that get citizen scientists involved in projects. Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of research evaluating these aspects through questionnaires and interviews, but there is relatively little on how citizen science is experienced from the point of view of the participants (although it does come out in the research notes of Public Lab or Clare Griffiths’ account of community air quality study).

So what is it like to be a citizen scientist? 

Luckily, Sharman Apt Russell has decided to find out, and because she is a talented author with plenty of experience in creative writing of non-fiction books about science and nature, she is well placed to provide an engaging account of the experience. Covering a period of about year and a half,  her book ‘diary of citizen scientist: chasing tiger beetles and other new ways of engaging the world‘ is interesting, insightful and enjoyable read. 

Sharman didn’t took the easy route to citizen science, but decided to jump in and find out an unknown detail about the life of Tiger Beetles by studying them in the Gila river, near her home. The tasks that she took upon herself (and her family) include chasing beetles and capturing them, grow them in terrariums at home, dismember some and analyse them under microscope and so on. This quest is sparked by a statement from Dick Vane-Wright,  then the Keeper of Entomology at the Natural History Museum that ‘You could spend a week studying some obscure insect and you would know more than anyone else on the planet. Our ignorance is profound‘ (p. 15). This, of course, is not only true about insects, or animals, but also to the night sky, or our understanding of urban air pollution. I think that this can be a crucial statement for the potential of discovery in citizen science in general.

While the story about understanding the lives of the tiger beetles provide the core of the book, Sharman explores many other aspects of citizen science, from online activities, to observing the changes in nature over the seasons (phenology), and noticing the footprints in the sand. Her love of nature in her area is coming through in the descriptions of her scientific observations and also when she describes a coming storm or other aspects of her local environment.

Throughout the book, you can come across issues that citizen scientists experience – from difficulties in following instructions that seem obvious to scientists, to figuring out what the jargon mean, to the critical importance of supportive mentoring by professional scientists. All this make the book a very interesting source to understand the experience. If you want to read her short summary of Sharman’s experience, see her writing in Entomology Today.

One disclosure, though: Sharman has contacted me while working on the book, and she note the interview in her book so I was intrigued to read her description of Extreme Citizen Science, which is excellent.

British Ecological Society & Société Française d’Ecologie meeting, Lille (Day 2)

Notes from the second day of the BES/sfé annual meeting (see first day notes here)

Several talks in sessions that attracted my attention:

Daniel Richards (National University of Singapore) looked at cultural ecosystem services from social media sources. He mentioned previous study by  Casalegno at al 2013 study on social media and ecosystem services . In Singapore they carry out a study for the few green spaces that are used for leisure and nature reserves – the rest of the place is famously highly urbanised. There are patches of coastal habitat that are important locally. The analysis looked at Flickr photos to reveal interest. There are 4 study sites, with 760 photos that were returned and of them 683 related to coastal habitat. They use classification of content, with 8 people analysing the photos. Analysis of Flickr showed different aspects – landscape in one site, and wildlife in another site. In one site there are research photos due to the way it is used locally. Looking closely to one coastal site, focal points in the route where people stopped  to take a picture stood out, and landscape photos. All the photos follow the boardwalk in the area of Changi which is the only route. Simulation showed that after 70 photos they can get a good indication of the nature of the place, no need to look through all the images.

Barbara Smith explored the role of indigenous and local knowledge as part of a multiple evidence base for pollinator conservation. The context is India in agricultural area – looking at places where there is more extensive agriculture and less. The project aim is to record pollinators and then explore the impact of landscape and crop productivity . In this study, the starting point was the belief that traditional knowledge has a lot of value, and it is a knowledge that can be integrated with scientific information.  She mentioned Tengo et al 2013 discussion paper in IPBES on the value of local knowledge, and also Sutherland et al 2014 paper in Oryx about the need to integrate indigenous knowledge in ecological assessment. The aim to collate knowledge of trends, they created a local peer-review process to validate local knowledge. Understanding  factual data collection and separate it from inferences which are sometime wrong. They carry out small group discussions, in which they involved 5-7 farmers, in each of the 3 study area they had 3 groups. They asked questions that are evidence gathering (which crop you grow?) and also verification (how do you know?) they also ask opinion scoping (perceptions ) and then ‘why did you observed the change?’. In the discussions with the farmers they structured in around questions that can be explored together. After the first session, the created declarations – so ‘yields have fallen by 25%’ or crop yield declined because of the poor soil’ the statements were accepted or rejected through discussion with the farmers – local peer-review. Not all farmers can identify pollinators, and as the size goes down, there is less identification and also confusion about pests and pollinators. The farmers identified critical pollinators in their area and also suggestions on why the decline happen.

In the workshop on ‘Ecosystem assessments – concepts, tools and governance‘ there was various discussion on tools that are used for such purposes, but it became clear to me that GIS is playing a major role, and that many of the fundamental discussions in GIScience around the different types of modelling – from overlaying to process oriented modelling – can play a critical role in making sense of the way maps and GIS outputs travel through the decision making. It can be an interesting area to critically analysed – To what degree the theoretical and philosophical aspects of the modelling are taken into account in policy processes? The discussion in the workshop moved to issues of scientific uncertainty and communication with policy makers. The role of researchers in the process and the way they discuss uncertainty.

In the computational ecology session, Yoseph Araya presented a talk that was about the use of citizen science data, but instead he shared his experience and provide an interesting introduction to a researcher perspective on citizen science. He looked at the data that is coming from citizen science and the problem of getting good data. Citizen Science gaining attention – e.g. Ash die-back and other environmental issues are leading to attention. Citizens are bridging science, governance and participation. Citizen Science is needed for data at temporal, spatial and social scales and we should not forget that it is also about social capital, and of course fun and enjoyment. There is an increase in citizen science awareness in the literature. He is building on experience from many projects that he participated in include Evolution Megalab, world water monitoring day, floodplain meadows partnership, iSpot and OPAL, and CREW – Custodians of Rare and Endangered Windflowers (that’s a seriously impressive set of projects!). There are plenty of challenges – recruitment, motivation; costs and who pays; consideration of who run it; data validation and analysis and others. Data issues include data accuracy, completeness, reliability, precision and currency. He identified sources of errors – personnel, technical and statistical. The personal – skills, fitness and mistakes and others. Potential solutions – training with fully employed personnel,  then also monitor individual and also run an online quiz. Technically, there is the option of designing protocols and statistically, it is possible to use recounts (15%), protocols that allow ‘no data’ and other methods.

The poster session included a poster from Valentine Seymour, about her work linking wellbeing and green volunteering