The Urban Zoo project focused on the issues of transfer of disease from animals to humans, in particular in the context of Nairobi, Kenya. This is mostly a medical study, but through the involvement of UCL Development Planning Unit (DPU), issues of urban planning and urban studies were integrated.
The new paper “Participatory mapping and food‐centred justice in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya” is based on the work of Dr Sohel Ahmed in Nairobi, and the use of participatory mapping methods (including balloon mapping) to understand the local context. It is written by an interdisciplinary team – including geography, urban planning, development, and medical research.
“Food vendors are pivotal in the local food system of most low‐income informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, despite being seen as an obstruction and as agents of disease and filth by city authorities. This paper explores the geography of these foodscapes – defined as public sites of food production and consumption – in selected low‐income settlements in Nairobi, focusing on the interaction of food vendors with their surrounding environment and infrastructure services. The research uses participatory geographic information system tools, including food mapping with mobile apps and high‐resolution community aerial views with balloon mapping, to capture and contextualise local knowledge. The community mappers collected data on 660 vendors from 18 villages in Kibera, Mathare, and Mukuru, and situated them on multi‐layered synoptic geographic overviews for each settlement. The resulting data on hazardous areas in relation to food spaces and infrastructure provision allowed local communities to prioritise areas for regular clean‐up activities and assisted advocacy to improve these places in cooperation with local authorities. These multiple visual representations of foodscapes make local food vendors, and the risks they face, visible for the first time. Reframing their “right to safe food and environment” from a social and environmental justice perspective allows local communities to put their experiences, knowledge, and challenges faced at the forefront of urban development planning, policy, and practice.”
One of the joys of the Doing it Together Scienceproject is that it provides opportunities to work closely with different partners from very different areas. One such a collaboration is with Bruno Strasser and his group at the University of Geneva who are researching citizen science from an STS/history of science perspective.
Over the first part of 2018, Bruno and I developed a report for the Swiss Science Council on citizen science. Here is the summary of the report:
“Citizen science” refers to a broad range of activities where people produce scientific knowledge outside of traditional scientific institutions. From mapping natural phenomena to analyzing scientific data, sharing health information, and making
new technologies, citizen science occurs across all the disciplines of science and involves a number of different methods of inquiry, both orthodox and alternative. It includes projects directed by scientists and by grassroots organizations as well as projects where power over the design, implementation, and the use of outputs is shared among participants and organizers.
Citizen science is not a completely novel phenomenon since it was the main mode of practicing science for centuries. But the professionalization of science and the rise of experimentalism since the mid-nineteenth century has increasingly separated professional scientists from the public, and this accelerated in the second part of the twentieth century. Citizen science, and other participatory research activities, reconnect ists and the public in new ways. Unlike previous attempts at bridging the gap between science and the public through science communication or through deliberative forums, in citizen science the public directly contributes to the production of knowledge, though in many cases their role is restricted to data collection or simple analysis.
Citizen science is witnessing a rapid growth and is increasingly being recognized by national governments and science funding agencies as a promising solution to three sets of problems affecting the relationships between science and society. First, citizen science can contribute to science by providing a large workforce to solve research problems that require extensive observations (mapping biodiversity) or the analysis of big data sets (classifying galaxies). It can also contribute new do-it-yourself (DIY) research tools, foster Open Science, and bring more inclusive methods to scientific research. Second, it can contribute to improving citizens’ scientific literacy, specifically with regard to the nature of science and scientific inquiry, which is crucial for the ability of citizens to position themselves in democratic debates about scientific and technical issues. Third, it can contribute to making science more democratic, both in the sense of including more diverse people in the practice of science and in making science better aligned with the public interest. It can also increase public trust in science and help governments fulfil their international monitoring obligations, for example for biodiversity or air quality.
The great opportunities of citizen science for science, education, and democracy, but also the risks of cooptation by scientific institutions and of populist undermining of professional expertise deserve serious critical attention from scholars and policy makers.
The chapter was written in a way that it can be used to encourage universities’ senior leaders to adopt citizen science activities into their operations. We describe how it can enhance research activities, teaching, linkage to society, as well as open up the scope for new funding and resources. We also emphasise the unique role of universities in the field of citizen science and list nine challenges: identifying what is the right balance of citizen science projects in the wider range of projects; maintaining quality and impact; improve openness and transparency; strengthening learning and creativity; optimising organisation, communication, and sustainability; establishing suitable credits and rewards; increasing funding for citizen science projects; and striking a new balance between researchers and society.
The highlights of the chapter are:
Universities are an integral part of citizen science activities.
Universities gain breadth and strength in research by adopting and supporting citizen science, which consolidates their position and recognition in society, brings new resources and increases public trust in universities.
Universities contribute to citizen science by providing professional infrastructure, knowledge and skills; ethical and legal background; educational facilities for present and future citizen scientists; sustainable teaching; and funding.
University engagement in citizen science faces a number of challenges, which can be managed through project planning and the support of funders and policymakers.
The previous post described the opening chapter of “Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Policy, Science and Society“, which apart from the first 7 pages, is following a fairly standard pattern of introduction chapters – an overview of the sections and explaining the logic behind organising the chapters and the order that they appear, and description of the case studies in the book.
The concluding chapter, on the other hand, was created with special effort to make it a synthesis and analysis of the themes that emerge from the book. The chapter “Citizen science to foster innovation in open science, society and policy” was created in a joint effort of the editorial team in the following way: first, we’ve asked each of the chapters lead authors to agree with their co-authors and provide 3 to 5 bullet points that summarise the main messages of the chapter. The purpose of these points is to be a quick reference for the readers about the chapter with more focused information than an abstract. You can find these “Highlights” in each of the chapters (though not in the case studies).
These highlights also served another purpose – as a starting point for the synthesis. We copied all the highlights into a Google Document, and then, in mid-September 2017, with all the chapters completed and ready for the final stage of production, Aletta, Susanne, Anne, and myself joined in two online workshops in which we discussed the themes and collaboratively moved the bullet points around so we can gather them into common headings (science, society, science-policy interface, technology, science communication and education, and organisational/institutional). With the bullet points grouped, we started composing paragraphs from this “raw material” – it is fascinating to follow the versions of the Google Document and see the sections emerging in a short period of time.
As with the rest of the book, we were fortunate that Susanne, the lead editor, is also a very talented science communicator with a very good eye to graphic design. The final chapter includes pictograms that represent different audiences for the recommendations that are emerging from the book – policymakers, researchers, educators, etc (see example below). The effort by Aletta and Susanne on this chapter produced an excellent synthesis from the joint output of 121 authors – an excellent way to conclude the book in a meaningful way. The end result can be found here.
As part of the editorial team of the book “Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Policy, Science and Society“, I have contributed by working with the authors of chapters, organising the orders of the chapters, managing the peer review process, and so on. In addition, I was involved in the writing to 4 chapters out of the 31 in the book – this post, and the three that will follow it, are here to provide some context to them.
As common in edited books, the editorial team collaborated on the opening and closing chapters. For the opening chapter which is titled, similarly to the book “Innovation in open science, society and policy – setting the agenda for citizen science” the editorial team as a whole collaborated. In this chapter, we start by helping people who are not familiar with citizen science with some definitions, a bit of history of where it came from, and a note about the diversity of citizen science across scientific areas. We then introduce the three areas that the book covers in its sections: policy, society, and science. We start with policy and the way in which citizen science is being integrated into government operations and policies, with an example of the process in Germany. We then move to the societal contributions – such as outreach to new communities that are under-represented, or linkage to the higher-education system; Finally, we discuss the link between citizen science and Open Science. We then describe the different sections of the book and the logic of organising the chapters in the way they are, and finally cover the extensive set of case studies that are included in the book – One of the elements that we focused on during the development of the book so it includes a large number of them.
I am very happy that the chapter is opening with a quotation from Sharman apt Russel’s Diary of a Citizen Scientist (p. 14): “This is renaissance, your dentist now an authority on butterflies and you (in retrospect this happened so pleasantly, watching clouds one afternoon) connected by Twitter to the National Weather Service. This is revolution, breaking down barriers between expert and amateur, with new collaborations across class and education. Pygmy hunters and gatherers use smartphones to document deforestation in the Congo Basin. High school students identify fossils in soils from ancient seas in upstate New York. Do-it-yourself biologists make centrifuges at home.
This is falling in love with the world, and this is science, and at the risk of sounding too much an idealist, I have come to believe they are the same thing.”
Shortly after the conference, Aletta Bonn and Susanne Hecker, who coordinated it, suggested the development of a book that will capture the breadth of the field of citizen science that the conference exposed. Within a month, the editorial team which include Susanne Hecker, Anne Bowser, Zen Makuch, Johannes Vogel, Aletta Bonn, and myself started to work on the concept of the book and the appropriate publisher. We were committed to publishing the book as open access so it can be read by anyone who wishes it without limitations, and also so the chapters from it can be used widely. By publishing with UCL Press, which agreed to publish the book without charges, we had additional resources that we have used to work with Madeleine Hatfield of Yellowbackto ensure that the book chapters are well edited and readable,and with Olaf Herling, a Berlin graphic designer, who helped us in developing and realising the graphic design of the book.
The chapters made quite a journey – they were submitted in late 2016, and were peer-reviewed and revised by mid-2017. As always with such an effort, there is a complex process of engaging over 120 authors, the review process, and then the need to get a revised version of the chapters. This required the editorial team to coordinate the communication with the authors and encourage them to submit the chapters (with the unavoidable extensions!). Once the chapters were in their revised form, they continued to be distilled – first with comments from the editorial guidance by Madeleine, but also with suggestions from Mark Chandler from Earthwatch, who provided us with an additional review of the book as a whole.
Susanne Hecker, the lead editor, put in a lot of time into communicating with the authors, the publishers, and the professional editors. Even as late as two months ago, we had the need to check the final proofs and organise the index. All that is now done and the book is out.
The book contains 31 chapters that cover many aspects of citizen science – from the integration of activities to schools and universities to case studies in different parts of the world.
Here is what we set out to achieve: “This book brings together experts from science, society and practice to highlight and debate the importance of citizen science from a scientific, social and political perspective and demonstrate the innovation potential. World-class experts will provide a review of our current state of knowledge and practical experience of citizen science and the delivery of will be reviewed and possible solutions to future management and conservation will be given. The book critically assesses the scientific and societal impact to embed citizen science in research as well as society.
The aim of this volume is to identify opportunities and challenges for scientific innovation. This includes discussions about the impact of citizen science at the science-policy interface, the innovative potential of citizen science for scientific research, as well as possible limitations. The emphasis will be to identify solutions to fostering a vibrant science community into a changing future, with actors from academia and society. Five main sections are envisaged with an editorial introduction and a thorough final synthesis to frame the book.
Innovation in Science: What are the governance and policy frameworks that will facilitate embedding citizen science in agenda setting, design and data collection of research projects and communication? What are innovation opportunities and challenges and where support is needed? How to ensure data quality and IP rights?
Innovation at the Science-Policy interface: What are the opportunities for citizen science to provide an input to better decision making? How is participation ensured across society and how does it lead to enhanced problem-solving?
Innovation in Society: How can citizen science lead to empowerment and enhanced scientific literacy and increase science capital? What is the social transformation potential impact of citizen science?
Innovation in Technology and Environmental Monitoring: What policy and technical issues citizen science and mobile sensor technology bring? How can it contribute to advances in environmental monitoring within existing and emerging regulations? What policy and practical framework can facilitate or harm this?
Innovation in Science Communication and Education: How have new media transformed science and what are the implication to scientists, public and science funders? How can new techniques open new opportunities and to whom? ”
The final book does not follow these exact sections, but the topics and questions are the same.
From time to time, there are opportunities to become a co-author with a lot of people that you are very happy to be associated with – to demonstrate a shared piece of work that represents a common understanding. The participation in the first European Citizen Science Association conference in 2016 created such an opportunity, with a paper that was written by a core group of people from the organising committee and keynote speakers. The paper “Innovation in Citizen Science – Perspectives on Science-Policy Advances” is a report of the issues that were covered in the conference and the lessons and recommendations that emerge from it. The list of authors is impressive: Susanne Hecker , Rick Bonney, Muki Haklay, Franz Hölker, Heribert Hofer, Claudia Goebel, Margaret Gold, Zen Makuch, Marisa Ponti, Anett Richter, Lucy Robinson, Jose Rubio Iglesias, Roger Owen, Taru Peltola, Andrea Sforzi, Jennifer Shirk, Johannes Vogel, Katrin Vohland, Thorsten Witt, and Aletta Bonn.
The writing was led by Susanne Hecker (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ / German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig) and also led to an innovation in the journal “Citizen Science: Theory and Practice” by creating the space to report meetings. There is a long tradition in science of producing meeting’s reports, and there is an assumption that this is now obsolete in the age of blogs – but this paper provides the demonstration that this is incorrect. First, the paper provides a clearer and well-structured statement of the event and its outcomes. Unlike blogs, it is appearing two years after the event, but this also means that the content needs to stand the test of time and point to the long-term outcomes from the event. Secondly, the longer period of editing and the process of peer review made the paper a better record of the event.
Citizen science is growing as a field of research with contributions from diverse disciplines, promoting innovation in science, society, and policy. Inter- and transdisciplinary discussions and critical analyses are needed to use the current momentum to evaluate, demonstrate, and build on the advances that have been made in the past few years. This paper synthesizes results of discussions at the first international citizen science conference of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) in 2016 in Berlin, Germany, and distills major points of the discourse into key recommendations. To enhance innovation in science, citizen science needs to clearly demonstrate its scientific benefit, branch out across disciplines, and foster active networking and new formats of collaboration, including true co-design with participants. For fostering policy advances, it is important to embrace opportunities for policy-relevant monitoring and policy development and to work with science funders to find adequate avenues and evaluation tools to support citizen science. From a society angle it is crucial to engage with societal actors in various formats that suit participants and to evaluate two-way learning outcomes as well as to develop the transformative role of science communication. We hope that these key perspectives will promote citizen science progress at the science-society-policy interface.