How Does Citizen Science “Do” Governance? Reflections from the DITOs Project

This is the second post about papers in the special collection of papers in the journal “Citizen Science: Theory and Practice” was dedicated to Policy Perspectives of Citizen Science. The first paper is described in this post.

It is fairly rare to be able to catch an image close to the time when a concept for a paper was hatched but the case of the paper “How Does Citizen Science “Do” Governance? Reflections from the DITOs Project“, there is such thing:

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The paper emerged from discussion the Claudia Gobel started during a Doing It Together Science (DITOs) project meeting in Ljubljana in June 2018. Claudia, Aleks (both in the picture, mapping all the connections between project partners) together with Christian and myself discussed what we can learn from our project about the rationale for policy makers to commission and use citizen science. It is starting from the notion that citizen science relationships with political processes is more than a source of data or an object of research policy. DITOs, with its huge variety of events that were both aimed at policy makers and at the public, and across different places and topics, provided a good basis for the analysis. We identified four modes of governance that are relevant to DITOs, and this provided the basis for the paper. The paper can be accessed here.  The abstract of it is:

Citizen science (CS) is increasingly becoming a focal point for public policy to provide data for decision-making and to widen access to science. Yet beyond these two understandings, CS engages with political processes in a number of other ways. To develop a more nuanced understanding of governance in relation to CS, this paper brings together theoretical analysis by social science researchers and reflections from CS practice. It draws on concepts from Science and Technology Studies and political sciences as well as examples from the “Doing-It-Together Science” (DITOs) project. The paper develops a heuristic of how CS feeds into, is affected by, forms part of, and exercises governance. These four governance modes are (1) Source of information for policy-making, (2) object of research policy, (3) policy instrument, and (4) socio-technical governance. Our analysis suggests that these four dimensions represent different conceptions of how science and technology governance takes place that have not yet been articulated in the CS literature. By reflecting on the DITOs project, the paper shows how this heuristic can enrich CS. Benefits include project organisers better communicating their work and impacts. In its conclusion, the paper argues that focusing on the complexity of governance relations opens up new ways of doing CS regarding engagement methodologies and evaluation. The paper recommends foregrounding the broad range of governance impacts of CS and reflecting on them in cooperation between researchers and practitioners.

What can we learn from analysing citizen science training materials?

As part of the EU-Citizen.Science project, UCL is leading on the training work package. This means that we coordinate the part of the platform that will help to store and share training material for citizen science projects, and generally for the field (such as the UCL online course). The stay at the Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI) in Paris, provided an opportunity to work with two interns of the interdisciplinary undergraduate programme in life sciences on this issue. At the beginning of the term, the UCL team, together with Myriam Fockenoy and Morgane Opoix  (the student interns) carried out a workshop to decide on the data collection scheme – identifying material, recording it and checking its content. It was especially helpful that Myriam and Morgane could analyse material in French, which will be useful for the project as a whole. They worked several hours every week, finding material and checking it thoroughly. Additional material was contributed by Earthwatch and Yaqian Wu from UCL. We ended with 30 pieces of training material that we looked at and catalogued. Finally, we worked on analysing the material, and this led to a short report, which is provided here.

You can read the report here.

Training

 

ActEarly – outline paper published

ActEarly is a new project, which has started in September. The project is a 5 years “city collaboratory” in Bradford and Tower Hamlets to research early promotion of good health and wellbeing. The project is part of a set of projects that are funded under the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) scheme, which includes an alliance of funders, including multiple research councils, charities, and government bodies. The consortium that is involved in ActEarly is quite extensive, and the framework of the project and explanation of what it is aiming to achieve is now published in an open-access paper.

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ActEarly includes an explicit participatory element, and citizen science is an integral part of the research. You can find out more in the paper.

The paper abstract is: Economic, physical, built, cultural, learning, social and service environments have a profound effect on lifelong health. However, policy thinking about health research is dominated by the ‘biomedical model’ which promotes medicalisation and an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment at the expense of prevention. Prevention research has tended to focus on ‘downstream’ interventions that rely on individual behaviour change, frequently increasing inequalities. Preventive strategies often focus on isolated leverage points and are scattered across different settings. This paper describes a major new prevention research programme that aims to create City Collaboratory testbeds to support the identification, implementation and evaluation of upstream interventions within a whole system city setting. Prevention of physical and mental ill-health will come from the cumulative effect of multiple system-wide interventions. Rather than scatter these interventions across many settings and evaluate single outcomes, we will test their collective impact across multiple outcomes with the goal of achieving a tipping point for better health. Our focus is on early life (ActEarly) in recognition of childhood and adolescence being such critical periods for influencing lifelong health and wellbeing.

You can access the paper here.

You can also see the role of citizen science and community engagement in the logic model of the project:

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Published: Citizen science and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Back in October 2018, I reported on the workshop at the International Institute for Advanced Systems Analysis (IIASA) about non-traditional data approaches and the Sustainable Development Goals. The outcome of this workshop has now been published in Nature SustainabilityThe writing process was coordinated by Dr Linda See of IIASA, and with a distributed process that included multiple teams of participants of the workshop working on different parts (for example, I have helped in coordinating the section “Citizen science for new goals and targets”). The final outcome is providing a comprehensive analysis of citizen science as a data source for monitoring and implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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You can read the full paper here, and share it, as it is open access (in contrast to other Nature Sustainability paper, with funding for it provided by Steffen Fritz group at IIASA).

The abstract of the paper is: Traditional data sources are not sufficient for measuring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. New and non-traditional sources of data are required. Citizen science is an emerging example of a non-traditional data source that is already making a contribution. In this Perspective, we present a roadmap that outlines how citizen science can be integrated into the formal Sustainable Development Goals reporting mechanisms. Success will require leadership from the United Nations, innovation from National Statistical Offices and focus from the citizen-science community to identify the indicators for which citizen science can make a real contribution.

The UNEP team that participated in the writing, provided a blog post that explains why it is a valuable contribution to the discussion on SDGs (they also integrated a great music video within it!).

New paper: Does urbanization make emergence of zoonosis more likely? Evidence, myths and gaps

The final output from the Urban Zoo project is out (see the post about the previous paper, which was published in GEO). This one is a literature and analysis of the role of urbanisation in zoonosis. The paper is open access, so you can read it here. It was led by Dr Sohel Ahmed (and thanks to his effort it is published). The abstract is:

Rapid urbanization in the global South is adding epidemiological and nutritional challenges and increasing disease and health burdens for citizens. Greater movement of people, animals, food and trade often provides favourable grounds for the emergence of infectious diseases, including zoonoses. We conduct a rapid evidence scan to explore what is known and hypothesized about the links between urbanization and zoonosis emergence. This points to rapid demographic growth, migration and density, increased movement of people and animals, and changes in land uses as the main processes linked to the prevalence of zoonosis in the urban global South. We argue that this emerging global health challenge is also deeply connected with the urbanization of poverty and inequalities within cities. Tackling the micro-level causal relationships between urbanization and zoonosis requires urgent attention to living conditions, as well as the wider socioenvironmental transitions and structural drivers that produce and reproduce risk accumulation in urban settings.

The process of selecting papers and developing the literature review is provided below: 10.1177_0956247819866124-fig1

New paper: Global mapping of citizen science projects for disaster risk reduction

I find it enjoyable when different strands of research come together. In many ways, research on the impacts of natural hazards on society – or Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), citizen science, and volunteer geographic information (VGI) are parallel research areas with research communities that work on each of them, and only occasionally come together. The project Citizen Science for Disaster Risk Reduction, led by Jenni Barcley from the University of East Anglia and funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is an example for such a link. One of the project’s outputs is a paper that carried out a literature review of citizen science projects for DRR, that is now published in “Frontiers In Earth Science”. Anna Hicks, from the British Geological Survey, led the effort, and the abstract is:

Citizen science for disaster risk reduction holds huge promise and has demonstrated success in advancing scientific knowledge, providing early warning of hazards, and contributed to the assessment and management of impacts. While many existing studies focus on the performance of specific citizen science examples, this paper goes beyond this approach to present a systematic global mapping of citizen science used for disaster risk reduction in order to draw out broader insights across diverse methods, initiatives, hazards and country contexts. The systematic mapping analyzed a total of 106 cases of citizen science applied to disaster risk reduction across all continents. Unlike many existing reviews of citizen science initiatives, relevance to the disaster risk context led us to ‘open up’ our mapping to a broader definition of what might constitute citizen science, including participatory research and narrative-based approaches. By taking a wider view of citizen science and opening up to other disciplinary practices as valid ways of knowing risks and hazards, we also capture these alternative examples and discuss their relevance for aiding effective decision-making around risk reduction. Based on this analysis we draw out lessons for future research and practice of citizen science for disaster risk reduction including the need to: build interconnections between disparate citizen science methods and practitioners; address multi-dimensionality within and across hazard cycles; and develop principles and frameworks for evaluating citizen science initiatives that not only ensure scientific competence but also attend to questions of equity, responsibility and the empowerment of those most vulnerable to disaster risk.

You can find the paper here.