Geothink & Learn citizen science session

The following recording is from the Geothink & Learn lunchtime webinar.

The call for the event stated:

“Should it be only people with graduate degree who make extraordinary scientific discoveries? Maybe not. Citizen scientists around the world have contributed to new discoveries in fields such as astronomy, biology, meteorology, geography, public health, and more. It can also address social and environmental inequalities, and allow individuals and communities to address issues that concern them through the application of scientific methods and tools. Efforts to harness the work of many hands or crowdsource important data collection or transcription have gained popularity because of their ability to help scientists in tasks that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish, increase public engagement with science, and potentially raise awareness and understanding of scientific issues. They also open up new lines of data in important areas of research, to the benefits of scientists and society. Citizen science requires the participation of ordinary citizens outside of scientific research in universities, governmental bodies, or other research institutions. Participation in citizen science provides individuals with new skills in technology, science, and community organization, as well as informal education on scientific issues. Crowdsourcing can take place as part of citizen science as it relates to large-scale participation that can include tens of thousands of people joining projects online.”

The webinar included me, Victoria Slonosky, principal organizer for ACRE–Canada and the Data Rescue: Archives and Weather Project (DRAW); and,  Caren Cooper, a research associate professor at North Carolina State University.


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

On the 27th April, UCL hosted a workshop on the “Lessons learned from Volunteers Interactions with Geographic Citizen Science“. The workshop description was as follows:

“A decade ago, in 2007, Michael Goodchild defined volunteered geographic information (VGI) as ‘the widespread engagement of large numbers of private citizens, often with little in the way of formal qualifications, in the creation of geo­graphic information, a function that for centuries has been reserved to official agencies.’ (p.2). The collection and use of this type of crowdsourced geographic data have grown rapidly with amateurs mapping the earth’s surface for all kind of purposes (e.g. collecting and disseminating information about accessibility in urban centres, for crisis and emergency response purposes, mapping illegal logging in remote areas and so on). A subset of these activities has been described as ‘geographic citizen science’ and includes scientific activities in which amateur scientists (volunteers) participate in geographic data collection, analysis and dissemination within the context of a scientific project (Haklay, 2013) or simply by using scientific methods and equipment. Although, there is an extensive discussion in the VGI and geographic citizen science literature about opportunities as well as implications (e.g. data coverage, data quality and trust issues, motivation and retainment of volunteers and so on), examples from the actual interaction are not so widely discussed, neither has evidence been collected from a broad spectrum of case studies to demonstrate how volunteers interact with those technologies and applications, what they are looking for and what it is that they need/try to accomplish (at a scientific, project and personal level) and what are the common design mistakes that influence interaction.” The following is a summary of the talk and presentations:

Welcome & Instructions – Artemis Skarlatidou the workshop is linked to our ERC funded project Intelligent Maps (ECSAnVis) and  EU funded Doing It Together science (DITOs) and the COST action – our work deal with geographical applications of citizen science and data collection. There is the COST Action CA15212 which got 243 members in 39 countries – all exploring aspects of citizen science – Work Group 1 (WG1) for scientific quality, WG2 education, WG3 society-science policy, WG4 the role of volunteers in citizen science, WG5 data and interoperability, and the synergies in WG6. In WG4, which Artemis lead. we’re looking at stakeholder mapping, motivation, needs and interaction issues, and mapping citizen science across Europe. Another relevant group is the ICA Commission on use user and usability issues, the International Society for Photogrammetry & remote sensing that have a WG V/3 that look at citizen science and crowdsourced information. Sultan Kocaman explained the ISPRS link – WG V/3 focus on the promotion of regional collaboration in citizen science and geospatial technologies within the focus of ISPRS area of education and outreach.

Louis Liebenberg presents Smartphone Icon User Interface design for Oralate Trackers – Louis Liebenberg who for 3 decades have been developing software to allow hunter gatherer to protect their knowledge of tracking. One of the challenges that Louis address is the understanding how our scientific thinking evolved. Louis suggests that tracking is an example for hypothesis testing and rational thinking that evolved in in tracking by hunter gatherers. He worked with !Nate from the San people since 1985 – the context of technology use by San for a long time. Already 100 years ago, hunters discovered that arrow points can be made from fence wire and started using them. This is an example of how hunter-gatherers adopt to technologies around them. Hunter-gatherers are not isolated: they always interacted and traded. Developing a software for a smartphone (you can get an Android phone for $10 in South Africa today), is similar to adopting the fence wire for the arrows 100 years ago. He learned from master trackers – the level of sophistication of trackers is astonished him since the mid 1980s. In the Kalahari, dogs were introduced in the 60s, and therefore the knowledge of tracking and the practices of hunting change. He used tracking and certification in it in order to secure employment. Master trackers are expected in an egalitarian society to show humility, so it is possible to miss them if you go and ask “who’s the best tracker here?” – the certification is a way to provide recognition and work. The tracking provided employment in the 1990s in surveying the movement of animals in the Kalahari. The persistent hunt – when you do it without any equipment, running animals down until they die from exhaustion which is an adaptation that humans have to be able to do that. Karoha was one of the persistence hunters but also able to use CyberTracker and use the system. Parallel to the software, Louis develop the tracker certification, to know if the data is reliable. As Master Trackers die, the knowledge is lost, so the certification provides an opportunity to encourage the younger generation to develop the knowledge and benefit from it. The level of details in animal tracks is very high. There is a high level of ambiguity in tracking and requirement to learn about claw marks and knowing what are the possibilities then it is possible with high certainty to understand which animal it was. Trackers also develop hypotheses on why the shape of hoofs is the way it is, and interpret activities of animals from the track – for example, identifying new ways of interpreting the behaviour of an animal that was not observer before. For example, the ability to guess that caracals are jumping upright in an attempt to catch a bird. CyberTracker started with the early Apple Newton with a GPS module, and then evolved into the Palm Pilot and continue to evolve. The interface was very limited in drawing icons – icons are either phonetic symbols (e.g. using a wheelbarrow to describe an item that sounds similar to the word in Africans). The details can be very extensive – species, age, number, male/female and so home. The data can provide information on abundance and potential of work are the communities. In a project in the Congo, they follow the trackers of different animals and they could show they Ebola impact Chimpanzees, Gorilla, but also other animals and then this was important to understand that you can identify Ebola in wildlife before it spreads into the human population. There is also a wide use of CyberTracker in citizen science on monitoring endangered species, and different projects by indigenous communities  Australia. They can also show that there are different results from what ecologists identify. A paper from 1999 about Rhino was co-authored by a tracker, demonstrating different models of publishing with citizen scientists. The first high impact that was co-authored by trackers was published recently in biological conservation. Questions: how to communicate from hypothesis by hunter-gatherers to the scientific sphere? The need is collaboration: data collected and organised by the trackers, and then the scientists write the report, but providing a report is challenging. The reality is co-authoring as there is always need for mentoring, reciprocal approach between scientists. Louis also circulates papers with experienced scientists to improve the paper. We all need peer review support. In terms of consent and engagement: there is a need to develop the relationship of trust and understanding – the first people who were involved in CyberTracker worked with Louis for 5 years, and Louis engaged as a tracker before they were willing to work with him. Some of the early papers in the Kalahari used trackers without mentioning their name even though the trackers carried out the research. Scientific institutions are one of the last authoritarians institutions – citizen science. Scientific elitism is intransigent and this makes citizen science exciting.

Lessons from supporting non-literate forest communities in the Congo-Basin to record their Traditional Ecological Knowledge – Michalis Vitos & Julia Altenbuchner the context of the Congo-basin is the second largest rainforest. This is a forest with 29 million people, with at least 500,000 nomadic communities that rely on resources. The forest is divided into concessions and then they are sued for resource extraction – how to make local groups heard? Local communities are excluded from protected areas. In the last few years, some legislation is changing – e.g. the FLEGT of the EU to control timber import and request for social payback and responsibility. ExCiteS collaborated with communities to support such process with technology. The challenges are dealing with non-literate groups who are also non-technologically literate. We use pictures as a way to communicate: the application working in a simple fashion – showing categories of things that people want to map, each category is leading to more specific options – the information can be captured and deciding if we want to save information and we can collect video and audio that are geotagged. In 3 simple steps, information can be captured. The process starts with a dialogue of what important for the communities, and then with this agreement on what will be collected. We do explore the usability of the application. About 70% can use the application, but 30% have a problem with categories – you follow a path of mapping banana, avocado and cacao – this requires categories, e.g. one of the set. Some participants found that confusing. Adding more icon to the category is becoming more complex. One approach was to test audio feedback in a local language – explaining the icons and what they mean. The experiments with the audio feedback help a bit, but not a lot. The next step was to go directly to the final icons and go directly to the final card – adding an NFC chip and adding the control to it. Participant finds the specific icon and then touch the card with the phone. With Tap&Map the success rate gets close to 100%.

Julia – the next issue is making sure that communities can manage their data- the vision is of intelligent maps  – having data collection, then local data repository and management, and then visualisation. But there is a challenge of the mapping and this was done by using UAVs and creating within a short time a high-resolution imagery. However, people don’t need maps as they know their area, but the maps are for communication. The maps are being used to check how the map is used – people felt under a lot of pressure when using the map. and the next experiment was not to put under pressure, and instead of doing a treasure hunt: going and looking for data by trying to find German Christmas decorations. The tracks of the people who participated in the study we can see how they looked for information. What we know is that people can use maps and understand them – the reference map. Now we want the thematic information – so when people take ownership and correct issues: this was done using the icons that were used as a resource and then to correct information. People were doing well in correcting information using a Tap&Map approach. We get feature corrections over 90%. This an ad-hoc approach: even without much exposure – we need to allow people to be sensors and the brains behind it.

Forest hunter-gatherers and Extreme Citizen Science: Reporting wildlife crime in collaboration with local and indigenous communities in Cameroon through community-led co-design – Simon Hoyte work in Cameroon for the last year and a half with Baka hunter-gatherers. Working in Cameroon in the south-east corner.Working with Dja reserve, working ZSL and 5 communities. In Cameroon, there are many issues with conservation – gorillas, chimpanzees, parrots, pangolins and elephants. Indigenous communities are lots of time are forgotten – those groups are familiar with the forest, with knowledge of 50,000 years and colonial approaches exclude. The technologies that are being used are Sapelli data collection tool, then there is the data management tool GeoKey and the CommunityMaps from Mapping for Change. The process starts with the community free prior informed consent – first starting with the concerns of the community and also building trust by staying overnight in the village and connect on a personal level. That is an important recommendation. Icons are being drawn from the sand, to a paper and then into the app. Functional actions changed from tick to thumbs app, or recording changed. XML layout of the project allow changes in the field. The second recommendation is the co-design that increases motivation. Audio and video are allowing information to be shared, including tracks – it allows a verification. Audio provides more information. Describing what people found. Indicators on the device are important – when recording is active a red icon allows you to see that something is working. The phone is checking for connection every 4 minutes. Using ID screen to recognise reported – can be used elsewhere. The community protocol also addresses who manage who will manage the phone and look after it. The report is upload and shared with the authorities – we need the diverse outcome. So in summary: trust building, co-design, media, feedback, simple tools, anonymous ID, community-led, and diverse outcomes. The map providing further more information.

Community based monitoring of tropical forests using information and communication technology (ICT) – Søren Brofeldt an example for a study that rely on Sapelli and expand the software to create the Prey Lang App: working in Cambodia, in the Prey Lang – 200,00 people who rely on the forest, and huge pressure of deforestation and a lot of the logging is illegal and it is supposed to be protected. The Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) created around 2005-2007 and it is now a group of 600 people who are doing work over that last 10 years, and patrolling the area, confiscating chainsaw and catch wood and logs. Trying to address logging in the area. 2013 they try to communicate the problem to international society – to do what they wanted to set a forest monitoring programme and create a system to document illegal logging and provide evidence-based advocacy. The issue is to compile information and document breaches. The data is captured by Sapelli, and the information is validated by PLCN and scientists, which then helped in compiling report locally and globally, which then led to the positive platform. The platform was tweaked a bit and include information through a decision tree, they have different aspects. The things that they developed: unique functions – choosing icons or doing activities – they had basic activities in the first version: they have seen it as too simple. They started with 9 basic functions with 614 end-points of activities. By the third version, they had 9 functions, and 1663 options: types of trees, types of information, species and so on. They now have 10 functions (e.g. dropdown, word complete). Complexity does not lead to incorrect use (if training is adequate and added functionality is done in co-designed way). When people are experienced – people who use the app for 2 years can get into more complex functionality over time. Some of the issues with data – poor documents, double counting. over time, human errors are decreasing, and also technical issues. Poor connectivity and technical issue are a major issue – more than local ability to use. High quality is possible with active data management is needed.

Designing Human-Computer Interaction for Citizen Science Initiatives in Rural Developing Regions – Veljko Pejovic & Artemis Skarlatidou we need to understand how we move initiative from developed to developing regions in citizen science application. ICT4D point to environmental constraints: roads, electricity, There are also that this area lack skills in the workforce and cultural constraints. Clashes with assumptions. in the Extreme Citizen Science context: we need to identify solution adaptation in participatory design, there is a need for holistic implementation, and we need to make sure that we think about the whole process – from data collection to policy and this challenging. Finally, we also to consider the champions and engaging then (the book “Geek Heresy” by Toyama talks about it). The aim is to identify guidelines – this was done through participatory studies that are similar in the rural developing world and carried out 9 interviews with researchers with extensive experience in the field. An hour-long interviews x 2. The questions explored different aspects including interactions. The finding – need to mobilise the community by taking into account societal organisation (e.g. egalitarian aspects). Need to find local champions. We need to identify the ecosystem of the technology: chargers, cables. Also need to consider how the technology that was built to a different context work: rough fingertips, reflection in the screens and so on. There is also the issue of using hierarchical icon organisation which is pretty intuitive for educated people but it is challenging for participants (users) and also navigation buttons. This matches evidence from Medhi et al. Chi 2013. Juxtaposing this with illiterate users in urban Brazil, they managed to deal with hierarchical organisation and navigation – might be that the exposure to smartphones helped in developing these hierarchies. Icon design is different, but we can see that realistic icons with context are more suitable to use, not just an object. There are issues of actions and how to represent them. Getting honest feedback on the spot is a challenge – users don’t criticise before (Dell et al CHI 2012 – “yours is better”). Long trust relationship help in getting honest feedback. The participants lack the vocabulary to discuss HCI issues. To maintain motivation, there is a need to make data collection visible and ensure the real-world impact of data collection. Recommendation: develop context-specific apps – not genetic, and consider application interface that matches user’s skills and geographical information is a key.

Introducing user issues of the Global Forest Watch application – Jamie Gibson – developing with Vizzuality better maps and visualisation. Trying to think of citizen-focused GIS, interacting with the citizen in the design. Global Forests Watch (GFW) was developed in the last 3 years, and it is allowing to see the world’s forest and how they change. They wanted to tell a simple story: where forest is gained and lost. With few clicks, you can see the impact of conservation. GFW allow seeing how deforestation is implemented and how it is stopped. There is a need for global engagement – opening it to a whole crowd of people. Forest don’t have a connection to the web, and try to take data online to the field, walk to the area, investigate recent forest loss and report new areas – 4000-5000 users. They aim to integrate citizens into the design process. Forest Watcher is being used in important areas of the world and not where the most connected people area. They analyse where people use the app – when there are forest fires in Spain, people are updating GFW and explore. Use the analytics to find the places where we want more people to look and explore. This is integrated with interviews and usability testing. Working with experts who been working for a long time – including Jane Goodall Institute, Amazon Conservation Team, CAGDF, and BirdLife. As people use the application they build ownership and they provide a better feedback and richer information. In terms of what they learn, including the use of persona to think about monitors: need to have lots of other things that try to sync after the 14 days offline – the internet is slow and changed the app and the back end to make it faster. Use it to understand frustrations and find ways to wow moment. Face, name and story improve the quality of the thinking and understand their frustrations.

Lessons learned from Missing Maps – Jorieke Vyncke Her personal background is in interest in work that links to humanitarian purposes, and since 2017 is the missing maps coordinator. She is looking at the humanitarian organisation focus -more than 34,000 staffers in MSF and about 470 locations around the world. In many parts of the world there are empty maps and not geographical data. They discover OpenStreetMap and working with the American and British Red Cross, HOT and over 40 partners. They have principles from the Ostrom on working with groups. They compare rural and urban parts. In Idjiwi in DRC, the east of Congo – working with a multitude of problems: violence, refugees and more. Due to a measles outbreak, they needed population and mapping data. Included 250 remote volunteers who mapped 28,000 building in about a week. This helped in creating population estimation – critical for the logistical planning. They managed to identify 94% of the population. An example from Bangladesh in Hazaribagh informal settlement. The area was mapped with both local and remote mapping – including factories and tanneries – locating the workers that they wanted to reach – combining students from the university with workers that were reached through the union. The experience of mapping is done by the technical local students to make things happen. Using smartphones and field papers process. Paper is still effective, and then also the edit data in pairs on how to do the mapping – the end result provided an occupational health survey. The process motivated the community and they continue to use it. In different areas, they use remote mapping but the most important thing is to create a local mapping community and that makes a decision between empowerment and remote mapping with the importance of saving life.

Keynote: Approximated Reality: the use of digital tools by traditional communities in the Amazon – Vasco van Roosmalen working in Ecam – Equipe Conservacao Amazonia in Brazil since 1999. The big challenge is how to reconcile different visions of what the world is. In the Xingu area in Brazil, there was a need to create an ethno-map of the region. The community discusses what they want to map and how they want to represent them, but it also needed to be cartographically accurate as this is how you communicate with external bodies. The whole map is created for the community: to use resources, to remember the dead and to defend their land (using patterns of body paint). We can see that protected areas in the Xingu. Another area that he was involved in mapping is near Surinam – in an area the size of Holland with 2000 people, the community recorded information about their region. This helped in justifying the resources and the protection of the area. An area that is very rough to access, and the local survey by the community managed to map the area done that in 6 maps. The community collected much more data than what the map can show – over the coming years, they mapped with different groups millions of hectares and they developed a process of creating the maps. The collaboration with Google Earth Outreach led to the interaction with Chief Amir of the Surui. The link with commitment with Rebecca Moore helped in filling up areas that are missing and attaching video and audio to the map. They then wanted to record illegal logging using mapping tools and this was done with OpenDataKit – the data collection challenges are accuracy, ease of use, speed, etc. In 2008 started to understand REDD and developed the Surui Carbon Project – need a tremendous amount of data from the air and from the ground. The use of information such as the circumference of trees was done with ODK. They use Garmin devices: they weren’t scratch resistance. Now they use a Samsung smartphones that are cheap and can be replaced easily. For the GPS in the rainforest, it is challenging and they use barcode on the trees. They used the ODK build but discovered that it is not an easy interface: using a programmer in the staff and that is a limitation in terms of allowing to build forms easily. The project managed to demonstrate that indigenous people can collect data but the REDD credits were more challenging and they got them in 2013. Cultural maps where created in other indigenous lands in Brazil. The importance not just to demarcate the land but to collect data and help them to manage the area. Today there are many challenges – 13% of the Brazilian territory. In the Brazilian Amazon, there are many communities – 25 mil people of which only 350,00 indigenous for example, Quilombola groups and many other groups. There was no information on other groups and some of them are disadvantaged – e.g. Quilombola required mapping 7000 communities, they are descendent of West African slaves – they were persecuted, faced a lot of violence, and when slavery was abolished they were forgotten, but from the 1980s they are recognised in the constitution, but not enough recognised officially. His team was involved in creating a new map of the 7000 communities for which only on a team of 40 is looking after in the government level in Brasilia. They used approaches that are similar to the Indigenous mapping in order to record information and manage the land. They had people who became experts in mapping and then demonstrating how to map the land using google earth and demonstrating data collection. The communities also collect socio-economic data – using ODK and understanding their community and developing a life plan for the area (plan for the next 10-30 years). The question is who is listening to the information but by whom. A social network analysis of Facebook (which is 83% of users in Brazil use) Looking at interactions show that local association are not linked to environment, human right and there is missing links to health, to a specific campaign on the Belo Monte Power Plant but it is not linked to the community. They care about health, education, income, and only fifth is the environment – need to talk about what matters to communities. How to make conversations about them in the centre of the discussion and move beyond putting them in the corner of the environment. We need to engage with people with their communities in a way that makes sense to them.








Representation of the people in science: Women in civic and citizen science – event summary

Image of UCL and the speakers in the event

On the 19th March, as part of UCL activities to the that accompany the UCL Exhibition “Disruptors and Innovators: Journeys in gender equality at UCL”, we hosted a panel of talks on how to open up science and engineering to new audiences, especially the representation of women in science. The event was called “Representation of the people in science: Women in civic and citizen science“. The event was sponsored by the Doing It Together Science project.

The event was chaired by Dr Charlene Jennett, a researcher at UCL Interaction Centre. Charlene opened the evening with a short introductory talk on citizen science and her research into this fast-growing phenomenon. Introducing an all-female panel – pointing that this is an opportunity to welcome everyone to science through citizen science – you can go outside and observe nature, or if it is a cold evening, go online and participate in projects on the Zooniverse. There are even games that can be played to contribute to citizen science – The Sea Hero Quest is a project that contributes to dementia research through a game. Citizen science is creating collaboration between citizen and scientists, and we should see it as a way to link people to science.

Following Charlene, Dr Cindy Regalado from UCL Extreme Citizen Science introduced “Doing It Together Science” project.  This is EU funded project, and the people in the room are part of the project by joining the event. This project is special – the different people and organisations that are involved in it came together with the question “what do we want to do” and this created a group of special organisations. People in the project a passionate about doing science together – creating engagement space, curiosity and interest in biodesign and environmental sustainability. We do that through a range of events and also producing different tools and information that allow sharing knowledge between organisations. Facilitators across the projects are sharing information and work together to create many types of events – over 400 of them already. Examples of that include the work of University Paris Descartes (UPD) in Paris, they run activities to engage people to create games for science. In Poland, there are” train the trainers” activities to introduce other people about sustainability. In RBINS in Brussels, people who are excited about stick insect – scientists and amateurs share their interest. People in Medialab Prado run events that are two weeks long and create new ideas and innovations. In Geneva, a biofabrication event took place, bringing people who experiment with biotechnology. The Kersnikova Institute in Ljubljana explored in Freaktion bar issues of science and ethics – provoking questions instead of simple ideas of science. A Polish delegation visited London to learn about citizen participation in air quality monitoring, and at UCL we use Public Lab’s DIY tools for environmental monitoring and invite people to do DIY biological research – enabling people to see for themselves that they too can do science. Finally, the Science Bus toured Europe and allow us to reach out groups that are usually under-represented in science engagement activities.

The next talk was given by Dr Louise Seaward, Research Associate on the Bentham Project, will introduce us to the project and Gill Hague, one of the volunteer transcribers [See Louise report of the evening on the Transcribe Bentham blog]. Louise described the Transcribe Bentham project – a flagship humanities project at UCL where a significant number of the most active volunteers are women. The project asks volunteers to transcribe papers written by UCL’s intellectual inspiration, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). The project is about the writing of Jeremy Bentham. Transcribed Bentham launched in 2010 and is the first crowdsourcing project in humanities – the idea is to ask volunteers to type and transcribe papers. Volunteers worked for 7 years and almost 20,000 pages of writing. Transcribe Bentham show manuscripts by him, and volunteers are free to choose a paper and work on it. Some of them are very difficult – the handwriting is very bad and he made changes, crossing text, changing his mind. Within the project system, there are tools to markup side notes and very complex ways of marking the page. The project is creating happiness for scholars – the purpose is to create a scholarly edition of everything that he wrote – the project is running since 1959 and it’s not halfway through, this is also a resource to the wider community – allowing other people to learn about Bentham and his writing. Most of the work done by around 30 super-transcribers and they are finding the project interesting. Currently, 58% of participants are men. People have higher education and based in the UK and US. Gill then described her experience with the project – she had a career in IT, TV, and legal services, and as a freelancer working from home, she had to be available at a call and wanted something more interesting to pass the time than watching daytime television.

By Cindy Regalado

In 2011 logged on to learn more about crowdsourcing which was new at the time following an article in the Sunday Times that mentioned the project, and she saw the value in Bentham writing based on previous knowledge in economics and in legal work. She then set out to transcribe one page, and then found the content very interesting, with journeys unfolding and Bentham views on the experience. Having involved in the legal process for a long time, she found Bentham views on legal issues interesting. She can find it as something that she can join more or less as much as she can and interested to do – sometimes 10-15 hours in a week. She very much like the idea of getting an acknowledgement in the next edition of Bentham publication and that is very satisfying. Transcribing is fascinating and there is good feedback and response from the team.

Jo Hurford, local artist and community leader, was part of a group of concerned citizens to approach UCL’s Extreme Citizen Science department to learn how to gather scientific data about deteriorating air quality and further environmental concerns in the context of HS2 development around Euston station. Jo opened up and noted that people who attend UCL have good opportunity to learn new things – and the work that UCL and Mapping for Change are doing with community groups has been mentioned in the report by the chief medical officer recently. The experience of the Euston communities is showing the limitations of citizen science approaches but also the new lessons that are learned from it. The community members knew about air quality issues from reading the news – they suspect that they were living in a polluted part of London – and experienced a building site for 3 years already. They wanted to have a baseline of air quality while the HS2 bill passing through parliament and wanted to know more about it. The community wanted to keep trees in the area of Euston until HS2 have a clear plan for the development of the area. The campaign to try to protect the trees fails. However, using the construction routes they positioned diffusion tubes and found that half of the monitoring locations were above the EU regulation. There are projects with big impact on the area (e.g. making Gower St two way) and they learn through citizen science and tested the particulate matter and seen that air purifiers do work in filtering them – so they ask for air filters for residents that are badly affected by the change to the plan. There are discoveries through collaborations with UCL – for example, Google Scholar is new, but the information that you get from academic publications is overwhelming, and she contacted specific people and look at different academic papers and use them to show the link between poor air and the health impact. When they spoke to HS2 in the House of Lords they used some of their information, but they weren’t convinced by the argument. Because people in power don’t listen to communities, and they have created scarves on trees and explaining the different trees in an area that doesn’t have enough green spaces. They protested against the tree panel of HS2 – they ignore personal views. The community transport working group suggested alternative schemes, but at the middle of the night, the HS2 contractors cut the trees. They organised painting of the cut off trees, and campaigning toward Sadiq Kahn – they did different activities – from chaining to trees to demonstration next to the GLA building. We need to participate in democracy and participate in science – we need to use it to bring evidence and to be listened to.

Next, Dr Alice Bell, science writer and director of communications at climate charity 10:10, drawn on her research on the radical science movement to discuss science activism and community-based research in the 1970s and 80s. Alice has a double interest – day job in addressing climate change through energy issue and hobby interest in the history of science, that talk about similar things: citizen participation in science and technology. In the 1970s we’ve seen the radical science that can be related to citizen science. Today people create DIY solar panels and creating DIY solar panels from the offcuts from solar panels and with some crafting, you can make your own and learn about it. Community events – making is connecting: people doing something together mean that they also talk about other things. Back to the 1970s, she discovered about civic science from the material that came out of clear up at the university library and found the “science for people” – magazines that were produced in the UK. One interesting example is the women’s collective issue that points to the problems that women experience in science with snakes and ladders that help male scientists and work against female scientists. Maybe the public don’t like science and technology because they have a reason – ideas about fixing science to make it batter. As a result, there were projects that are about citizen science. In the 1970s, Battersea air smell was rancid, and there are very little records of it (the Battersea smell) – the radical science group carried out a survey about the smell and the local council said that they can’t smell anything. The group helped citizens to collect evidence. The Sheffield occupational health group provided the ability to build and construct evidence – lots of groups didn’t have the ability to create the evidence that can be used about issues in the workplace. Today, in 10:10, there are projects to help communities and people to access energy and this is a way to do something about climate change: if you dismiss schools as places of social interaction, you miss a major site of activity. We can do these things not only top down through forcing people – we need to shift it in a way that worth saving and a place that community participate. There are examples of people that become experts and developing ideas about using unused energy to the train – new ways of powering electric trains through solar energy. This happens because a local community got interested in setting out energy system in a school and then developed their ideas further.

The last speaker was Professor Sarah Bell, director of Engineering Exchange. Sarah’s talk was as follows: “I’m here because of my work with the Engineering Exchange at UCL, which is about providing opportunities for better engagement between engineering researchers and local communities in London. We work on a model of two-way engagement. The Engineering Exchange give a pro-bono engineering service and we work with community groups and engineers to generate new research projects together. We’ve covered topics such as demolition and refurbishment of social housing, green infrastructure, air quality, traffic congestion.
Our work is relevant to tonight’s discussion for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m a woman, as are many of the people I work with. Secondly, engineering is vitally important to democracy in a complex technological society. And finally, there seems to be a connection between opening up engineering to women and opening it up to the wider public.
Firstly, I am a woman, and I lead a programme at a research-intensive university that is doing some form of what might be called civic science, or indeed civic engineering.
Which inevitably brings me to civil engineering. I’ve just recently become a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the oldest professional engineering institution in the world. The ICE is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, so is 100 years older than women’s suffrage in this country.
The first woman to be admitted to the ICE was Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan in 1927, 9 years after the ‘Representation of the People Act’, which we are talking about tonight, and 8 years after the 1919 ‘Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act’. It was the 1919 Act that meant they could go to university and enter the professions. It became illegal to disqualify anyone from entering a ‘civil profession or vocation, or admission into any incorporated society’ on the basis of sex or marriage. It is not a coincidence that access to education and the professions followed on so quickly from the right to vote. They are equally, if not more, important to democracy. And so in the 1920s Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan could earn her BS in Civil Engineering at Edinburgh University, sit the entry exams for the ICE and join the engineering profession.
And haven’t we moved a long way since Dorothy’s time? No. Not really. Only 9% of all engineers in the UK are women. I am one of only 2% of the Fellows of the ICE who are women. In its 200 year anniversary, 12% of Members and 2% of Fellows of the Institution of Civil Engineers are women.
I’m one of the 2%. Which is actually significant – personally and strategically. For most of my career, I’ve wondered if I was really an engineer. I’ve always struggled a bit on the edges of the profession. But now, there’s no doubt. I am mainstream. You don’t get more mainstream than Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers. It’s nice to have my own work recognised in this way, but it is even more important for the work itself. The Engineering Exchange, which we might call civic engineering, is civil engineering. This is not some radical, outsider practice, it’s mainstream.
And that’s how we’ve positioned ourselves. The Engineering Exchange takes a very conservative line. We are not activists. We are engineers and researchers. As academics, we are encouraged to work with industry and government – the people with power and money. I’ve always pitched the Engineering Exchange as supporting the third leg of the stool of democracy – the public who are impacted by decisions by industry and government. Our basic premise is that by widening access to engineering knowledge, we will improve the overall quality of democratic debate about technical issues. The engineering profession claims to serve the public, so we provide a mechanism for engineers to do that.
And I often wonder is there a connection between my gender and the work I choose to do. This has been a long-standing question for me. I am Professor of Environmental Engineering. Around half of my undergraduate cohort in Australia back in the 1990s were women, and here at UCL, I ran an MSc programme in Environmental Systems Engineering that had consistently more than 50% women. Even given the low numbers of women in the profession, within engineering, women tend to cluster around particular specialisms, which might be related to why we end up more engaged in civic facing work. In the case of environmental engineering, given the public value of what we do, there’s a logical progression from working on environmental issues to engaging with the public in citizen and civic science programmes.
So why is there this clustering of women in public facing engineering? I don’t know the answer. It can’t be because ‘women are nurturing and caring’. It might be because of that outsider experience I mentioned, which operates in two ways – firstly to exclude women from more conventional career paths, and secondly to make us more aware of others who are excluded from the structures of power that operate in our society. If you are in the middle of the engineering establishment, with all the other powerful men, you are less likely to see those on the margins. They are just not in your field of vision. If you are hanging around the edges, you might make friends with others on the outside, and build your own career accordingly. As a woman, I’ve developed a critical framing of my own professional experience in order to stay sane, and this critical framing of my profession has opened up creative possibilities that may be less obvious to those who are actively embraced by conventional constructions of engineering.
So the Engineering Exchange is doing engineering differently. The good news is that the engineering establishment recognises our value. Our budget and our achievements are modest, we are much less powerful than the big firms and government departments. But we are able to do interesting work in partnership with communities, and in our own way are contributing to opening up a very powerful way of knowing the world to wider publics and local communities. ”

Some of the issues that came through the Q&A session:

Louise pointing to that Bentham material available online and in some ways he is showing his forward thinking. Gill has found information in the Sunday Times, and then followed it – and the website said that anyone can do it, and doesn’t need to ask for permission. Sometimes there is interesting correspondence that describes the social history and brings history to life and make this real and it is enjoyable and serving the purpose. She didn’t find the technology problematic and her background in law and IT helped in getting going.

Science for People that jump out – how much work done about what it is to be scientists and how they started looking at the option of co-operative science: instead of the very hierarchical structures – everyone is equal and co-manage each other. Then have community-based cooperative laboratories,. Thinking about the workers in science – cleaners, administrative, and everyone to make it

There was also a question about reaching different populations, including people in jail. Also about the collaborations across disciplines and the nature of expertise.

And at the end, Cindy carried out a quick evaluation of the evening

Participatory soundscape sensing – joint paper with Dr Chunming Li

One of the lovely aspects of scientific research is its international dimension – the opportunity to collaborate with people from different places, cultures, and necessarily practices and points of view.

PSSonline-CMLiDuring 2017, Dr Chnming Li, of the Institute of Urban Environment of the Chinese Academy of Science, was a visiting researcher in ExCiteS. Dr Li research is on participatory sensing and the development of sensors and applications for the urban environment. We collaborated on a paper that described the Participatory Soundscape Sensing project that he is developing, with an app on Android mobile phones, called SPL Meter, that is used to carry out the participatory sensing.

One demonstration that culture matter is in the app request for classification of sound as “harmonious” – a qualification of the sound in the right place, such as traffic noise on the road, or birds in the park. This is a quality that I haven’t encountered in studies in Europe or USA.

The paper is: “Li, C., Liu, Y., and Haklay, M., 2018, Participatory soundscape sensing, Landscape and Urban Planning 173: 64-69

Here is the abstract of the paper, and a link to the paper itself:

“Soundscape research offers new ways to explore the acoustic environment and potentially address challenges. A comprehensive understanding of soundscape characteristics and quality requires efficient data collection and analysis methods. This paper describes Participatory Soundscape Sensing (PSS), a worldwide soundscape investigation and evaluation project. We describe the calibration method for sound pressure levels (SPL) measured by mobile phone, analyze the PSS’s data temporal-spatial distribution characteristics, and discuss the impact of the participants’ age and gender on the data quality. Furthermore, we analyze the sound comfort level relationships
with each class of land use, sound sources, subjective evaluation, sound level, sound harmoniousness, gender, and age using over a year of shared data. The results suggest that PSS has distinct advantages in enhancing the amount and coverage of soundscape data. The PSS data distribution is closely related to the temporal pattern of the human work-rest schedule, population density, and the level of cyber-infrastructure. Adults (19–40 years old) are higher-quality data providers, and women exhibit better performance with respect to data integrity than men. Increasing the proportion of natural source sounds and reducing the proportion of humanmade sources of sound is expected to enhance the sound comfort level. A higher proportion of sound harmoniousness
leads to higher sound comfort, and the higher proportion of subjective evaluation sound level does not lead to decreased sound comfort. We suggest that the crowdsourcing data with participatory sensing will provide a new perspective in soundscape investigation, evaluation, and planning.”

The paper is available on ScienceDirect or also here

DITOs, Doing It TOgether Science – introductory video

The Doing It Together Science (DITOs) project is now in its 20th Month. It is a 3-year project, funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme, that is aimed to increase awareness of and participation in citizen science across Europe and beyond. As such, it is focused on communication, coordination, and support of citizen science activities. Therefore, the project promotes the sharing of best practices among existing networks for a greater public and policy engagement with citizen science through a wide range of events and activities. Some of these activities include doing citizen science, as ‘engaging by doing’ is central to the effort of the project. Other activities, both online and offline, are focused on communicating different facets of citizen science, from in-depth engagement with small and organised groups to large-scale engagement via social media.
DITOs supports existing and new projects across the landscape of citizen science: top-down projects, in which people join an activity that is designed and coordinated by scientists; bottom-up science activities, in which people, scientifically trained or not, organise a research project around a problem of direct concern (this is sometimes known as DIY (Do It Yourself) science); as well as collaborative projects that are created jointly by scientists and participants.

In collaboration across the consortium, the Waag Society produced a short video of less than 3 minutes about the project. It was made from material from our events and it is good to such a short introduction to explain what the project is about…

Defining principles for mobile apps and platforms development in citizen science

Core concepts of apps, platforms and portals for citizen science

In December 2016, ECSA and the Natural History Museum in Berlin organised a  workshop on analysing apps, platforms, and portals for citizen science projects. Now, the report from the workshop with an addition from a second workshop that was held in April 2017 has evolved into an open peer review paper on RIO Journal.

The workshops and the paper came to life thanks to the effort of Soledad Luna and Ulrike Sturm from the Berlin Museum.

RIO is worth noticing: is “The Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) journal” and what it is trying to offer is a way to publish outputs of the whole research cycle – from project proposals to data, methods, workflows, software, project reports and the rest. In our case, the workshop report is now open for comments and suggestions. I’ll be interested to see if there will be any…

The abstract reads:

Mobile apps and web-based platforms are increasingly used in citizen science projects. While extensive research has been done in multiple areas of studies, from Human-Computer Interaction to public engagement in science, we are not aware of a collection of recommendations specific for citizen science that provides support and advice for planning, design and data management of mobile apps and platforms that will assist learning from best practice and successful implementations. In two workshops, citizen science practitioners with experience in mobile application and web-platform development and implementation came together to analyse, discuss and define recommendations for the initiators of technology based citizen science projects. Many of the recommendations produced during the two workshops are applicable to non-mobile citizen science project. Therefore, we propose to closely connect the results presented here with ECSA’s Ten Principles of Citizen Science.

and the paper can be accessed here. 

New paper – Exploring Engagement Characteristics and Behaviours of Environmental Volunteers

Engagement in environmental volunteering

A new paper that is based on the PhD work of Valentine Seymour is out. Valentine has been researching the patterns of volunteering in environmental projects at the organisation The Conservation Volunteers. In the paper, we draw parallels between the activities of environmental volunteers and citizen science participants. The analysis demonstrates that the patterns of participation are similar.

The paper is open access and available here

The summary of the paper is:

Environmental volunteering and environmental citizen science projects both have a pivotal role in civic participation. However, one of the common challenges is recruiting and retaining an adequate level of participant engagement to ensure the sustainability of these projects. Thus, understanding patterns of participation is fundamental to both types of projects. This study uses and builds on existing quantitative approaches used to characterise the nature of volunteer engagement in online citizen science projects, to see whether similar participatory patterns exist in offline environmental volunteering projects. The study uses activity records of environmental volunteers from a UK environmental charity “The Conservation Volunteers,” and focuses on three characteristics linked to engagement: longevity, frequency, and distance travelled. Findings show differences in engagement patterns and contributor activity between the three UK regions of Greater London, Greater Manchester, and Yorkshire. Cluster analysis revealed three main types of volunteer engagement profiles which are similar in scale across all regions, namely participants can be grouped into “One-Session,” “Short-Term,” and “Long-Term” volunteer. Of these, the “One-Session” volunteer accounted for the largest group of volunteers.