Caren Cooper: Scientists Should Talk to the Public, but Also Listen

Caren Cooper published a blog on Scientific American website: “Scientists Should Talk to the Public, but Also Listen” which also includes a citation from me and mentioning the work of Mapping for Change.

She writes: “Why is it when scientists talk to the public, they’re said to be communicating, but when the public talks to scientists, they are crazy to think scientists will listen?” providing examples from different cases, including the recent environmental catastrophe at Flint, Michigan. See her post at

Citizen Science: theory, practice & policy 

As part of the Israeli Geographical Association meeting in Jerusalem, I was asked to give a half day workshop on “Citizen Science: theory, practice and policy (with case studies from UK & Germany)”. The workshop learning objectives:

  • Knowledge of the field of citizen science and current trends that influence it
  • Understand the principles and practical aspects of designing a citizen science project
  • Experience of citizen science activity
  • Learn about additional resources that can be used to design and run citizen science projects
  • Understand the policy trends that are influencing the field

There are many slides in this set, and the set includes links to resources, timing, use of existing applications and more. This is the description in Hebrew:

מטרת הסדנא : (שאורכה 3-3.5 שעות) היא להציג את תחום מדע התושבים
הפוטנציאל שלו במחקר המדעי, ניהול הסביבה , תכנון עירוני או פיתוח קהילתי. הסדנא אינה
מניחה ידע או נסיון קודם, אך מתאימה גם לאנשים עם ידע בתחום המעוניינים בדוגמאות
לתהליכים אלו במקומות שונים בעולם ובאמצעות מגוון פרקטיקות. הסדנא תבחן את תפקיד
ותדגים כיצד החשיבות שלה אינה מבטלת את הצורך בגישה CS הטכנולוגיה בפרויקטים של
כוללנית לגיום ויצירת מעורבות של אנשים. בסדנא יוצגו דגמאות של תהליכים בתחום
האקולוגיה וניטור סביבתי, צדק סביבתי, פיתוח קהילתי , בריאות ומוכנות לאסונות. במהלך
בפועל. הסדנא תכלול מבוא וסקירת התחום, CS הסדנא יתנסו המשתתפים בתהליך של
הכוללת יציאה לשטחים CS והתנסות מעשית בתהליך של CS דוגמאות לפרויקטים של
פתוחים באוניברסיטה ואיסוף נתונים.

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 . 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?

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.

EU BON round table discussion on supporting citizen science, Berlin

The EU BON is a European project, focusing on building the European Biodiversity Observation Network. Now, with the growing recognition of citizen science as a source of biodiversity observations, a meeting dedicated to the intersection was organised in Berlin today, following the ECSA meeting

The project carried out gap analysis of the available data, which also explores the role of citizen science data. Understanding these aspects was the motivation for the meeting.

Jose Miguel Rubio Iglesias (DG R&I) discussed the link between science-society-policy at the EU level. He noted that Citizen Science has an established tradition, especially in environmental observations. There is no common definition, interpretation and classification for citizen science. Some typologies are based on project goals, degree of citizen engagement (contributory, collaborative, co-created) and links to policy. There are studies that were created by scientists and those that were created by citizens. There are new initiatives that emerge from new technologies (citizen cyberscience). He noted that ICT tools provide both opportunity to participate and also access to the latest science. Collaborative power of ICT can allow influencing environmental policy, and lead to more sustainable behaviour and lifestyle. The challenges that are linked to citizen science, include: engaging broader spectrum of society, beyond those who have access to smartphone but also not well off; Recognition of the work by scientists and policy makers; how to guarantee that there is action on the findings;  quality of data; security and privacy of data about participants; incorporating local knowledge – not only seeing citizens as sensors but co-design; and acknowledging ownership and feedback. There is also criticism – do we need to use ICT in the first place?

The background for the policy aspect of citizen science can be the Aarhus convention (1998) the emphasised public participation in decision making which was translated to Directive 2003/35/EC. In the SEIS implementation outlook, it was realised that citizens also provide information and not just consumed information, as this is also reflected in the 7th environment action programme 2014-2020 in priority objective 5 which focused on improving knowledge and evidence for EU environment policy. Citizen science is mentioned in the text.

The policy perspectives of dealing with the gap between citizen science and policy is done through several activities – the work on responsible research & innovation is relevant, although it includes wider societal issues such as Science is another importance area for the EU, looking at the ICT enabled transformation of science – so open access and citizen engagement. Finally, the area of global systems science, where there is the need to allow citizens to participate. Finally, there is the need to progress the concept of citizen observatories. One definition is “communities of citizens sharing technological solutions and community participatory governance methods aided by social media streams with the objectives to deliver environmental observations”. Issues that are open include level of maturity of solutions, ways of citizens to influence environmental policy making etc. The scientific perspectice include data management and conflation with authoritative data. There is a need to narrow the gap between citizens-science and policy, but need to develop truly participatory process.

Christoph  Häuser is the coordinator of EU BON. He noted that biodiversity is critical for the life support of the planet, but biodiversity observations are varied, so GBIF data portal demonstrate that information is not covering many areas. The structure of the project (which got 30 partners and it is 5 years long) is around creating data sources and infrastructure and then science and application, and finally policy and dialogue. There are many links to citizen science – data sources and mobilising involvement in adding observation records, exploring the data generations by citizens. Trying to do that through a science-based social network with communities of practice, and a technological network of interoperable sources and trying to use existing infrastructure instead of adding new one.

Citizen science can be used for biodiversity assessment and monitoring, using technology based recording schemes, adding to environmental education and supporting education network, so trying to. In the Museum fur Naturkunde Berlin they created an app for anymals + plants to allow recording information that is available in the area, using GBIF.

Lucy Robinson from the NHM in London, provided a European perspective on citizen science. The NHM got interface between science and public engagement. The museum been doing citizen science for 10 years, supporting amateur experts – and they have citizen science in the galleries and encouraging people to carry it out after the visit to the museum. The aim of citizen science at the NHM is about engagement, education and delivering high impact scientific research. The definition that NHM use is citizen science the involvement of volunteers that contribute to scientific endeavour – research or monitoring. It is possible to define what is not citizen science: when the data is not usable at the end, as well as science communication projects. Citizen science is not replacing existing monitoring activities and need to be aware that it won’t replace existing effort, and it cost about £100,000 per year to run per project. There are key drivers – for scientific levels, policy and human levels. Need to maximise the potential of citizen science projects without squashing projects, and the awareness of citizen science over the past 5-10 years it been growing very fast. There are grouping of European Natural History museums, and ECSA which provide opportunities to share best practice. She explained the role of ECSA and the 10 principles of citizen science. One of the follow on questions was about the definition of what is a citizen scientist, and the ability to act as professional scientist during the day and citizen scientist as a volunteer in their free time.

The second session of the day focused on data mobilisation. Antonio Garcia Camacho discussed the EU BON biodiversity data portal, which integrates data from GBIF and LTER centres, with taxonomy providers. He gave a demonstration of the system.

Jaume Piera discussed the requirements, as in yesterday, highlighting that the process is not unidirectional from monitoring to delivery, but to have multiple loops that people collect information and use it at any stag. in collaborative citizen science there is a need to use social media channels – the requirements are: engagements, data qualification, tracking systems (who is using my data and what for, do I agree with it), privacy rules and system integration. Requirement model
He explains, with examples, the advantages of data access tracking. With this system, it is possible to provide recognition to contributions and efforts to the people that contributed and manipulated the data. Questions in the discussion explored the traceability, metadata and trust in the data, keeping trace of what happen to the information is important.

The final presentation from Simao Belchior of Vizzuality, explored the fall of dta portals and the future of data workflow or data access, visualisation and products. Vizzuality created different products that are easy to use and well design, including Global Forest Watch. With their focus on visualisation, they emphasise the move to publishing information in portals – data is available on line, but not accessible.There is also an issue with too much data that stream from new systems. The suggestion is to develop applications that allow doing things when they the people who use them need them – doing one thing well. Likely the same app will not fit all needs and users. Some examples of that include zooniverse projects.

The follow on discussion raised the issue the ability to explore new data set and find unknown patterns in comparison to well designed, but limited to specific task, applications. For the flexibility, data download and API can help, but this bring challenges of using GIS, for example.

The afternoon explored some data providers. Veljo Runnel presented a survey about researchers readiness for citizen science data in Estonia – in the Baltic countries, the term is not familiar. Researchers are willing to engage volunteers (85%) even though they are not using them. NGOs are more engaged with volunteers and government agencies, but scientist in universities are less willing to do so. The reason for engaging with volunteers – not enough resources, big effort to engage and don’t have capabilities – or the data is too specific to be suitable, and of course, concern about data quality.

Christos Arvanitidis, talked about crowdsourcing initiative in the meditaranian area. The citizen science projects include: COMBER – sea life, CIGESMED – evaluation the good environmental status of Corals. They try to develop indicators and engage divers to provide information – pictures in predefined states , AmvrakikosBirds is a project to support bird watching in the Amvrakikos gulf. COMBER, which is about fish and sea life, is done with diving and sailing clubs – so not experience divers, this is challenging to do and they use the BIO-WATCH card of identification of fishes types, and also work with divers and snorkelers community. Submitting observations through a website. Information is going from COMBER to and they have a mobile app that allow submitting data.

Nils Valland (Norway) talked about citizen science and species occurrence data in Europe. He assumes 150 portals/sytems around, about 120-250 mil records. This lead to a total of 207.7 mil records, but only 92.5 mil are in GBIF, so most is not available. Key success factors (from the Norwey system), for quantity – need effective UI, rich services for the user, and environmental impact. For quality, need basic knowledge and motivations, no anonymous login, visibility – report first, qa later, informal voluntary QA and validation on priority species. The accessability of the data require cooperation governmental institutions and NGO, effective data distribution and open license

The artsobservasjoner is the Swedish and Norwegian system for nature observations. They work with 5 NGOs in Norway, 150 validators, and 9000 participants contributing 11.6 million records with 14,000 species.

Dirk Schmeller covered Volunteer Species Monitoring in Europe. Volunteer eager to help monitoring around Europe. The EuMon documents 395 monitoring schemes, annual costs of 4 mil EUR and involving 46,000 people, putting in 148,000 person-day/year to biodiversity monitoring (Schmeller et al 2009). There is a need for government support to make this happen – from public institutions, scientists and managers. It’s a serivce the public give to policy . The more people there are in a programme, the more sites are cover (of course). The EU BON portal need to support volunteers.

Pierre-Philippe Mathieu fro ESA-ESRIN discussed the new era for ESA – the launch of Sentinel 1 will provide monitoring for several decades, fully open and accessible data. SAR sattelite can be used from sea ice to land use. ESA see the societal need, and paying attention to Nexus issues. They try to do science in society – ESA will produce a lot of data, and putting all the data together will be a challenge. We will get ZettaB, problems with filtering information. Volume of data is unmanagable, and developing the ability to deal with the data before delivering a product – it will see it as data management issue. RS data need interpretation, so need to figure out how to build components that allow analysis as the data come in. Some citizen science activities – e.g. the geowiki application that allow people to classify information about land use are relevant to ESA. There is also the post-2015 devleopment goals – they want to be able to use crowd sourcing and working through data revolution.

Fermin Serrano Sanz covered Socientize project and the white paper on citizen science. The white paper came with over 200 contributors. At the macro level, they recommend ‘citizen science think tank’ for promotion, coordination, monitoring, evaluation, collaboration. At the meso level, body like ECSA with adaptable guidelines.

Luigi Ceccaroni covered the citclops project about the marine area, and examples of optical monitoring of marine environments. The observations are about the colour, transperancy and fluorescence of water. They focus specifically on DIY, low costs sensors.

Jamie Williams covered COBWEB, consume crowd sourced environmental data, then autmatic quality measure and outputing to standards such as INSPIRE. They specifically focus through GEOSS without resriction. The aim is that sensors in the environment, and the crowd provide the information and improve it. They focus on UNESCO world network or Biospehere reserve – they will extend to Greece and Germany. Several demonstration applications – validating earth observations, biological monitoring and flooding. Engagement with school, marine research centre, RSPB orgnaisation, educational charity, park authority and other bodies. They are co-designing the software according to what they would want to do. The co-design is with group from 15 to 100 and they got project contacts and person that is in charge of working with them. The community champions work with project person to discuss the applications with the developer – not direct link community – developer to ensure translation.

Siro Masinde discuss citizen science in GBIF. GBIF – 52 countries and 40  organisation. free and open access biodiversity data and promote common standards and tools and guiding national information facilities. GBIF got 517M specific records, 1.45 mil species and 13,945 datasets. About 33% are from citizen science. Most of it are charismatic taxa nad easy to recongize – birds and butterfly and grasses. Data from citizen science is key to some taxa groups. The sources for citizen science data include data from ireland (bioblitz), denmark, costa rica etc. eBird, iNaturalist, Anymals_plants, Diveboard and the scnadinavian networks. They have crowdsourcing projects in france, Australia nad Norway. Transcriptions are helping with that. eBird highly significant, when removing it, Sweden and UK come to the top contribution. They would like to have endorsement of datasets and community assessment and evaluation of data set before publication, also would like to see quality and fitness for use information, and some reference datasets.

European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) general assembly (Berlin)

The European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) reached an important stage in its development, with a general assembly in Berlin on 26th November 2014. The organisation was finally formally registered as a German charity in April, so now it’s time to consider future directions and developments. The assembly had about 50 participants with new members joining in the association, which now has a full time staff member. As in many organisations, one there is someone with a day job of running the organisation, things start to happen.

Andrea Sforzi, one of the trustees started the day discussing its history – from early discussions in July 2012 to setting up the organisation, registration and to the current day. He noted that there are positive policy indication about the role of citizen science, e.g. the report to the EU from December 2013, which recognised that the potential of environmental citizen science has largely untapped. With the White Paper on citizen science from Socientize, we now have policy documents to support citizen science and we should use them to develop the field. In terms of the strengths, ECSA already building on strong core organisations. On the weakness side, there is wide variety of citizen science across and inside EU countries, as well as a need for funding, and business structures are still unstable. There is also ongoing challenges over the scientific value of data. Some of the challenges that ECSA need to deal with are cultural differences, different tools, and re-evaluate the role of people and to invest in citizen scientists. Maintain interest and participation over time. External challenges are the acceptance of data. Andrea pointed that we need to share experiences, stay inclusive, broad and open minded – people before data!! We need to accelerate the development of the network, and national communities, how to assure guidance and maintain a ballanced approach among the different topics within ECSA.

We have also an address from Jose Miguel Rubio Iglesias from the Climate Actions and Earth Observations unit (DG R&I) covered the citizens’ observatory. He suggested some possible definitions from the current set of projects, but in many of the current definitions of citizen observatories there is too much focus on ICT and the definition need to move to people. From the EC guidance to the goals of Horizon 2020, there is an emphasis on participatory democracy in terms of the environment, empower citizens to make informed decisions, engaging broader spectrum in terms of awareness and environmental protections. There is also potential to empower communities and get in-situ monitoring while reducing costs (a win win situation). The set of citizens’ observatories that is currently running already providing demonstration, and starting to see pilot activities and the development of working methods to establish citizens observatories. For example, WeSenseIt created some applications – smart umbrella and the commission want to see also jobs creation from observatories through innovation. Citclops – started to engage stakeholder communities and validated their results. They take open data and DIY apporach – need to see how it continue after the project. Omniscientis is a project that just finished, with odor monitoring and worked as an open lab approach – an app Odomap released.Citi-sense about to launch city scale projects, and developed a range of sensors. All in all good development for the next call, with total budget of 20 mil EU and expectations of proposals of 3-5 mil. There is awareness at the EC that it’s early stage for development. They want to see more examples of co-designed approach rather than treating citizens as data collectors.

Elizabeth Tyson reported on the workshop that was just completed in the US, exploring how to integrate citizen science in national climate assessment

Guillermo Santamaria Pampliega gave a video talk, and highlighted the commonalities between citizen science and RRI. Because Citizen science links engagement, co-responsibility, co-creation, inclusiveness, sustainability, and openness, this make it very similar to RRI – thinking about thew process of science but also the outcomes.

Claudia Goebel (who is working for ECSA now!) discussed the work programme for 2015 – communication and engagement with citizens and scientists, organisational development and networking, piloting EU wide citizen science programmes, EU policy engagement, collecting and engaging best practices, EU participatory data access and handling system. These were then covered by people from the different working group of ECSA

A lot of discussion followed Lucy Robinson’s presentation of the 10 principles of citizen science – trying to move from principles to a final version that will go on the site. Jade Cawthray from NHM discussed the developing a guidance on best practices – something like 15 pages, covering issues of running citizen science projects, bioblitzes, a lot to discuss on data handling and sharing, and the quality. Also covered will be open access and how it is possible to access to people – to what degree it is suitable for citizen scientists to read. Finally evaluation, recruitment , motivation of volunteers.

The discussion of the principles focused on understanding what research mean – does it need to be hypothesis led or not, and how to provide space for discoveries and monitoring.

Jaume Piera discussed the current concept of developing ECSA data portal came next. The role of citizens need to be different – closing the loop by giving them access and control over the data. Not just extractive relationship to their work but also allowing them to participate in the process. Expectations are that there will be different quality of information and data but still keep it all. The way to do that is to have integration of general public and scientists. The need for a new portal is to have engagement abilities, some data qualification – not to say that it’s not valid. Include labels for the data. Need tracking systems – who is using my data, and what for. Need to consider privacy rules and system integration with other systems. Considering the built up on the basis of iNaturalist,

In the discussion it was highlighted that the portal need to be linked to other working groups of ECSA.

Martin Brocklehurst – was pointing that current regulations and directives do not include citizen science and suggested policy direction. There are discussions within the commission about the citizen science white papers. There is plenty of resistance in policy makers about the data quality and there are different view. But is ECSA ready for promoting policy and substantiate  it with good evidence that will convince policy makers? It might be possible to develop a road map of how to put citizen science into directives and policy. Some directives are already blocking citizen science data and need to be changed.

Poppy Lakeman-Fraser -discussed the communication and conference directions. Issues that are considered are the form of membership (paid/unpaid) and benefits. There is a need to further work on the reason for people to participate.There was early discussion on the directions of the planned conference for February 2016.

Most of the afternoon focus on procedural aspects – which is a good thing, as the organisation is starting to take shape. An advisory board was elected, changes to the articles of association, discussion of budget, and plans for funding. The positive atmosphere and the willingness of current members to contribute to ECSA is encouraging.

During the day, I have acted as a representative of the Citizen Science Association (CSA) while also being a member of ECSA. There was interest in the development of the journal ‘citizen science: theory and practice’ and interest in the process of forming the CSA. Many people plan to come to the CSA conference next February which is a good thing, and the memorandum of understanding between ECSA, CSA and the Citizen Science Network Australia was adopted in the final call. People were especially interest in the wide reach of disciplines that CSA includes.