Citizen Science 2017 – Day 2 (Morning) – Biohacking, traditional ecological knowledge, and science communication

DSC_0324Keynote by Dr. Ellen Jorgensen is co-founder and Executive Director of Genspace, a community biolab. She brings DIY-Bio to the conference. Her experience from the previous conference was the experience of “people want me only for my visual cortex” – contributory projects that are science led. Ellen interested in Public driven, public analysed of citizen science. Scientists are in the group by their voice is not stronger from anyone else. Publication is not the only major goal. DIY bio started in Boston our of the iGEM competition, with the development from SynBio – a level of abstractions that allow genetic engineering that opens up the ability of amateur to join genetic engineering. DIYbio is a mix from maker movement, synbio and cheap DNA & second-hand equipment. DSC_0326The core question for her was: Can the general public join in to understand molecular biology better? The biohacking labs came up through crowdfunding for equipment, then finding space. Genespace started about space in NYC in someone’s kitchen. The interesting thing was that people were fascinated by something that at work, she did every day. Taking pictures of the DNA going in the gel. Recreate space where we enter science – interesting, cool, and enquiry and tinkering, while ensuring that it is safe. Started doing things like going out to a park and extracting DNA from fruit and veg in a local market. Strawberry DNA extraction – to people to establish a lab was a radical idea. The press continues to be interested – creating community biotech lab fascinated and raised questions. The model is a membership organisation and also doing outreach and exploring. In order to facilitate the place, they hooked people on their advisory board – e.g. the head of safety at MIT. They found that membership wasn’t enough, and they started running classes – exposing people to biotech, and after classes people joined. At the beginning, a lot of personal time was invested before the organisation become established. There was a lot of interest from artists who wanted to explore bio-art, e.g. DSC_0327the work around picking up chewing gum, and suggesting reconstruction of faces from that which caused a big noise. They developed the organisation by working with other bodies in order to gain legitimacy. Joining an iGEM competition with college students was extended to high school. The issue with the default outreach is that people with higher science capital found about genespace, but not local communities or people from less strong socioeconomic background, they now have a programme that reach out to public schools in Brooklyn and she is involved in active outreach to under-represented groups. The balk of the citizen science work was from people that took the class, so the issue was to consider how to increase engagement. She brought from Alaska plant sample, and that was entry point to a more intensive project. Guwanus Canal project, analysing bacteria that are living in an area that is about to be reconstructed – all sort of atypical life forms that can be potentially used to address polluted area. About 50% was not identified, so there is plenty of things to learn about it. And there is a website on the microbiology about the canal and there is also presentation.

The space is also supporting entrepreneurship – for example, OpenTrons that build cheap rpipette,pette , and that can allow it to be used in more laboratory, and the interface is much better. From California came “real vegan cheese” they had a range or project. Some projects are really controversial – making a glowing plant. The controversial thing was done on kickstarted – it was showing public interest in GM product, plus the issue of giving seeds raised major opposition. There is also an open insulin project to try to re-engineer bacteria to make insulin which was one of the early projects. Very few people can get into deep engagement, but it is worthwhile to allow exploring projects that won’t emerge in regular paths. The community is diverse and a way to address genetic engineering, through the experience with children. The way they operate is to allow people to use space for any project – for profit or not for it, the way they want. Genespace project a platform for people to work, and they need to fit into the space and the safety procedures. Biosafety law is to be careful and not amplify something that is unknown.

Following the keynote, the second session focused on The power of traditional knowledge

Fostering Resilience and Adaptation to Drought in the High Plains: Ethically Engaging Communities Throughout the Research Process
Jacqueline Vadjunec* – Oklahoma State University/ Department of Geography; Todd Fagin – Oklahoma Biological Survey; Nicole Colston – Oklahoma State University, Department of Geography. The 5 state area is one that have a lot of environmental stressors – where the dust bowl started. Her routes are in Participatory Action Research, with links to liberation theology and human centred approach. An approach that includes all stakeholders and it doesn’t privilege the researcher or the science. Science is valued as traditional knowledge. She was trained in the tropics, and it’s a project about a long-term drought that started with self funding. Some entry points for using participatory methods for citizen science – developing questions and deliverable together. They started assisting a citizen science project about data sharing on hydrology and involving geologists and local hydrologists – they now getting into grant writing. Another thing is to support local museums – archiving, extracting data from microfiche and all sort of support activities. She also using the interaction with the community as a teaching opportunity for the student that work with the needs of the students. Another thing is creating safe spaces for discussion on contested issues. They have done a lot of participatory mapping and capturing hazards and risk mapping. Local knowledge plenty of time matches scientific analysis.DSC_0329 They created storymaps as a way to share information – discussion over what is shared and not. Willing to help the community and support their work.

The advantages – better science and ensuring that data is verified with local knowledge, increased participation. It brings strong social capital, and ethical issues as the core. On the challenges, it require a lot of attention and agreeing to do things.

The Transformative Capacity of Citizen Science to Empower and Enable Agro-pastoral Communities to Adapt Their Governance of Natural Resource in the Remote Tianshan Mountains in Central Asia
DSC_0331Mark Foggin, Altyn Kapalova, Lira Sagynbekova,  Azamat Azarov*, Evgenii Shibkov, Aline Rosset, Jangyl Ismailova, Samat Kalmuratov, Christian Hergarten – Mountain Societies Research Institute, University of Central Asia – Working in Kyrgyzstan and describing two projects with communities. The learning landscape initiative are about creating long-term monitoring of social and ecological systems, and they want to work in different countries. Citizen science is seen as integral to the learning landscape initiative. The area is dependent on agriculture and livestock, so agro-pastoral practices and there was land degradation, there is a lack of environmental data since independent, and there is no data sharing between research and local land use decision-making bodies. They carry out their study in Naryn province -a mountain environmental virtual observatory using weather station, cameratraps and cybertracker.  and a specific “Kyrgyz mountains environmental education and citizen science project”. The project provide better climatic data and information about wildlife  – specifically in Salkyntor National Park and Naryn State Nature Reserve.  There are challenges in maintaining data collection by pastoralists. The work with schools and shared information. Cybertracker design was done by experts for pastoral community and national park.

Why We Lose Traditional Ecological Knowledge and How Citizen Science Can Help Us Rebuild Our Knowledge Banks
Madhusudan Katti – North Carolina State University – the first nations protocol: giving thanks to the first nations on whom their land we’re holding the conference. What we are doing can erase previous systems of knowledge. What is that we know about nature and how we understand it? How our knowledge decay and can be restored? Humans pay attention to nature – stars, animal, environment. We have our mind that we put forward – we are a way for the cosmos to understand itself (Carl Sagan). Formal science is one way of knowing ourselves. We pay attention to nature – diverting people from screens. Paying attention and acquiring knowledge, depend if you need to live on nature, or is it mediated through technology and markets. Those living in the city may know where the near coffee shop. Direct connection to nature can lead to an understanding of nature that also can help ecologists. He mentioned about changed in local ecological knowledge. When a relationship are extractive – just paying to provide information, it can cause unexpected cultural changes, while working together with an ecologist, there was mutual knowledge exchange that enhanced the experience of nature for both sides. Science and technology can also destroy existing knowledge systems and mutual appreciation can increase the pool of knowledge.

Learning to Work with Nature: Designing for a Shared Intelligence on Fundamental Processes Such as Soil Function
Peter Donovan – Soil Carbon Coalition – As a society we manage issues piecewise that looks at different issues, instead of looking in a more holistic way, with skirmishes between different people and interests. Beyond all of it, there are the carbon and water cycles. “Humankind is nature becoming aware of itself” Eliee Reclus (1905) – this is beyond coupled human/nature systems. One way to improve knowledge is to have participatory shared intelligence, leading to appropriate results. If we have bottom-up asset based approach that can help in thinkings on carbon and water cycle. We need to consider repeatability: location, measuring before and after, open data, and people willing and capable to report. Further information is in – facilitating shared intelligence about assets that are supported by communities.

Embrace the Bureaucracy: Navigating Institutional Barriers to Citizen Science
Organizer: Lea Shanley – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Citizen Science: Overcoming Institutional Barriers and Growing a Federal Community
Lea Shanley, South Big Data Innovation Hub, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil

Lea covered the federal community of practice – to community of practice was bottom up and 300 members – a dynamic learning network. Some agency had citizen science and they reached out to new areas – agency staff worked in silos and 2011 they started linking people together to create connections to share best practices. The worries where trust – data quality, administrative (paper reduction act) and other things. In 2011 convened the Commons Lab in Wilson Center and start to commissioned studies on the “science of citizen science”. They identified barriers and the need to create a toolkit for the federal government to address the needs of these bodies. They tried to align the work with decision maker priorities (e.g. open government, innovation) and also political support. The also addressed legal issues – bring lawyers from the start, increase the funding, inform legislation, provide support to Holden memo.

NASA’s Public Participation Universe: Democratizing Innovation at the U.S. Civil Space Agency
Amy Kaminski, NASA  at NASA they considered how they can increase acceptance of citizen science – both employees and the scientific community. NASA got strategic goals with funding, in-house personnel and agreements with external entities – they are doing research on space and Earth science through space-based missions. Projects such as Stardust@Home and other projects. Citizen science is an exception, not the norm. Science community lack of familiarity – thinking that it’s not science just outreach, questions about data quality, and also facing the review panel and its conservative approach. Applicants don’t take the risk. They created funding opportunities, create a community of practice and explicitly introduce to it in the umbrella language that points to it. They are also fostering collaborations with open innovation communities.

Citizen Science at the US Environmental Protection Agency

DSC_0332Alison Parker*, ORISE fellow hosted by the US Environmental Protection Agency; Barbara Martinez, Conservation X Labs. Considered how crowdsourcing and citizen science at the EPA. Talked to many researchers and scientists at the EPA – it’s the issue “I want to use it, but… “. The paperwork reduction act – administrative structure that requires any data collection from the public need to develop information collection request, publishing twice and requesting permission – this is a major hurdle. There is a report from Robert Gellman who suggested to Embrace the bureaucracy, or have umbrella clearance that will be used for other activities – each project gets approval from OMB, and that facilitate it in 2 weeks instead of several months. The EPA went through activities to create this approval – starting in March 2015 and approving it in April 2016. They used the ECSA Ten Principles contributed to the policy formation and help to define what falls under citizen science. The way to improve adoption was to take several trends: citizen science, IoT, Smart Cities – they made the Smart City Air Challenge to deploy hundreds of sensors to monitor continuously. They received 22 submissions and demonstrated interest. There was partnering with a local organisation – Open Air Baltimore and Lafayette network are deploying system .Citizen scientists are eager to engage with an issue that they care about, partner with others, and share their knowledge. The NACEPT (National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology) report provided a start but they started the process but it is just the beginning.

Implementing citizen science projects within US Geological Survey: opportunities and challenges
Jake Weltzin, USA National Phenology Network and US Geological Survey – you can apply study pressure to change the aircraft carrier that is the government. He run projects as an organisation outside government (.org and not .gov). The Nature’s Notebook is the phenology project – 10 years, thousands of observers with millions of records. The Paper Reduction act is a major obstacles, and they’ve done that after the press release on the million of records and questions about it – need to demonstrate how it minimise burden, justify value of EACH record, and support partners. They also looked at the privacy act – justify request for information, minimise burden, clarify terms of use, maximise security. USGS also have fundamental science practice review – which need to maximise quality, objectivity, ensure reproducibility, traceability – and that makes “opinions those of the USGS” and that is an advantage. Cooperative agreement – working through university that allow nimble development and even a conduit for revenue. There are advantages for the federal government – sustainable funding, planning , document, open access, facilitate innovations.

The Importance of Design in Open Innovation Efforts
Sophia Liu, US Geological Survey

As innovation specialist – specialist in human-centred design. She created in 2013-2014 created Crisis Crowdsourcing Framework. they’ve done the iCoast to take information to improve USGS coastal erosion method. They have been agile UX design – starting from Matlab, then tried with Ruby and PHP. Different technologies allow to try it. Images for pre and post storm allow people to analyse the different. Tools such as magnifying glass that use low res image that helps to understand what is happening with the participants. Actually the design help in data quality. Lots of hacking red tape to understand what is needed – e.g. through small pilots. STOP challenges: socio-cultural, technological, organisational and political/policy

The community of practice wanted to raise awareness, try to streamline the ways to approve it and provide resources – growing the network – not only bottom-up but also top-down. Regarding funding – for small not-for-profit working on disadvantaged communities, complex grant applications are a major obstacle due to funding and time resources. The way to solve that might be to work together through partnerships with government bodies that might have the same goals as you and build personal relationships. Design issues at USGS – the original users are the internal scientists who provide the gold standard set for the process, and also working locally. You must engage with people early on.  

Citizen Science Communication – Connecting Across Disciplines

Organizer: Susanne Hecker – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research/German Centre for integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

Interconnecting these two fields – citizen science and science communication to discuss it together.

Beyond the deficit model – Communication in citizen science
Susanne Hecker, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research/German Centre for integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

“Citizen Science is one of the most dramatic development in science communication in recent years” (Lewenstein) – the talk will explore how science is communicated towards the public. DSC_0333She start from a description of a scientist (Hanz) who have knowledge, expertise, and methods. When it comes to the public, Hanz thinks of deficits that the public have – cognitive deficit, lack of interest, deficit of knowledge – it’s a value judgement. The model was challenged –  – in 2016 the journal of science communication explored if the deficit model is dead or not. The literature said that when going to science communication, the deficit model is still there in the way scientists talk to the public. In the 1980s, with the report from the Royal Society, there was a talk about moving toward dialogue and engagement – the scientist get out of the house of science, and now experience face to face integration with the public and seeing the range of ideas and approaches that are there. Kaplan concepts of two communities showed different concerns, language and focus. In citizen science, the communication is more complex – if the project doesn’t do the science communication well, then people go away. The scientists are also not in control – there is an exchange of ideas among the participants, expertise from both sides, traditional knowledge. So what are the main form of a contributory project – need to find out how to motivate people, train, inform, instruct, educate, disseminate, inspire, provide feedback.DSC_0334 In a co-created project there are fewer people and the interaction is more intense, and the participants have their own concerned from personal concerns, to issues about their work – so the science communication aims are different – there is an exchange, negotiations of commons aim, collaborate, create agree and discuss, listen and disseminate. It is important to understand. The main driver for sci comm in citizen science include a dialogue on a par – not everyone has the same power, but it is more about respect. Relevant to communicate things that are relevant to the audience that was to participate. It is important to have transparency about what is happening and what is not happening. Finally you need engagement. There are four key players: scientists, citizens, media, and also communication mediators.


What are the interesting questions about citizen science?
Bruce V. Lewenstein, Cornell University

Valuing citizen science participation for an academics? Where citizen science work and doesn’t work? How do you create a voice to the participants? What is the long-term impact on volunteers? What model of communication are you assuming? How different perception of science influence participation? What are our responsibility? What levels of scientific literacy among participants? How to communicate to policy makers and decision makers the results?

There are three meanings there are two complex: measuring, identify cases – practical things, then there are things of the implications of how we thinks about academia. For many years, there were scientists engaged in policy for people who scientists who engaged in policy process where citizen scientists. There was citizens engaged in science policy through consensus conferences etc. Finally there was participation in the scientific process. He then covered the Irwin/Bonney view of citizen science. Irwin takes the view of engagement in a political and democratic way in science – how publics engaged with the governance of science. Some of the practical questions about communication hit this deeper issue. There is the use of Matthew Fontain Maury who was written out of history despite major mapping effort, because of the competition with the scientific establishment – only the special will know. Maury viewed as something that everyone can contribute – he was Southerner and moved out when the war started, as well as being difficult person, was a reason to write him out. Seeing science as elitist has prevailed since. Part of the problem with the naming of citizen science is coming from the political aspects – is it about opening science or building up forms of elite knowledge.

The common questions are the one that come up usually: data validity, contribution to reliable knowledge, volunteer motivation, what do participants learn? In STS they are calling for papers with more explicit political aspects – civic science, citizen science as resistance, The invisibility of citizen scientists, issues of participation inequality. There are questions about the nature of expertise and who holds it? How does expertise shape openness to participation? Challenges to defining those that are not experts. Who owns data? What is the role of labourers or technicians? What is the role of everyone? How do community based project acquire authority? but ultimately there is questions of citizenship – what are they citizens of? What kind of citizenship

Increase in education might be about challenging the process of challenging expertise – the point of shifting from deficit to engagement are about things that influence the process which are about more complex relationship of knowledge. There are all sort of knowledge, and the deficits are more than just about scientific literacy – think about science literacy within the community. The deficit model assume that the problem is that if problems will just disappear and  they see it in the same way as scientists – but they will have different views and understanding of the world. There is also implicit knowledge that is hard to articulate. Transfer of knowledge doesn’t work simply and require transformation of the knowledge – an underlying assumption that everything will be better if we pass the information. There have been cultural shift within the scientific community that they want to be much more informed about science communication.

Some of the posters that worth noting:

ECSA 10 Principles of Citizen Science

Citizen Science 2017 – Day 1 (Afternoon) – Tools, overcoming barriers, and project slam

The Afternoon session started with Tools for people running projects including the presentation about Doing It Together Science project

Breaking the Barriers to Citizen Science
Artemis Skarlatidou* – University College London; Alice Sheppard – University College London; Muki Haklay – University College London; Claudia Goebel – European Citizen Science Association.  Alice Sheppard presented the talk, exploring the DITOs project. The DITOs project is of significant scale – many events about citizen science across Europe, with 11 partners from 10 different countries. What we want is to get people involved in citizen science and to achieve wide and deep public engagement. Type of events that we’re running are things like BioBlitz, Bio Art, Exhibition, Science in Schools, as well as the science games competition iGamer, or the travelling exhibition bus that will reach to rural places without science museum to increase exposure to citizen science and the potential to join. The escalator model is presented, including the experience that Alice herself had in getting into science through her life. She also presented the early stages of the DITOs logic model that explain how we want to convert how the different activities lead to results and outcomes. For example, funding to add CS in a museum, that will allow more people to join and a person can leave the museum with some involvement in citizen science and that increase access to science. Different activities map to different stages in the escalator.

Citizen Science and Open Hardware: Creating a Roadmap for Accessible Technology Innovation
Shannon Dosemagen* – Public Lab; François Grey – University of Geneva; Jenny Molloy – University of Cambridge. The experience that has developed in public lab, which from the start adopted open hardware licences led to a gathering for open science hardware, which brings together those that are interested in developing open hardware tools and protocols. Science require tools and these are difficult to access and therefore presents a barrier to participation. Makers lead to tools that are cheap, open hardware, open source software, etc. and this can make science tools more available. CERN started developing the open hardware licence that will allow adapting and changing the tools for local condition. CERN licence is aimed to have verified and tested tools. The first gathering for open science was in CERN, people are coming together from different areas and experiences and this allow to bring 50 people, and the second event was in Chile, with 180 people applying after a second year with strong commitment to equity in terms of gender, geography, position in terms for accepting participants. Gathering for Open Science Hardware has now set of principles that are available on the website. There is also think about on how equity is increase to scientific tools – tools need to be made of material that can be sourced locally and repaired. Politics of designing a tool were considered – there are many tools that are available: from sensors, to devices. There is a mission to change things by 2025, with many more accessible tools and more participatory approaches.

What We Learned from Talking to 110 People About Citizen Science Tools: Scaling and Sustaining Through the NSF Innovation Corps for Learning Program
Micah Lande – Arizona State University; Darlene Cavalier* – Arizona State University, School for the Future of Innovation in Society; Brianne Fisher – ; David Sittenfeld – ; Erica Prange – SciStarter and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History; Catherine Hoffman – SciStarter. SciStarter received funding to explore the perceptions and needs of the people who are using the platform. The survey looked at SciStarter and how people join and use the project. SciStarter is helping to help people’s journeys and noticing that people join more than one project – usually 3-5. They look at current data sharing. The identity problem with access to tools that contribute to a project, so SciStarter is considered how to get people kits that can help with tools. They can consider kits that help people to join several projects. There is a potential to give people set of instruments that can help them join a set of related project – the analysis from SciStarter can help in understanding which projects cluster. Instruments can be made more discoverable, and project owners should also know about the type of instruments that are available in other projects.

Getting It Right or Being Top Rank: Games in Citizen Science
Marisa Ponti*  – University of Gothenburg; Thomas Hillman – University of Gothenburg; Christopher Kullenberg – University of Gothenburg; Dick Kasperowski – University of Gothenburg. The study looks at the tension between science and games in citizen science. They look at Foldit and Galaxy Zoo. Assuming difference in the characteristics – they’ve done qualitative data in the Foldit forum and galaxy forum. Look for threads, and identified 15 threads (384 posts) in Foldit and 5  (189) in Galaxy zoo. The analysis identified 8 themes – they found the community appear a lot in Foldit more than galaxy zoo, while Foldit felt close. In games, there are issues with views that are concerned with community, cheating, and competition in Galaxy Zoo. In Foldit there are issues of fairness, and the scoring is concerned with a design that helps the scientific outcomes. There are mixed feeling about competition and sharing – they feel guarded and protective about the best technique. Galaxy zoo – we’re part of a great science project, not a game.. In Foldit, the chance of finding a real solution or getting lucky, but many are there for the game. Implications: important of implicit normative ideals of the science of participants; opposition between equality and meritocracy (Foldit); problematization of the dualism science vs game – but participants don’t necessarily accept it.

Another session was Breaking Down Walls to Science Practice  

The Challenges of Being a Citizen Researcher (‘Uh, Who Are You Exactly and Who Are You With???’)
Ed Harris – Scleroderma Education Project Ltd. Pointed the issue of credentials and there are problems in the medical field. He pointed to the experience of presenting a poster at a conference. Without credentials it is very difficult to get into a medical conference – even in a rare case where enough expertise are demonstrated, you can be denied entering the conference. But, sometimes ignorance is an advantage – for example, Ed contacted top journal editors with advice on a poster that he presented, something that his academic collaborators found surprising as it is “not to be done”. Unless you are not connected to a university you don’t have access to the actual article because of copyright restrictions. Need to find a way to convince publishers to allow specific individuals to access material. If you established expertise before the “who are you”, you consider better, but then if you try to lead, you get into problems, especially in the medical field. With credentials, suddenly things became easier.

Citizen Science – Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy
Aletta Bonn* – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research/ German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig; Aletta covered the outcomes from the ECSA conference. Citizen science can have high innovation potential – in social, political, environmental, environmental. She covered the policy process – from agenda citizen science to analysis of different projects. In almost 50% thought that they can provide an impact on policy – they can provide data, expertise, new questions, setting agenda. For example, the CHEST platform allows the development of new ways to fund and promote citizen science projects. There is also a role for citizen science in policy implementation and evaluation – so we can see innovations in working together with environment protection agency. There is a need to understand the areas in which citizen science is suitable. There are issues with innovation in open hardware and issues about potential data sources. In how citizen science is done is providing different view – the main wish is to see the data available publicly for other users – want to see people using it. We have ways of identifying good citizen science, with the ten principles of citizen science. The wider context is the awareness to responsible research and innovation, and the need to increase awareness of science with and for society.

Project slam

Mark2Cure: Learn, Work, Help
Max Nanis – The Scripps Research Institute. People who contribute are doing that for very personal goals and allow people to contribute by annotating biomedical text.

Floodcrowd: Sharing Observations of Floods to Help Research Their Causes and What We Can Do About Them
Avinoam Baruch – Loughborough University – if everyone that seen a flood shared it, we can have the ability to address them better. Citizen science through helps people record observations – using different observations from different systems.

City Nature Challenge
Alison Young – California Academy of Sciences – the City Nature Challenge is about linking cities around the world and carrying out activities using iNaturalist and collecting data for it – doing it in April over 5 days. Over 125,000 observation in 5 days, many new species that were never recorded. More than 4000 people participate, of which over half are new to iNaturalist. The 2017 City Nature Challenge.

Doing-it-Together Science: Amplifying & Cross-Pollinating Citizen & DIY Science in Europe
Claudia Goebel – European Citizen Science Association – described the DITOs project and its goal. During her presentation, she asked people to tweet why they are coming together in the conference

Here some of the responses to the #DITscience challenge


Citizen Science 2017 – Day 1 (Morning): Flint Water Study, EPA use of citizen science and engagement

Shannon Dosemagen introduces the keynote speakers by pointing that citizen science provides a way to question how science is done and how is doing it. Within citizen science, it is important to notice that scientific degrees don’t always translate to leadership. The keynotes speakers where Dr. Marc Edwards (Virgina Tech) &  LeeAnne Walters (Coalition for Clean Water). Marc started in an area of

Source: Kaberi Kar Gupta

Marc started in an area of research about home water systems and was approached about lead contamination in a case before Flint that got him engaged with community issues. LeeAnne gave a back story of Flint – the change in the water source to the Flint river, leading to a deteriorating quality of water – people getting sick, and having health impacts across the city. This was ignored by the city authorities and the community members were described as liars and stupid. That was the point where she decided to learn about the science – got through a lot of learning about water distribution system. In April 2015 in interaction with professionals, she pointed that “I’m not a scientist, but I am trying to be” and with EPA being shocked about the results from the water. They started to work with Marc in 2015 and when they put the report in that year the EPA apologised to the city authorities about releasing information to the public. In late 2015 they did a city-wide study in 2015 with NSF funding to carry out a 300 houses studies across the city. Marc – the roles here need to be clear – when LeeAnne called, she has done all the science that was needed. There are many problems with the current system and scientists are trained cowards. LeeAnne brought a case where all the science have been worked out, but without scientist approving the information this was not acceptable. Citizens are “not allowed to have a brain” while scientists are “not allowed to have a heart” – the scientists are not expected to be activists. LeeAnne – she’s been dismissed, ignored and called stupid although they have done the science and carried out the study carefully – in citizen science, the issue is who is going to be credited. In the Flint story, no one cared about the credits – it was about saving a city and helping children not to be poisoned. During the first year, they were dismissed by the state authority – Virginia Tech did experiments that the state was supposed to do with school children and then the kids wrote to the governor. There was no science to do – it was about fighting to get things right. The support to Flint already passed $600m and this is because it managed to become a national story in 2016. Marc points that he see LeeAnne grows from concern citizens to a very capable leader in citizen science. You need a strong trust and collaboration between citizens and scientists. The issue is that cheating by officials about water quality is happening across the country because of lack of funding and pressures on resources in both rural and urban communities. The Flint story doesn’t happen every day with over 40 documentaries to date about it and the citizen science collaboration. Citizen Science at its worst and can be exploited. After the federal emergency was declared – there was

However, Flint provides a demonstration for Citizen Science at its worst and can be exploited. After the federal emergency was declared – there was an effort from authorities, EPA and others to rebuild trust, but into the scenario of trust and Water Defence – an organisation that started claiming that the water are not safe to bath or shower, and they gave statements to this effect. The Water Defence people claimed of a scare and that caused an increase in disease, and there was no way – a Shigella outbreak,. The organisation was selling water filters to people, with the Water Defence who present itself as citizen science leading people to buy products. The way to deal with that was to call them out and the confrontation and discrediting them helped to deal with Shigella. The organisation is finding bacteria that no one can find, and doing all sort of methods and arguing that they give people information and claiming – when you give fame, money, then just like with academia, there is a risk for citizen science is hijacked towards bad ends. Pushing $5000 to the second poorest city in the US is irresponsible. LeeAnne – we need to keep the integrity of citizen science and keeping in a proper scientific way and this needs to be done. The right way is the only way. LeeAnne is refusing to receive any compensation for working over 60 hours a week to avoid conflict of interests. In society, there is a backlash against science, which is part because they talk down to people. Marc has used over $300k of discretionary funding to pay for the study – and part of it was returned through crowdfunding because of the media visibility. LeeAnne was trained and ask EPA and the Marc lab thought them how to sample, and even checked on EPA sampling and even corrected them on their methodology as she learned in and was doing it. Marc – working together with citizens require a lot of thinking. Preparing suitable test kits, training material, working with the community, and knowing that your career is on the line – the stakes are high as there are very powerful interests and very little room for any error. For every 10 communities, with 9 it will be “the water are within the federal standards” and need to have difficult conversations. We have many injustices – with air, water, and other issues. Citizen science can be a tool to shine on these injustices and then they can be addressed and fixed. The use of the provided a way to share information. One of the more memorable events was when officials and scientists on the official side laugh at LeeAnne in her face to dismiss her – you need to be trustworthy by yourself and with your work. When LeeAnee asked questions about lead poisoning, people from the department of health saying “it’s just a few IQ points, nothing more serious”. For LeeAnne, the health issues around here were the motivation and things that keep her awake at night and get through what is going on in academic papers – understanding the chemical reactions and interactions was challenging. Marc – in terms of academic incentives, the focus on publications can be very damaging in terms of holding data and not sharing it – it was important to share it openly to make the people in flint able to use it. There are issues of calling out.

Citizen Science Across a Spectrum: Building Partnerships to Broaden the Impact of Citizen Science

Environmental protection belongs to the public: A vision for citizen science at EPA Alison Parker (ORISE fellow hosted by the US Environmental Protection Agency) opened the discussion – she raised the advisory council for environmental policy and technology that developed a report (developed from 2015 and published end of 2016). The report called “Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public” with a vision for Citizen Science at EPA. Over the year, the council became convinced about the power of citizen science and its relevant to environmental protection. There are 4 overarching recommendations for citizen science, and that includes two citizen science models were identified: one led by scientists (citizen science) and use community citizen science to describe the community led. The recommendation in embrace citizen science as the main tenet of environmental protection; the EPA should take a collaborative approach to citizen science and listen to voices that are working in citizen science to make a decision. The second recommendation was that there will be investment in citizen science – specific funding streams, either new or in existing plans. The third recommendation is that the EPA will enable the use of citizen science data: a positive approach towards the data, set standards and provide guidelines. The fourth recommendation is to integrate citizen science into the full range of work of the EPA. Doing more than just contributing data.

Enabling Effective Environmental Decision Making in the Western Balkans via Citizen Science
Clayton Cox, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, US EPA – started using different participatory methods to see and contextualised community view in the Balkans about watershed management. They realised that EPA tools are not suitable, and done community led pilot project focused on common issues – illegal dumping. They introduce BioBlitz to Montenegro and consider BioBlitz as a way to increase dumping. The BioBlitz worked and identify over 30 medicinal species. To identify solid waste, they used a monitoring app with 700 data points. In Serbia, they introduce methods to improve watershed stewardship – both local concerns and regulatory issues (EU water directive). They increased partnership to SEPA and World Bank.

Civic monitoring with low-cost tools
Scott Eustis, Gulf Restoration Network talked about expanding work by using different approaches in the Gulf Restoration Network. An area that is both industrial and natural resources. The restoration effort following the deep water horizon disaster requires community-led monitoring. There are doing monitoring in 30 sites across the region. The type of conflict includes the issue of a conflict between coal terminal and a restoration area. Kite mapping allowed to see into the state of the pollution from the activity. There are many activities in science that get ignored. We need to get to accountability through engaging people and need people with environmental concerns, people with expertise that can translate it to the language of power, and you need enthused organisers – to work together.

Discussion: how to get attention – in the Balkans, there is a selection bias of people that were invited by the REC, so Clayton didn’t have a problem getting in, but the communities there has an issue with population loss – for example. Scott – some balloon mapping trips were sold like fishing trips. They also have a programme to pay people to get engaged. Clayton – as an EPA representative, there is an issue of not going into advocacy but more about the approach and helping people to understand the condition. Scott – within the restoration effort, health is not involved, but health is a major issue on the Golf and there is a very high bar to prove them. Clean energy also come up in discussions. Health impacts are there, but the burden of proof is bigger.

Are there case studies that can link citizen science to the wider range of environmental governance – from community engagement to enforcement. There is a need to consider issues of data quality and process in order for it to be heard, but also to think about community building and the party board. Most of the federal agencies, which give funding now require evaluation and evidence to demonstrate what was done. There are groups in Seattle that monitor creaks in the area, but the focus of different bodies – e.g. EPA region 10 is less focused on the engagement. Getting people engaged is a big issue, and sustaining people through the e.coli monitoring every week is a major effort. So they share maps every week, nd have quarterly meetings to discuss the data with food, and they also engage with the utility company who have limited abilities (one person). In Oklahoma there is issue of maintaining interest, they are encouraging the groups to get together. Participants want to know that data is used.

Community Empowerment session

From Stewardship to Citizen Science: A Closer Look at the Learning Trajectories of Volunteers in an Environmental Education and Stewardship Program
Jennifer Preece* – University of Maryland; Tamara Clegg – University of Maryland, College Park; Carol Boston – University of Maryland; Daniel Pauw – University of Maryland, College of Information Studies; Elizabeth Warrick – University of Maryland, College Park

Collected data from interviews, surveys and participants observation. They used both inductive patterns and in structure codes to look at learning. They found that learning happen when people are developing awareness – fuelling passion through a capstone project and then developing community wide interest. People need support in their capstone group and from people who done similar projects. Funding and resources are important. In communication – noticed issues about social context. Working understanding strong water management, supporting communities with tools, addressing communication and interaction – through system to increase engagement. People are interested in understanding what is going on with streams – for example pollution and lack of fish in the water. Through learning about the project as the main issue, but then to consider how it can see how the work can evolve into citizen science. Issues of faith-based organisations and racial issues are address – there is some diversity on the project team, but not enough. Some stewards are

Science in Transformation: Stories of Interdisciplinarity and Public Engagement
Amy Lesen – Tulane University. She build on the work of Shila Jasnoff pointing that we need to relinking larger scales of scientific representation with smaller scales of social meaning. The challenge is that climate change and coupled nature/human system need interdisciplinary work and require communication with wider groups in society. Academic in biophysical science are not rewarded for work that involve collaboration with social science, working with community and civic engagement etc. The question is then is there a cultural shift that are happening? What are the challenges for people who are doing that – challenges and success and what are the stories of those. She done that in long historical interview and understand how they got engaged. The research subjects are people that involved in long term urban ecology sites – people who done outreach, policy engagement, and those working outside academia. She found how much this studies are highly interdisciplinary, involve participatory and community engaged methodologies, work closely with policy makers, but than experience push back from people in their discipline. The people who are involved notice issues such as social justice issues. One of the interviewee talked about who do we used the word scientist for – anyone who is doing citizen science and community science and follow the scientific method is a scientist. Citizen science helped in recognising their needs and wishes – building relationships is critical to make community engaged work.

Poster session

Citizen Science 2017 – workshops day and opening panel

The Citizen Science Association conference is held at the River Center in St Paul, Minnesota on 17th to 20th May. This post and the following ones are notes that were taken during the meeting in the sessions that I’ve attended.

Wednesday was dedicated to workshops, and I joined the Citizen Science at College level workshop. Organised by Thomas Tisue (Muskegon Community College); John R. Jungck (University of Delaware); Aerin W. Benavides (University of North Carolina); Julie Feldt (Adler Planetarium); Colleen Hitchcock (Brandeis University); Leslie Ries (Georgetown University); and Terry A. Gates (North Carolina State University). The workshop aim was to bring together academics who work with undergraduate students to discuss best practices for developing citizen science research within their university classes.

Some ideas about citizen science at undergraduate level – it can be about enculturating students with the concepts of democratisation of science, the value of open science and education. It also brings up issues of data quality, and understand connections beyond their discipline. There is plenty of opportunities for experiential learning. The issue is that move from a closed process that it is evaluated by the instructor to one that they are evaluated by peer and even participants.  The students, of course, have different motivation to participate in citizen science.

John Jungck – philosophically, citizen science can be thought differently including different levels of engagement and about how it fit with societal goals. Think that each assignment is for a social good. Learning skills for the 21st century require developing citizenship skills, and investigation in the field is assisting in the development of issues in physics, biology, and mathematics.

Colleen Hitchcock is seeing the view of citizen science as an integral to much of the studies, and doing things like phenology on campus can increase bio-literacy and understand changes. In every class that she teaches there is an element of citizen science. The way to allow students to engage in research is to join an existing project as a way to save resources. The assignments include – what is citizen science – reflect on the experience, explore SciStarter, learn through a contributory project. Citizen Science can assist in enhancing classes such as about Climate Change. It also provides an opportunity for professional development.

Leslie Ries – she looks at research in the classroom, and instead of running a programme, joining an existing one. Looking at butterfly at continental scale as her research area, and this allows for well-curated data sets – butterfly informatics that provides data. She integrated the module into existing course to introduce students to this is to teach informatics in ecology and where the data come from. She now got a module that starts in a lecture that explains history, needs for large scale data and then citizen science as a source for that. The question development about being able to develop a question and focusing on butterfly ecology and develop question and acquire data

Aerin W. Benavides talked about the value of citizen science for project-based learning – it provides an opportunity for exploration that is missing in the previous schooling. This leads to teaching teachers about the potential of citizen science.

Thomas Tisue – in community colleges there is a need to help STEM students who are looking for research opportunity and linking that to citizen science group that want to learn to education and outreach, and considering the limited resources of the college open up an opportunity. In community colleges, students are many time first generations and lack context of study, and sometime need financial support to allow them to participate in an internship programme with local environmental monitoring. The faculty need to be involved and assure integrity. College can offer credit through independent study time.

Julie Feldt – at Adler and work on zooniverse. Different opportunities – educators are sharing material to use projects in teaching, with examples from middle school, high school, and college introduction. They have done access to Galaxy Data on Google Drive to allow students to use these data to examine information with Google spreadsheet

Bucky Gates – the students go on SciStarter, doing a project, and then fill in a review form that was designed with SciStarter, and got over 500 forms completed, and that helps in assessing which projects work and how people who are volunteered to a project react to different projects. Projects need to be simple – and creative. Can make data collection simple so it is malleable to different areas and allow an opening for creativity.

In different breakup sessions, participants explored 6 teams: analysing citizen science data; supporting pre-service and in-service educators (teachers training); independent research – supporting students; learning within the semester; using citizen science project in the classroom; and an open one.

The using citizen science in the classroom group highlighted the need to simplify and focus on what possible to get. Challenges of teaching in one semester – reaching out to mailing lists, creating more collaborative/co-created than just contributory and who to partner around college on a specific citizen science. Supporting educators – citizen science is not visible in museums, science centres etc. Analysing data – issues of developing different ways. Independent learning – learning from UK, Chile, USA. Social engagement is an important part of citizen science and is it suitable to expect students to come up with a question or join someone’s question.

There is a growing recognition of the need to have introductory material on where to start and which system, project, and platform to use. There are resources such as that provide information for teacher to get into citizen science – mostly to middle school

The first plenary event of the conference was “Meet the Authors with Darlene Cavalier (ASU): The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science; Caren Cooper (NCSU): Citizen Science: Changing the Face of Discovery; and Mary Ellen Hannibal: Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction. The moderator was Heather McElhatton, MN Public Radio.

Darlene Cavalier talked about her “The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science”. Darlene defined citizen science as a way to advance science without a formal degree, or simply science. Darlene described her journey into citizen science: from journalism to science communication, and technology assessment. Darlene also explains the link to Science Cheerleaders and the way it works together and allows to promote citizen science project. The name if the book came from a series by ASU. The selection of chapters that were included in this book was done in order to keep the book cheap and to ensure that the process is manageable while being written by passionate experts. The different chapters are exploring the link to policy; definitions of citizen science by Booney and Irwin and the tension in them; How citizen science can be linked to teaching in class situations; media aspects of citizen science – but there are situations where citizen science and citizen journalism is getting close. Darlene also explained the role of SciStarter – different ways for getting involved in citizen science and giving multiple routes that will allow people to join in. The chapter on citizen science in community citizen science – and how it is linked to concerns of the community. The final chapter is demonstrating how citizen science can engage with people in exploring microbiome in the international space station, with people also analysing the data, and the story of how the project came about.  The book ends with “now it’s time for you to explore citizen science”. The challenge of the book is to open citizen science to many audiences – truly everybody that is curious can participate in a project about their concerns.

Caren Cooper combined her curiosity, and the need to become scientist in order to engage with nature in a serious way. Once she had kids, doing field work wa less possible, so she started collaborating with volunteers. It’s important to acknowledge citizen science, as it contributed to science but also pointing to the limitation of main science – of things that scientists just cannot achieve alone. Covering the history of science. Caren identify the smartphone as very handy tool in influencing ability to collect and share the data. The purpose of her book is to demistify science and make it accessible to people – it’s collective activity where everyone is giving a little bit, and collectively, it’s a feast. Caren was surprised of the range of disciplines and fields that involving people and the different ways in which it is happening. There are some great stories of community transformation in the book about community action of plastic bags following turtle monitoring, to engagement of prison inmates in dealing with entomology research. The take away – citizen science should become the new norm in science and life.

Mary Ellen Hanibal, brought a new concept to audiences. Her journey began 10 years ago from a book about evolution. In the California Academy she explored  with taxonomies, and she understood the concept of sixth extinction that is happening and she started to look at conservation biology, and that led to understand big data, and citizen science within this. The word “hope” in the title is not what she wanted, and want to see action and having a heroe’s journey. She also explored the need to act, to think about concepts like half earth and be aware of the emergency of saving species. Citizen science is a platform to bring people together and make people come togehter. She want people to reconsider the plae of humans in the circle of lifes – it’s part of a journay of life and we need to support other life form and find a way to do it all together.

More on Darlene book here and Mary Ellen book here. I’m in the middle of Caren’s book and hope to write about it soon!

Call for Papers in a special issue of Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation on citizen science

Mappers launch an air balloon in Mathare, Nairobi. Photo: Sohel Ahmed, DPU, UCL.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation is a new open access journal, addressing the interdisciplinary field that links different aspects of remote sensing (the use of different imaging and sensing technologies) and the field of ecology and conservation. It is publishing its papers in Open Access, so the papers are free to download and share.

With the encouragement of the journal editorial team, a group of editors (Helen Roy, Tom August, Linda See, Tanya Berger-Wolf & myself) set out a call for a special issue on citizen science. Citizen science is becoming part of the way research in ecology and conservation is now carried out, and there are plenty of examples of the use of remote sensing techniques – from the Do-It-Yourself balloon mapping that you see above, as part of research that explores how human, livestock, and food is linked to an informal settlement in Nairobi, to use of drones by non-professional researchers, to the use of satellite imagery.

One of my favourite citizen science project – PenguinWatch – is an example for remote sensing, as it uses camera traps imagery that is then uploaded to the Zooniverse platforms, and volunteers help in counting how many penguins appear in the image.

The call text is:

For centuries amateur naturalists have contributed to science; for example, by recording the distribution of species. However, in recent decades, advances in technology have revolutionised “citizen science” and far more people are involved in different ways than was historically the case. We invite high-quality contributions about citizen science to a special issue of Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation. The aim is to demonstrate the diversity of citizen science, in terms of approach and research themes, and the contributions of remote-sensing techniques. We are particularly interested in innovative research that identifies the intersection between remote sensing and citizen science for conservation, such as DIY balloon or kite mapping, the use of photo-sharing apps and the integration of satellite observations with ground truth by volunteers. Papers that reveal how citizen science and remote sensing can be used to monitor Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) are also welcome. The main objective is to describe the breadth and depth of engagement that is now possible using different approaches to citizen science. High-quality submissions for this special issue will be considered on a case-to-case basis for a full fee waiver, where authors are unable to pay the Article Processing Fees.
Submission deadline 15 July 2017.

Paper: GeoKey – open infrastructure for community mapping and science

Citizen Cyberlab The special issue of the Human Computation Journal (see the details of the editorial here), summarises the result from the EU FP7 “Citizen Cyberlab” project.

One of the outcomes of the project is the development of the GeoKey platform for participatory mapping. Therefore, a paper that was written with Oliver Roick and Claire Ellul explains the background to the system and its design principles.

The abstract is:

The development of the geospatial web (GeoWeb) over the past decade opened up opportunities for collaborative mapping and large scale data collection at unprecedented scales. Projects such as OpenStreetMap, which engage hundreds of thousands of volunteers in different aspects of mapping physical and human-made objects, to eBird, which records millions of bird observations from across the globe. While these collaborative mapping efforts are impressive in their scale and reach, there is another type of mapping which is localised, frequently carried out over a limited period of time, and aims at solving a specific issue that the people who are living in the locality are facing. These needs are addressed in participatory mapping, which nowadays includes citizen science elements in data collection and management. The paper describes the background and design of a novel infrastructure for participatory mapping and science – GeoKey. The paper provides a differentiation between collaborative and participatory mapping, describes the state of the art and several usecases of community mapping, and the architecture of GeoKey, focussing both on the approaches to data capture and subsequent potential to share the data in an open manner where possible. It also describes the design elements that support learning and creativity in these projects.

The paper is open access and free to read, and you can find it at

Into the night – training day on citizen science

dscn1936Last December, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) awarded funding to UCL Extreme Citizen Science group and Earthwatch as part of their investment in public engagement. The projects are all short – they start from January to March and included public engagement and training to early career researchers.

“Into the Night” highlights the importance of light pollution, a growing environmental stressor to both wildlife and humans, through collaborative and co-designed citizen science research. The project aims to increase awareness of this issue through two public workshops exploring the potential of two citizen science focal points – glow-worms and human wellbeing – explicitly linking ecological and human impacts. The project will culminate with a set of public activities (pilot data collection and educational) to coincide with Earth Hour (25.03.2017).

The project aims to build public engagement capacity through PhD internships with Earthwatch (Europe), CEH, Natural England and UCL, and forms a dedicated training day on the design and implementation of citizen science for 50 early-career researchers and PhD students.

The project is led by UCL (in collaboration with North Carolina State University – NCSU) and Earthwatch, bringing together leading research and practice in citizen science. It is the result of two co-design workshops, with over 30 participants from environmental science, social science, public health, National Parks, and NGOs. Based on this preparatory work, and with active training of early career researchers, we will run two focused workshops which will take place in dark sky reserves. These workshops will focus on two preliminary ideas for citizen science projects: a countrywide survey of glow-worms and the impact of artificial light on their activities, and the influence of lightscapes and dark green spaces on human wellbeing while balancing safety and concerns.

The two projects will generate public awareness and provide the public with opportunities to have debate and dialogue on the subject, as well as involvement in data collection and analysis. Results will be shared through social and traditional media. The outcome will advance ideas for a national citizen science project, which UCL and Earthwatch will take forward.

The training day run in Oxford on the 2nd February and during the day I gave two 45 minutes sessions. First, I provided an introduction to the field of citizen science, how to design a project, and how to evaluate such a project.

The session provided a brief overview of the types of citizen science that are relevant in addressing environmental challenges. We looked at classifications of citizen science projects, explore their potential goals, the process of recruitment and retention as well as the need to start project evaluation from an early stage. At the end the participants engage in a short exercise to consider how these elements can be used in the design of a citizen science project.

The second talk focused on technology.

The talk aim was described as follows: Current citizen science seems effortless…just download an app and start using it. However, there are many technical aspects that are necessary to make a citizen science project work. This session provided an overview of all the technical elements that are required – from the process of designing an app, to designing and managing a back-end system, to testing the system end to end before deployment. Again, at the end of the session, a short exercise considered the design of an app for a citizen science project that addresses light pollution.