The last day of the BES/Sfé meeting was in the mood of celebration, so a session dedicated to celebrating citizen science was in place. My notes from first day and the second day are in previous posts. These notes are long…
Before the session, in a symposium on tree health, Michael Pocock (CEH) presented ‘Monitoring to assess the impacts of tree diseases: integrating citizen science with professional monitoring‘. Ash die-back is important, and in the rest of Europe, (e.g. Denmark, Lithuania or Poland) there are losses of 60-90% but there was very little work done on monitoring the biodiversity impact of the disease in general. There is a clear lack of knowledge on the impacts on biodiversity in general – how suitable are existing surveys, how they can enhance? In a work that he done with Shelley Hinsley they reviewed 79 relevant studies, from volunteers to national professional survey and local studies. They tried to answer questions such as: What kind of things can be impacted? they identified all sort of impacts - trophic networks, structural, cascading, and ecosystem functions. They looked at different receptors in different contexts – from animals and plants on the receptors, to where they are located as context – woodland, or hedgerow. They found that woods are fairly well monitored, but how much professionals will continue to monitor it with budget cuts is an issue. Ecosystem function is very poorly monitored. The recommendations of the report are that current ongoing activities are suitable and maybe should be modified a bit to make them better (e.g. asking another question in a survey) – they didn’t recommend brand new surveys. The report is available here . If we want future proof monitoring that deal with the range of tree disease and other issues – we need a better ‘spine’ of monitoring work (in the report on page 5), but improve the integration of information and synthesis between survey. Co-location of monitoring site can be great, but actually, there are specific reasons for the locations of places in each scheme so it’s not easy to do so. In addition, volunteers based monitoring require investment in maintenance. He completed his talk with more general citizen science issue that we can learn from this work – the national plant monitoring scheme is to be launched in 2015, and there are some specific focused on lichens and other issues that require specialist knowledge in survey programmes like Splash. Mass participation is useful in some cases, but there is an issue how much recording effort is quantified – there is a big differentiation in ability to monitor species across the country and the ability of participants to record information. The retention of volunteers in mass projects is an issue – only 10% continue after a year. In enthusiasts recruitment you get higher numbers 20% that continue to be involved. The most exciting opportunity that he see is in hypothesis-led citizen science, like the Concker Tree Science project.
The ‘Celebrating Citizen Science’ session was at the final group of sessions of the conference, but was very well attended. Chaired by Michael Pocock, who, together with Helen Roy, runs the BES Citizen Science SIG.
Romain Julliard (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle) provided an overview of citizen science activities in France in his talk ‘Biodiversity monitoring through citizen science: a case study from France’. The starting statement was that unskilled amateurs from the general public can provide good information. The museum have a role in monitoring biodiversity at the national – common species are good indicators, the appropriate for studying global changes and the general public is interested in ‘ordinary Nature’ – the things that we see every day. Scientists alone cannot monitor biodiversity over a big space such as a country, so citizens can help to collect data on a country scale and they are already spread across the country. The trade-offs of using citizens as observers include skills vs. numbers of participants – there are only few experts and enthusiasts. Another issue is sampling design: are you aiming for representativeness of where people are or do you send observers to specific locations to do the survey. There is a need for a simple protocol for volunteers. Much simpler than procedures in a research station professionals. They started with French Bird Breeding Survey in coordination with NGOs like LPO and others – with over 2000 squared that are being observed since 1989 and over 1000 provide long-term monitoring. Now they have skilled amateur schemes – monitoring bats, butterflies and much more. They started their programmes in 2005 with butterfly programme, pollinating insect survey from photographs (Spipoll) in 2010 and garden bird watch in 2012 among others – new programmes especially in the past 5 years . Spipoll provides a good example of the work that they are doing. Pollinators are useful to raise awareness and explain multi-factor pressures on the environment. The are many sampling sites and thousands of flowers dwelling insects in France. They Spipoll protocol starts with 20 minutes ‘safari-photo’ which mean that you select a flower and take photos of each visiting insects. Second step is to select the best single photo for each insect that was sampled. Third step to name each insect from 630 possibilities – and they create an online tool that helps the identification. Final step – share the collection with other people. Once photos are shared, there are plenty of comments from other participants. The participants are encouraged to help each other observations and there is also expert participation in identification. By now, they have over 600 regular participants, 18,000 collections, and 155,000 photos. Many of the participants are not experts in biological recording but have interest in photography. in terms of data quality they looked for precision, repeatability (how close the process was to the protocol). The social control help in improving quality, and the representativeness can be done in explicit sampling design but also in post-study statistical analysis. Beginners tend not to follow the protocol, but other people are helping them and within 3-4 iterations, people are learning the protocol and follow it.
Helen Roy (CEH) talk (with Harding, Preston, Pocock and Roy) ‘Celebrating 50 years of the Biological Records Centre‘. She gave some key achievements that also appear in a booklet on the 50 years of BRC. The BRC was established in the 1960s to support volunteer recording in the UK – they have now a team of 14 permanent staff. 85 different recording schemes from flee to bees, ladybirds and many other groups. Recording schemes are running by volunteers coordinators – so support is provided by printing newsletters, publishing atlases, etc. They cover a lot of taxa – plants and animals. Over the decades, they have long-term datasets which lead to distribution atlases. Over 80m records. UK biodiversity indicators for the UK government are collected by volunteers and used in decision-making – they are now growing from 24 indicators to include pollinators and other elements. Another area of importance is biological invasions as it cost the UK over 12 billion EUR a year – and not only to look at existing species but also to look forward about the threats – and because volunteers are so knowledgeable, they contributed to horizon scanning work. Work on surveillance and monitoring extend to the general public with publicity – this way they for example got information that Raccoons are being seen in the UK. Another important aspect of BRC data is the ability to use it to understand the decline of native species – for example understanding changes in native ladybird species. Finally, the information is very important in climate change scenarios and use the information about habitats can help in interpreting data and predict future directions.
In the work of the BRC, technology is becoming an important driver – they share it through the NBN gateway, and also apps and websites such as iSpot, iRecord and other bits are helping in developing new sources of information. In summary, to deal with environmental challenges that we’re currently facing cannot be done without this information and interpretation by volunteers. She finished with a big thank you to the many volunteers recorders.
In ‘How to use data generated by general public of a citizen science program for conservation purpose’ Nathalie Machon (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle) explored another successful French study. They see importance in preserving biodiversity in cities – regulate city climate, dealing with air pollution, contributing to public health etc. In cities, most of the biodiversity is in parks and gardens but the urban matrix is permeable to many animal species such as pollinators. The potential of connection between green spaces is important to create a network in the city. How the structure and management of cities influence biodiversity? was a research question that the programme ‘sauvages de ma rue‘ was set to explore. Since 2011 participants share information about wild-flowers in their own streets. When the programme started, they wanted people to learn to recognise species near them and collect information about the distribution of plants in their area . The protocol is fairly simple – identify street, collect data about plants in different habitats (cracks, walls) and send the information. They created a guide to help people identify species and also created a smartphone app. Usually people start by providing data about their street, but the programme grew and now they have groups and organisations that deal with naturalist activity and they send a lot of data from many streets in the same place. The organisations can be about sustainability, schools university or nature enthusiasts. They receives 40,660 data points by 2014 which provided the basis for her analysis.
After correction, they had reliable 20,000 data points in 38 cities and 2500 pavements – they check the richness of pavements and the obvious factor is the length (of course) but in about 100m there is a levelling in terms of species. They found that the structure of the street is important – if it is only in cracks, there are less species. The richness is not correlated to population density, but in large urban area (Paris) there is a significant decline toward the centre. They also look at pollination – and found that the number of pollinators is correlated to the human density of the city but not correlated to the distance to the centre of the city, apart from the case in Paris. They also seen increase with habitat types in a pavement. In terms of cities, they discovered that Nantes, Brest and Angers are doing well. However, they are aware that there is an observer effect on the results. Observers were shown to be good as botanists. In summary, they’ve learned that insect pollinated species are easy to recognise and it’s possible to carry out such studies effectively with lightly trained volunteers.
Anne-Caroline Prévot (CESCO – Muséum nationa l’Histoire Naturelle) reviewed her research on ‘Short and long-term individual consequences of participation to citizen-science projects’ in an approach that combines environmental psychology and ecology. There is growing concern on separation between people and nature: extinction of experience (Pyle 2003, Miller 2005) or environmental generational amnesia (Kahn 2002). There is a need engagement of majority of citizens to change their approach. In the psychology field , there is Stern influential piece from 2000 on environmentally significant behaviour, linking individual to different aspects of pro-environmental behaviour. Identifying social and personal factors . On the other hand, in citizen science programme there are multiple goals – contribute to ecological science ; educate people to acquire knowledge on biodiversity; etc. There is also potential of reconnection to nature – so the question that she addressed “Did citizen science changed biodiversity representation and knowledge? environmental values? pratcial knowledge? skills?” (all these are based on Stern framework). She looked at the butterfly collection programme and interview 30 regular volunteers who participate every year – They found that they were confident in science, and they discovered new aspects of biodiversity through participation and change their gardening practices. This can change representation but they were environmentally concern to start with. There was no issue of group identity with this group of volunteers. The second study looked at a programme at school (vigienature école) with 400 pupils from 29 classes in 11-13 age group. They use a questionnaire to understand environmental value and other activities outside schools. In addition, they asked the children to draw an urban garden. Each drawing was analysed for natural elements, built elements and humans. Participation in nature monitoring showed higher presence of nature in drawing but no difference in environmental values. They think that it probably changed representation, but not values, there was no assessment of skills and there was some aspect of group social identity. In summary citizen science initative may change knwoeldge and attitdue of volunteers but this require attention and more evaluation.
Rachel Pateman (SEI) presented the an MSc project carried out by Sian Lomax under the supervision of Sarah West (SEI) on ‘A critical assessment of a citizen science project‘. It’s an assessment of the science and impact of participants from the OPAL Soil and Earthworm Survey. Aims of citizen science are to answer scientific questions, but also to provide benefit to participants – learning, fun, change behaviours, or information for lobbying on behalf of nature. The challenges are how to find inclusive methods and have good quality data. The participants aim are not simple – there is not simple link between participation and pro-environmental behaviour. The way to deal with that is to evaluate and reflect critically during the development of a citizen science project, and inform the design process (this remind me a lot of Amy Fowler’s thesis, also about OPAL). The OPAL programme is aimed to be educational, change of lifestyle and inspire new generation of environmentalists and greater understanding of the environment. Sian evaluate the soil and earthworm survey which are usually run with an instructor (community scientist) but also can be done by ordering a self obtained pack. The methods – dig a pit, identify worms, and identify properties of the soil and then submit the inforamtion. The aim is that participants wil learn about soil properties and get interested in environmental issues. Sian recruited 87 participants from ages 5 to 60 and also evaluated the observations of participants in the lab, as well as running a questionnaire with participants. She found fairly poor results (around 40% accurate) in comparison to her own analysis. The results are that 39% identified correctly, 44% functional group, 46% identified as immature – the reliability of the data that adult observers done is better. Results – ID to species level is challenging, especially without help (she didn’t trained the participants) and therefore there is a need of an OPAL community scientist to be an instructor. There was not enough testing of the material at the beginning of the survey and it haven’t been improved since 2009. There is a need to verify records – but should be emphasised further and included in apps. However, despite these limitation, the OPAL survey did yield useful information and they managed to use the data to find abundance of information. Only in 29% of the cases she agreed with participants about the classification of soil granularity. When evaluating the pH of the soil – 63% was within the correct category of acid/alkaline but not correct on the value – the issue might be with the instrument that was provided to participants and yields wrong reading.
In terms of knowledge and experience – the questionnaire was done before, immediately after the survey and then 3 months later. Knowledge increased immediately after but drop-off after – so conclusion is that need to reinforce it after the event. In terms of interest in nature they didn’t find difference – but that because there was high level of interest to start with.
Jodey Peyton (CEH/BRC) ‘Open Farm Sunday Pollinator Survey: Citizen science as a tool for pollinator monitoring?‘. The decline in pollinators in the UK is a cause of concern. Their estimated value is £510 m a year. The Big Bumbelebee discovery is an example for a project that focus on pollinators. However, we’re lacking abundance data about them. The Open Farm Sunday is a project to open farms to the public (run by LEAF) and about 4 years ago they contacted CEH to do some work with visitors collect information on pollinators
They ask participants to observe a 2×2 m of crop and non-crop area. They have an ecologists on site so they do the same as the participants – carry 2 min observations in both habitats. The event included teaching people the process and giving them information. The forms use to be 4 pages but turned out to be too complex so simplified a form with just 2 pages. They also reduce time from 5 min to 2 min. They run surveys in 2012 to 2014 with different number of farms – and looked at different factors during the day. They found that public was over-recording (compare to ecologists), not by much – they also got data from other parts of the plant so not only on the flowers because they wanted to report something. Conclusions – on the broad level public data was similar to ecologists. Lots of interest and enthusiasm and understand what they’re seeing. It is great opportunity to highlight the issue of pollinator. Want to run it every second year because of the effort of the ecologists on the day. They also want to deal with challenge of ‘recording zero. Want to see more collaboration with universities and schools.
Charlotte Hall (EarhtWatch Institute) provided an overview of FreshWater Watch: lessons from a global mass Citizen Science programme. The programme focused on fresh water quality. A global programme that look at water quality in urban areas – each location they partner with local research institute, and Earthwatch bring the citizen scientists with the local researchers. The data that is collected is managed by EarthWatch on a specially designed website to allow sharing knowledge and communictation. The evolving motivation of participants, they looked at Rotman et al 2012 model. Initial involvment stemming from interest or existing knowledge, although in the case of EarthWatch they are getting employees of Shell or HSBC who sponsor them, they also work with teachers in Teach Earth and also expanding to work with local groups such as Thames 21 or Wandle Trust. They have over 20 research partners. With such a mix of researchers, participants and organisations, there are different motivations from different directions. They start with training in person and online Research and learning- EarthWatch is interested in behaviour change, so they see learning as a very important issue and include quizzes to check the knowledge of participants. They pay special attention to communication between EarthWatch and the scientists and between EarthWatch and the citizen scientists. There is a community feature on the website for citizen scientists and also for the scientists. There is also an app with automated feedback that tell them about the outcomes of the research they are doing. They have an element of gamification -points on communication, science and skills that participants gained and they can get to different levels. They try to encourage people to move to the next step so to continue their involvement through learning in webinars, refresher session, research updates, points and prizes and even facility for the participants to analyse the data themselves. Involvement in FreshWater watch is exhibiting participation inequality. They would like to make it shallower but it is very strongly skewed. In Latin America there is better participation, and also differences in participation according to the researcher who lead the activity. This is new citizen science approach for EarthWatch, with different audience, so it’s important to re-evaluate and understand participants. EarthWatch is still learning from that and understanding motivation.
Emma Rothero (Open University) Flight of the Fritillary: a long-running citizen science project linking Snakeshead fritillaries flowers and bumblebees. The work started in 1999, this is a rare plant that is growing only in few places in the UK. The Bees are critical to the flower, and they set a 15% secondary count to evaluate the success of volunteers. They also started winter workshops for discussions. To engage volunteers, they’ve done wide advertising and also used naturalist networks. She described a comparison between three sites where monitoring was carried out this year . In Lugg Meadow the monitoring is done during guided walks and family outreach events. In North Meadow, many people come to see – so they have a gate presence and offered free lunch for volunteers. In Clattinger Farm they haven’t done any specific activity. In 2008 – 20011 only 20 volunteers, now they’ve got 90 volunteers, and about 30-40 who come to winter workshops. Level of volunteering – once 120 , 40 participated twice and 20 three times – there is some enthusiastic people who do it regularly. The volunteers survey show that 88% heard about the monitoring project by word of mouth (despite the advertising and media access), and 87.5% are already recorders – but 88% thought that they had improved their skills. and 65% said that they improve their skills. 54% would like to get involved in other aspects of the project, and 100% enjoyed the activity. In terms of comparison with recounts – they do 4000 1sq m quads using very accurate (1 cm) GPS. They see that there wasn’t difference between recounts in some sites but significantly difference in another site (because of difficulties in frame orientation so implementation of the protocol) – recognising problem in their method. There is also scientific discovery, where they found a case that plants didn’t appear one year but bounced back the next year.
There was no time for much discussion, but a question that was raised and discussed shortly is that most of the projects are ‘top-down’ and led by the scientists, so what is the scope for co-created projects in the area of ecological observations and monitoring?
Notes from the second day of the BES/sfé annual meeting (see first day notes here)
Several talks in sessions that attracted my attention:
Daniel Richards (National University of Singapore) looked at cultural ecosystem services from social media sources. He mentioned previous study by Casalegno at al 2013 study on social media and ecosystem services . In Singapore they carry out a study for the few green spaces that are used for leisure and nature reserves – the rest of the place is famously highly urbanised. There are patches of coastal habitat that are important locally. The analysis looked at Flickr photos to reveal interest. There are 4 study sites, with 760 photos that were returned and of them 683 related to coastal habitat. They use classification of content, with 8 people analysing the photos. Analysis of Flickr showed different aspects – landscape in one site, and wildlife in another site. In one site there are research photos due to the way it is used locally. Looking closely to one coastal site, focal points in the route where people stopped to take a picture stood out, and landscape photos. All the photos follow the boardwalk in the area of Changi which is the only route. Simulation showed that after 70 photos they can get a good indication of the nature of the place, no need to look through all the images.
Barbara Smith explored the role of indigenous and local knowledge as part of a multiple evidence base for pollinator conservation. The context is India in agricultural area – looking at places where there is more extensive agriculture and less. The project aim is to record pollinators and then explore the impact of landscape and crop productivity . In this study, the starting point was the belief that traditional knowledge has a lot of value, and it is a knowledge that can be integrated with scientific information. She mentioned Tengo et al 2013 discussion paper in IPBES on the value of local knowledge, and also Sutherland et al 2014 paper in Oryx about the need to integrate indigenous knowledge in ecological assessment. The aim to collate knowledge of trends, they created a local peer-review process to validate local knowledge. Understanding factual data collection and separate it from inferences which are sometime wrong. They carry out small group discussions, in which they involved 5-7 farmers, in each of the 3 study area they had 3 groups. They asked questions that are evidence gathering (which crop you grow?) and also verification (how do you know?) they also ask opinion scoping (perceptions ) and then ‘why did you observed the change?’. In the discussions with the farmers they structured in around questions that can be explored together. After the first session, the created declarations – so ‘yields have fallen by 25%’ or crop yield declined because of the poor soil’ the statements were accepted or rejected through discussion with the farmers – local peer-review. Not all farmers can identify pollinators, and as the size goes down, there is less identification and also confusion about pests and pollinators. The farmers identified critical pollinators in their area and also suggestions on why the decline happen.
In the workshop on ‘Ecosystem assessments – concepts, tools and governance‘ there was various discussion on tools that are used for such purposes, but it became clear to me that GIS is playing a major role, and that many of the fundamental discussions in GIScience around the different types of modelling – from overlaying to process oriented modelling – can play a critical role in making sense of the way maps and GIS outputs travel through the decision making. It can be an interesting area to critically analysed – To what degree the theoretical and philosophical aspects of the modelling are taken into account in policy processes? The discussion in the workshop moved to issues of scientific uncertainty and communication with policy makers. The role of researchers in the process and the way they discuss uncertainty.
In the computational ecology session, Yoseph Araya presented a talk that was about the use of citizen science data, but instead he shared his experience and provide an interesting introduction to a researcher perspective on citizen science. He looked at the data that is coming from citizen science and the problem of getting good data. Citizen Science gaining attention – e.g. Ash die-back and other environmental issues are leading to attention. Citizens are bridging science, governance and participation. Citizen Science is needed for data at temporal, spatial and social scales and we should not forget that it is also about social capital, and of course fun and enjoyment. There is an increase in citizen science awareness in the literature. He is building on experience from many projects that he participated in include Evolution Megalab, world water monitoring day, floodplain meadows partnership, iSpot and OPAL, and CREW – Custodians of Rare and Endangered Windflowers (that’s a seriously impressive set of projects!). There are plenty of challenges – recruitment, motivation; costs and who pays; consideration of who run it; data validation and analysis and others. Data issues include data accuracy, completeness, reliability, precision and currency. He identified sources of errors – personnel, technical and statistical. The personal – skills, fitness and mistakes and others. Potential solutions – training with fully employed personnel, then also monitor individual and also run an online quiz. Technically, there is the option of designing protocols and statistically, it is possible to use recounts (15%), protocols that allow ‘no data’ and other methods.
The poster session included a poster from Valentine Seymour, about her work linking wellbeing and green volunteering
The British Ecological Society (BES) & Société Française d’Ecologie meeting organised their annual meetings to be a joint meeting, held in Lille 9-12 December. Over the past 5 years, my journey in citizen science gave me an opportunity to reconnect to ecology, a topic in which I was interested in during my high-school years. I was also working side by side with ecologists while learning ArcInfo in the early 1990s, since the GIS laboratory at the time started in the ecology department. Because there is so much citizen science activity in the area of ecological monitoring, it is not surprising to see that the BES already include a special interest group on citizen science.
Although I’m now a member of the BES, my notes from the meeting are of visitor to the annual festival of the discipline of ecology – and include much learning of what is of interest to this discipline. In many of the talks, I have been attempting to understand the specific disciplinary terminology and what topics people see as important. Some of the workshops and sessions that I found interesting include
The workshop on “Doing and funding effective public engagement” which was organised by Helen Featherstone, and Will Gosling.
Helen Featherstone from the University of Bath (public engagement unit) and she’s been working with the BES over 18 months to assist them in public engagement. Will Gosling – University of Amsterdam and involve in the BES, interested in science communication and outreach.
The workshop started by exploring ‘What is meant by public engagement?‘. doing a lecture at the university is seen by the audience is argued by some people as not enough engagement – need to be two ways interaction with people outside research. Who is coming to the lecture? There is the issue of Q&A at the end of the lecture that makes it more interactive. Another example is being interviewed on the local radio station, this is more outreach but less interactive, though that is depending on the form, for example phone-in. Going to a music festival to do demonstration of scientific issues – it’s considered more engaging, because it’s for audience that don’t go out of their way to do it. Engagement with art was suggested to be ‘completely waste of time’ although it is dependent on how it is shared and what is the aim. The generic questions of Public Engagement are “How direct? How many people are involved? How much science? Is there an opportunity for a dialogue (e.g. in Science Cafe the emphasis on the Q@&A)?.
The UK definition – “Public engagement describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.”. The workshop then explored why the public and researchers should be interested
For the public, the following points were suggested: curiosity, want to understand the natural world. If the public is asked to do things without understanding them, they will reject them, so understanding and explaining is an important part of acting. Interest in sharing lived experiences. The public want to know what their money was spent on. There is an issue of inclusiveness, and ensuring that everyone is involved. Also it was highlighted that because science is used in decision making, there is a need to provide the public with the ability to understand why thing are done to them. Generally, moving to researching with people and not ‘for’ or ‘about’.
For researchers: those who want to have impact on society, public engagement is a route for that. The public is funder and need to maintain interest in the topic. Ensuring that there is uptake of the results. The citizenship aspect of researchers engaging with society came up. Also the need for general advocacy for the investment in research. Harnessing interest and curiosity, getting information that is not possible to get otherwise (people’s backyards). Accountability to the public and how you spend their money. The issue between making paper open access and making it accessible came up. Improving communication skills as scientists. It takes you to different places and it can be fun and interesting. Reminding people why they do it in the first place.
The target audience for the activity in 2013 was adults music festival goers and professional researchers were involved and the activity was designed at this levels. The video was aimed at researchers, to encourage them to get involved in public engagement as part of BES activities, and therefore the view counts can be low – the issue is not just any number of views, but to consider who it is intended for. Through the festival, the BES had interactions with 5500 people, and some engaged quite seriously about the specific research. Some people in the event were very pleased that there was an opportunity to meet scientists in music festival. People were capable to bring in their own nature or ecology story. BES now committed to a person with a role of public engagement.
In public engagement there are questions about long term impact and how to evaluate it. Also the context of engagement came up – is it for something that is done as a family or as adults. There are differences between adults coming as themselves but when adults are with children, they become facilitators of the learning experience of the children.
The next session that I attended was ‘Long Term Monitoring of Agro-ecosystems’.
Vincent Bretagnolle – in the past 15 years, there is a stabilisation in the yield of wheat and other agricultural products and there are many other issues, so in agro-ecosystems, there is need to reduce anthropogenic pressure. Intensive agriculture in not environmental sustainable on ecosystems services and biodiversity. Need to reconcile biodiversity management, ecosystem services, and food production. Research need to be territorial in scale (landscape 450 sq km as an example). Social-ecological systems approach allows the analysis of processes at this scale. Implementing agri-environmental schemes as a way to increase support to flagship species. At the societal level, they promote several programme of citizen science to encourage people to think about complexity and uncertainty on the conditions around them. He sees it as part of social-ecological system approach. They carry out citizen science not for the purpose of collecting data, but to disseminate thinking about the environment and ecosystem services, aiming at groups of 20-40 people.
James Pearce-Higgins covered the BTOs breeding bird surveys (BBS) over 20 years – this is collaborative project with RSPB & BTO and suppoert from JNCC. The BBS replaces in 1994 the Common Birds Census which was more complex. The BBS monitor 100 bird species – 2854 volunteers in 3761 survey squares – 2013 . Stratified sampling programme to select the location of the squares. They ask people to walk two transects of 1km and each transect is divided to 5 sections and the data collected online. This allow them to convert counts to density. There is an issue of detectability which they have modelled, so for example the size is influencing the probability of detection. They check efficacy, quality and how to use the data. They provide lots of searchable information online. They analyse annual trends but there is a need to look at long, overall trend – there are very few species with very big increase, and species that are declining significantly. There is big decline in species that mgirate to africa and those that are in humid zones have special decline. There is also effect of habitats – decline in woodlands, farmland. There are strong spatial patterns – increase in species in richness as temprature increase. Generalist species are doing well, while specialists species are doing badly. There are impacts of land-use and climate change. Citizens science is the only way to get large scale monitoring of this sort of coverage which bring evidence on farmland and woodland decline, but there is need to focus on agricultural management. Volunteers reasons for participation closed the talk. A press release on BTO (my image is not clear, so I picked up citations from the press release of BTO):
I believe the data makes a very valuable contribution to the wider picture of the state of our wild bird populations, and there is no small satisfaction making the effort for this. Nick Tardivel
The achievement of reaching remote squares, after a seemingly vertical climb, with the reward of panoramic views of the Cheviots, singing Skylarks, ‘pipping’ pipits, calling Curlews, and Snipe drumming is all the incentive needed to keep going, year after year, to this beautiful part of Northumberland. Muriel Cadwallender
It’s great fun, it is always good to be out birding and recording birds; you never know what you will find – on one occasion I found the island’s first Lesser Whitethroat just after I finished the count. David Jardine
I appreciate the value of persisting with an average square of farmland, to enable the gathering of data to show just how badly our farmland birds are doing. Louise Bacon
The opportunity to take part in a bird survey in beautiful surroundings, being ‘up with the lark’ as the day wakens is great reward. So much so that I have taken on four more squares since! Andrew King
I am pleased to be a small part of an important conservation tool which makes doing the survey worthwhile. Heather Coats
2014 marks my 20th year of surveys. It is now part of my early summer; I love the excuse (and of course the prompt) to be up early and taking in the route and, like old friends, the birds I can expect to find along the way. Paul Copestake
Each visit I add a few more pieces to the ever changing pattern of bird trends both here on my patch and also in the wider countryside. Vic Fairbrother
Marc Botham covered UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme – been going on since 1976, and standardised as ‘Pollard walks‘ – 26 weekly walks annually, citizen science based. Piloted in 1973-1976 and then started at full scale from 1976. The walks are from April to September. They also carry out series of other methods that are done year after year regularly – including larval web counts and egg counts. They have over 1000 sides, of which most are from the standard way. They are gradually covering the whole area of the UK although more in the south. That allow them to analyse long term trends and there are trends that are changing with different ecological cycles – crashes and peaks which are common in butterflies. The long term trend allow to notice major decline in ‘common’ widespread species, some of them by almost 80%. The use indicators that contribute to national policy. Butterfly are doing more badly than birds and bats on the long term scale. Agri-environmental schemes where there is site-specific advice have been shown effective and monitoring can demonstrate the improvement. They are now created a wider countryside butterfly survey and ask people to take randomised 1-km square that are selected for volunteers. 2 visits a year, and that add 1000 sides for the volunteers. There are, of course, similarities between this method and BTO BBS as it is based on it.
Ondine Filippi-Codaccioni presented in the poster session an interesting piece of analysis that compared the quality, in terms of providing information that represent species distribution, between very structured citizen science and opportunistic citizen science. The abstract of the poster (edited a bit) is ‘In most cases, citizen science is associated with with loosley defined and heterogeneous data collection protocols. Opportunistic data in our case are data collected by a large number of different observers whose spatial and temporal distribution is greatly heterogeneous, the effort is usually unknown, zeros are generally unreported, and finally positive count may be reported differently or even censured according to species. To analyse such data we propose a multivariate hierarchical model with latent spatial – spatiotemporal – fields for relative abundances of each considered species. Its specificity is to account for different types of observation and for observer characteristics in distribution or behaviour. First results show that it seems possible to correct several main biases, to model count positive-only data and to infer fairly well relative density maps in a multi-species context, using a Bayesian framework and INLA R-package tools. We analysed a case study data set of several thousand observations from the French Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO, Birdlife France) to show the feasibility of such approaches and we checked the inference quality and limits on smaller simulated examples.’ In short, the study shows that by having some well calibrated and trusted observations, the opportunistic data significantly improve the model and the ability to predict were species are.
In terms of terminology, it is interesting to note that in several presentation the source of data was recognised as ‘citizen science data’ as well as recognition of their work.
4 December, 2014
A citizens observatory is a concept that evolved at EU policy circles, defining the combination of participatory community monitoring, technology and governance structures that are needed to monitor/observe/manage an environmental issue. About two years ago, the EU FP7 funded 5 citizens observatory projects covering areas from water management to biodiversity monitoring. A meeting at Brussels was an opportunities to review their progress and consider the wider implications of citizen science as it stand now. The meeting was organised and coordinated by the group in the Directorate General Research and Innovation that is responsible for Earth Observations (hence the observatory concept!). The following are my notes from the meeting.
They are very long and I’m sure that they are incoherent at places!
The meeting was opened with Kurt Vandenberghe (Director Environment, DG R&I). He suggested that citizens observatories contribute to transparency in governance – for example, ensuring that monitoring is done in the correct place, and not, as done in some member states, where monitoring stations are in the places that will yield ‘useful’ or ‘acceptable’ results but not representative: “Transparency is a driver in intrinsic ethical behaviour”. There is also value in having citizens’ input complementing satellite data. It can help in engaging the public in co-design of environmental applications and addressing environmental challenges. Examples for such participation is provided in Marine LitterWatch and NoiseWatch from EEA and development of apps and technology can lead to new business opportunities. The concept of earth observations is about creating a movement of earth observers who collect information, but also allow citizens to participate in environmental decision-making. This can lead to societal innovation towards sustainable and smart society. From the point of view of the commission DG R&I, they are planning to invest political and financial capital in developing this vision of observatories. The New calls for citizens observatories demonstrators is focusing on citizens’ participation in monitoring land use and land cover in rural and remote areas. Data collected through observatories should be complementing those that are coming from other sources. The commission aim to continue the investment in future years – citizen science is seen as both business opportunities and societal values. A successful set of project that end by showing that citizen observatories are possible is not enough – they want to see the creation of mass movement. Aim to see maximising capital through the citizens observatories. Optimising framework condition to allow citizens observatories to be taken up by member states and extended, implemented and flourish. Some of the open questions include how to provide access to the data to those that collected it? How can we ensure that we reach out across society to new groups that are not currently involved in monitoring activities? How can we deal with citizens observatories security and privacy issues regarding the information? The day is an opportunity for co-creation and considering new ways to explore how to address the issue of citizens observatories from a cross-disciplinary perspective – “Citizen science as a new way to manage the global commons”.
Next, a quick set of presentations of the FP7 projects:
WeSenseIt (Fabio Ciravegna) is a project that focuses on citizens involvement in water resources – citizens have a new role in the information chain of water related decisions. Participants are expected to become part of the decision-making. In this project, citizens observatory is seen as a science method, an environment to implement collaboration and as infrastructure. They are working in Doncaster (UK), Vicenza (Italy) and Delft (The Netherlands). In WeSenseIt, they recognise that different cultures and different ways to do things are part of such systems. A major questions is – who are the citizens? In the UK : normal people and in Italy: civil protection officials and volunteers, while in the Netherlands water and flood management is highly structured and organised activity. They have used a participatory design approach and working on the issue of governance and understanding how the citizen observatories should be embedded in the existing culture and processes. They are creating a citizens’ portal and another one for decision makers. The role of citizens portal is to assist with data acquisition with areas and equipment citizens can deploy – weather, soil moisture,etc. On the decision makers portals, there is the possibility is to provide surveillance information (with low-cost cameras etc), opportunistic sensing and participatory sensing – e.g. smart umbrella while combining all this information to be used together. WeSenseIt created a hybrid network that is aimed to provide information to decision makers and citizens. After two years, they can demonstrate that their approach can work: In Vicenza they used the framework to develop action to deal with flood preparedness. They also started to work with large events to assist in the organisation and support the control room, so in Torino they are also starting to get involved in helping running an event with up to 2m people.
Omniscientis (Philippe Ledent) – The Omniscientis project (which ended in September) focused on odour monitoring and using different sensors – human and electronic. Odour can be a strong / severe nuisance, in Wallonia and France, and there is concerns about motorways, factories, livestock and waste facilities. Odour is difficult to measure and quantify and complex to identify. Mainly because it is about human perception, not only the measurement of chemicals in the air. In too many regulations and discussions about odour, citizens were considered as passive or victims. The Omniscientis project provided an opportunity to participants be active in the monitoring. The project took a multi-stakeholders approach (farmers, factory operators, local residents etc.). They created odour management information system with the concept of a living lab. They created a OdoMIS that combines information from sensors, industry, NGOs, experts, and citizens. They created an app OdoMap that provide opportunities for participants to provide observations, but also see what other people measured and access to further information. They created chemical sensor array (e-nose), and the citizens helped in assessing what is the concentration that they sense. This was linked to a computationally intensive dispersion model. They have done a pilot around a pig farm in Austria to validate the model, and another near pulp and paper mill. Evolution of citizens participation was important for the project, and people collected measurements for almost a year, with over 5000 measurements. The results is they would like to link odour sources, citizens and authorities to work on the area. They have used actor netowrk theory to enrol participants in the process with strong UCD element.
COBWEB (Chris Higgins) has been working a generic crowdsourcing infrastructure, with data that can supports policy formation while addressing data quality issues and using open standards. They aimed to encapsulate metadata and OGC standards to ensure that the ifnroamtion is interoperable. They would like to create a toolkit can be used in different contexts and scenarios. They focus on the biospehere reserve network across Europe. They carried out a lot of co-design activities from the start with stakeholders engagement, they are doing co-design with 7 organisations in Wales – Woodlands trusts, RSPB, Snowdonia national park, and others. This lead to different focus and interest from each organisation – from dolphins to birds. They hope to see greater buy-in because of that.
Citi-Sense (Alena Bartonova) focusing on air quality. The objectives of city sense is to explore if people can participate in environmental governance. They are doing empowerment initiatives – urban quality, schools, and public spaces. In the urban context they measure pollution, meteorological observations, noise, health, biomarkers and UV exposure – they looked at technologies from mobile sensors and also static sensors that can be compared to compliance monitoring. In schools, they engage the school children, with looking at sensors that are installed at school and also looking at indoor air quality data. There are co-design activities with students. In Public spaces they focused on acoustic sensing, and discover that phones are not suitable so went to external sensors (we discovered the problem with phones in EveryAware). They explore in 9 cities and focusing from sensors, data and services platform but also explore how to engage people in a meaningful way. The first two years focused on technical aspects. They are now moving to look at the engagement part much more but they need to consider how to put it out. They are developing apps and also considering how to improve air quality apps. They would like a sustainable infrastructure.
Citclops (Luigi Ceccaroni) originally aimed ‘to create a community participatory governance methods aided by social media streams’, but this is an unclear goal that the project partners found confusing! So they are dealing with the issue of marine environment: asking people to take pictures of marine environment and through the app facilitating visual monitoring of marine environment (available to download by anyone) – they are helping people to assess visually the quality of water bodies. There is an official way of defining the colour of sea waters which they use in the project and also comparing ground observations with satellite information. The project included the design of DIY devices to allow the measurement of water opacity. Finally, exploring water fluorescence. They design and 3D printed a device that can be used with smartphones to measure fluorescence as this help to understand concentration of chlorophyll and can be associated with remote sensing information. Citizen science is a way to complement official data – such as the data from the water directive.
After a break and demonstration from some of the projects, the first round-table of the day, which include executives from environment protection agencies across Europe started
[I’ve lost my notes, so below is a summary of the session edited from Valentine Seymour notes]
The chair (Gilles Ollier) of the session highlighted that the following issues as significant for considering the role of citizen science: Are we doing something useful/usable? Valuable? And sustainable?
James Curran (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) noted that SEPA took citizen science to the core of its business. He highlighted issues of growth, jobs and investments. The need for sustainable growth and that citizen science contributed to these goals very well as the Chinese proverb say “Involve me and I will understand”. SEPA has been promoting mobile applications to detect invasive species and environmental damages. The Riverfly project is an example of engaging people in monitoring to detect water quality and invertebrate sampling and how important it was for the Water Framework Directive (WFD) to include public participation. There is a need to provide accessible information, working with others collaboratively, measuring behavioural changes and the need for public engagement.
Laura Burke (Ireland EPA) main statement was that citizen science do not replace governmental and official scientific monitoring but that citizen science should be seen in complimentary. There are three main issues or areas to consider; terminology (spectrum of the term citizen science), the need for thinking about the long-term sustainable future of citizen science projects, and acknowledge the synergies between projects.
Hugo de Groof (DG Env) noted the importance of access to information and the Open Access Directive that has been passed. In terms of governance, we need to follow 5 main principles: 1) Accountability, 2) transparency, 3) participation, 4) Effectiveness and efficiency and finally 5) Respect. Raymond Feron from the Dutch ministry for infrastructure and environment emphasised that there is a social change emerging. [End of Valentine’s notes]
The issues of operationalisation received attention – there are different projects, how far are we from large-scale deployment? Colin Chapman (Welsh Government) – maturity across observatory projects vary from case to case and across issues. Technologies are still maturing, there is a need to respond to issues and mobilise resources to address issues that citizens bring up. Systems approach to ecosystem management is also a factor in considering how to integrate observatories. There are too much reliance on macro modelling. A question for policy bodies is “can we incentivise citizens to collect data across policy areas?” for example invasive species, we can use the information in different areas from flood modelling to biodiversity management. David Stanners (EEA) noted that citizens observatories are vulnerable at this point in time and this lack of stability and there are examples of projects that didn’t last. There are some inter-linkages, but not an ecology of observatories, of interconnectedness and ability to survive. Need better linkage with policy, but not across the board and no direct policy elements. The integration of citizens observatories is a fantastic opportunity at EU level – as issues of the environment suppose to be very visible. Raymond Feron noted that government might have issues in keeping pace with citizens actions. Government organisations need to learn how to integrate citizens observatories, need to learn to reuse parts. Integrate research programme with implementation strategy. James Curran also stated that working with anglers and other stakeholders can increase trust. In terms of quality and relevant, citizen science data is not different to other data. Laura Burke noted that no government have all the answers, and trust issues should be presented as such. Need to move away from concept of one organisation with a solution to any given problem. David Stanners raised the issues of truth seeking. Within the cupernicos programme, there are opportunities to support services with citizen science.
Following the point of views from the panellists, questions about trust, finding ways to include of people without access to technology were raised by the audience. The panellists agreed that from the point of view of policy makes the concept of citizens observatories is obvious but there is a need to make citizens observatories and citizen science activities sustainable and well-integrated in government activities. Interestingly, James Curran noted that the issue of data quality from citizen science is not a major obstacles, inherently because environmental authorities are used to make decisions that are risk based. There was willingness to work with intermediaries to reach out to under-represented groups. David Stanners called for cross cutting meta-studies to understand citizens observations landscape.
The next series of presentations covered citizen science activities that are not part of the citizens observatories projects.
NoiseWatch/Marine litter watch (David Stanners, EEA) – Noisewatch was developed by the EEA and provie the modelling element, measurement, and citizen rating element. He argued that dB is not good measure, as noise is a perception issue and not about just measurement. NoiseWatch received an award in the Geospatial World Forum. It became global although it wasn’t promoted as such, with uptake in India and China and UNEP are considering to take it over and maintain it. Sustainability of NoiseWatch is a challenge for EEA and it might be more suitable in a global platform such as UNEP Live. NoiseWatch is seen as complementing existing monitoring stations because there as so few of them. When analysing the sources of the measurement, NoiseWatch get a lot of observations from roads, with 21% of industry noise – in total almost 195000 measurements. Another application is Marine LitterWatch which provides a way for people to share information about the state of beaches. The application is more complex as it embedded in protocol of data collection, and David argue that it is ‘more close to citizen science’, EEA got almost 7500 measurements with 144 events to use it, they are developing it further.
LakeWiki (Juhani Kettunen, who was not present) is an initiative that focus on motoring Finnish lakes – was launched by Syke and it is aimed to allow local communities to take care of their lakes, record information and build a long term observations. Simple platform, recording information such as ice break up but it is aimed to allow locals write about the lake, maintain observations sites, upload pictures, announce local events and write in discussion forums, 1400 sites [this project is also noted in COST Energic network]
Raymond Feron presented a programme in Netherlands called digital Delta Initiative: partnership between research, public and government. IBM, TU Delft and government are involved. Trying to make water data available to everyone. focus of the system allow re-use of information, the government try to do things more efficiently, shorten time to market, improve quality of decisions, while also improving citizen participation. Ideas of increasing export to new places. Involving the public with dyke monitoring because they can do things locally easily.
I gave a talk about Mapping for Change air quality studies, and I hope to discuss them in a different post:
Claudia Goebel followed with a report on ECSA (see my report for ECSA meeting)
Antonoi Parodi from CIMA foundation discussed the DRIHM project. This is mostly a project focused on meteorological information. Issue of meteorology has a very long history of observations, going from 300 BC. There is plenty of reliance of observed patterns of events. Informal folklore was used by early meteorology citizen science. The middle ages, there are examples of getting information to deal with flash flood. Within the project they created a volunteer thinking platform to support classifications of thunderstorms. The Cb-TRAM monitoring observations of thunderstorms. Interestingly, a follow on question explored the link between extreme events (floods last year) and the role of the research project to provide relevant information.
The Socientize project was presented by Francisco Sanz, covering areas of digital science.
There was also a presentation from the SciCafe 2.0 project, including mentioning the European Observatory for Crowd-Sourcing http://sis04ab.webs.sse.reading.ac.uk/ . Another tool from the project is Citizens’ Say tool http://bit.ly/1vrldUn
The final panel explored issues on the challenges of citizen science (I was part of this panel). The people on the panel were Jaume Piera (CITCLOPS),;Arne Berre (CITI-SENSE); Bart De Lathouwer (COBWEB); Philippe Valoggia (OMNISCIENTIS); Uta Wehn (WeSenseIt); Susanne Lützenkirchen, City of Oslo and myself.
Susanne noted that the city of Oslo developed some apps, such as safe for schools – people can experience their routes to schools and they are interested in more citizen science and citizen observatories.
Strategy for sustainability of engagement over time – Uta noted that the co-design process is very important and governance analysis to understand the processes and the local needs (in WeSenseIt). The observatories need to consider who are the partners – authorities are critical to see the value of observatories and provide feedback. Jaime suggested – identifying points in the project that give participants feeling that they are part of the process, allowing people to participate in different ways. Making people aware that they are part of the activities and they are valued. Showing the need for long-term observations. Susanne pointed that in Oslo there isn’t any simple answer – the issue of who are the citizens and in others it is a specific groups or more complex design sometime need to think who chose participants and how representative they are.
In WeSenseIT, they have privacy and consent setting – adhering to rules of social media, and it is an issue of data that came from other sources and how it is going to be reused. In general, Uta noted that WeSenseIt would like to try and make the data open as possible.
Data preservation is an issue – how data was handled, if we assume that there are probably 500 projects or more in Europe which is Max Craglia (JRC, who chaired the session) estimation. The issues of citizen observatories, we need to consider the individual data and there is sometime concern about releasing unvalidated data. Bart pointed that Cobweb is taking care of privacy and security of data and they are storing information about observers and there are privacy rules. Privacy legislation are local and need to follow the information. citizens see the benefit in what they collected and the sustainability of commitment. It is important to work with existing social structures and that provide opportunity for empowerment. Views about ownership of data were raised.
In terms of integration and synergy or interoperability of the citizen centred projects – interoperability is critical topic, the data need to be standardised and deal with the metadata (the most boring topic in the world). It should be collected at the right level. There is good foundation in GEOS and OGC, so we can consider how to do it.
What is the role of scientists? the role of scientists – there are partners who focus on dealing with the data and augment it with additional information and there is a role of managing the data. The link to policy also require an understanding of uncertainty. The discourse of science-policy is about what is considered as evidence. There is embracing of citizen science in environment agencies (which was demonstrated in the first panel), but there is a need for honest discussion about what happen to the data, and what degree citizens can participate in decision-making. Relevancy, legitimacy are critical to the understanding.
There was also call for accepting the uncertainty in the data – which is integral part of citizen science data. David Stanners emphasised the need for legitimacy of the information that is coming from citizens observatories as part of the trust that people put in contributing to them.
The final comments came from Andrea Tilche (Head of Unit Climate Actions and Earth Observation, DG R&I). The commission recognise that citizen observatories are not a replacement for institutional monitoring scheme (although he mentioned maybe in the future). The potential of engaging users is tremendous, and the conference demonstrated the energy and scale of activities that can be included in this area . The ownership of information need to be taken into account. We need to link and close the gaps with scientists and policy makers. We need to create market around the observatories – can’t only do it through project that disappear. There is a need for market of citizen observatories and business models. In the new call, they want to see the project generate and credible business processes. Citizens observatories will need demonstrate raising funding from other sources.
27 November, 2014
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 gender.digital 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.
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 Anymals.org 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.
26 November, 2014
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.