Co-designing the Citizen Science Global Partnership

DSC_0691.JPGThe workshop on the Citizen Science Global Partnership (CSGP) – the workshop included people from US, Brazil, Equador, Australia, UK, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, as well as UNESCO. A range of interests in terms of citizen science activities – from health to ecological observations. Martin Brocklehurst summarised where we are – in the UNEA3: there was a range of representative and at the end of a session a statement made a statement about the need for citizen science and coordination at the global level. The role of this partnership is to provide a coordination point for global organisations that are linked to a different association in different parts of the world, following the UN structure.dsc_0692.jpg Creating consortia for a global programme with similar research; support the collection of exchange of open, interoperable, and FAIR data, and understand and track how citizen science contributes to the SDGs. Wilson Center in DC offers an institutional home. Currently, the scope of projects that were put forward in a survey includes about 7 global scope projects and many single projects in specific countries or regions that can be part of the initiative. The common themes across projects are sustainable development goals – organisations that specifically looking at them, e.g. Citizen Science Centre Zurich. There there are an offering of technological assistant. there are conversation internally and externally in the citizen science community to address the SDGs and as we go lower than big institutions globally, there is less awareness, we need to consider a 13 years process and increase strength at a global scale and propose for creating a working group on the topic. Some of the challenges for the partnership is establishing a governance structure to think how to address requests and approaches, and that might be organised with individual volunteering to put an effort in the partnership but having some agreed ToR with their association. There are opportunities with the Geneva effort on Open17 which already have linked with UN, WHO and others. There is a website citizenscienceglobal.org – there will be a discussion forum that will require moderation and probably need to allow for closed conversations about it.

DSC_0693.JPGAnother challenge is the aims of coordination of communication – to UN, businesses etc. Need to help to establish new networks in new places. The participants in the meeting concluded that the top priority is network and lead consortia for global projects. Future meetings might coincide with international conferences that are linked to UN and the global data forum.

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CHI 2013: sustainability, development and activism

As I’ve noted in the previous post, I have just attended CHI (Computer-Human Interaction) conference for the first time. It’s a fairly big conference, with over 3000 participants, multiple tracks that evolved over the 30 years that CHI have been going,  including the familiar paper presentations, panels, posters and courses, but also the less familiar ‘interactivity areas’, various student competitions, alt.CHI or Special Interest Groups meetings. It’s all fairly daunting even with all my existing experience in academic conferences. During the GeoHCI workshop I have discovered the MyCHI application, which helps in identifying interesting papers and sessions (including social recommendations) and setting up a conference schedule from these papers. It is a useful and effective app that I used throughout the conference (and wish that something similar can be made available in other large conferences, such as the AAG annual meeting).

With MyCHI in hand, while the fog started to lift and I could see a way through the programme, the trepidation about the relevance of CHI to my interests remained and even somewhat increased, after a quick search of the words ‘geog’,’marginal’,’disadvantage’ returned nothing. The conference video preview (below) also made me somewhat uncomfortable. I have a general cautious approach to the understanding and development of digital technologies, and a strong dislike to the breathless excitement from new innovations that are not necessarily making the world a better place.

Luckily, after few more attempts I have found papers about ‘environment’, ‘development’ and ‘sustainability’. Moreover, I discovered the special interest groups (SIG) that are dedicated to HCI for Development (HCI4D) and HCI for Sustainability and the programme started to build up. The sessions of these two SIGs were an excellent occasion to meet other people who are active in similar topics, and even to learn about the fascinating  concept of ‘Collapse Informatics‘ which is clearly inspired by Jared Diamond book and explores “the study, design, and development of  sociotechnical systems in the abundant present for use in a future of scarcity“.

Beyond the discussions, meeting people with shared interests and seeing that there is a scope within CHI to technology analysis and development that matches my approach, several papers and sessions were especially memorable. The studies by Elaine Massung an colleagues about community activism in encouraging shops to close the doors (and therefore waste less heating energy) and Kate Starbird on the use of social media in passing information between first responders during the Haiti earthquakeexplored how volunteered, ‘crowd’ information can be used in crisis and environmental activism.
Exploring a map next to Paire Lachaise
Other valuable papers in the area of HCI for development and sustainability include the excellent longitudinal study by Susan Wyche and Laura Murphy on the way mobile charging technology is used in Kenya , a study by Adrian Clear and colleagues about energy use and cooking practices of university students in Lancastera longitudinal study of responses to indoor air pollution monitoring by Sunyoung Kim and colleagues, and an interesting study of 8-bit, $10 computers that are common in many countries across the world by Derek Lomas and colleagues.

TheCHI at the Barricades – an activist agenda?‘ was one of the high points of the conference, with a showcase of the ways in which researchers in HCI can take a more active role in their research and lead to social or environmental change, and considering how the role of interactions in enabling or promoting such changes can be used to achieve positive outcomes. The discussions that followed the short interventions from the panel covered issues from accessibility to ethics to ways of acting and leading changes. Interestingly, while some presenters were comfortable with their activist role, the term ‘action-research’ was not mentioned. It was also illuminating to hear Ben Shneiderman emphasising his view that HCI is about representing and empowering the people who use the technologies that are being developed. His call for ‘activist HCI’ provides a way to interpret ‘universal usability‘ as an ethical and moral imperative.

It was good to see the work of the Citizen Sort team getting into the finalists of the students game competition, and to hear about their development of citizen science games.

So despite the early concerned, CHI was a conference worth attending and the specific jargon of CHI now seem more understandable. I wish that there was on the conference website a big sign ‘new to CHI? Start here…’