Measuring costs and benefits of citizen science

Article by Kathy Tzilivakis: “It’s never been easy to accurately measure the impact of any scientific research, but it’s even harder for citizen science projects, which don’t follow traditional methods. Public involvement places citizen science in a new era of data collection, one that requires a new measurement plan.

As you read this, thousands of ordinary people across Europe are busy tagging, categorizing and counting in the name of science. They may be reporting crop yields, analyzing plastic waste found in nature or monitoring the populations of wildlife. This relatively new method of public participation in scientific enquiry is experiencing a considerable upswing in both quality and scale of projects.

Of course, people have been sharing observations about the natural world for millennia—way before the term “citizen science” appeared on the cover of sociologist Alan Irwin‘s 1995 book “Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise, and Sustainable Development. “

Today, citizen science is on the rise with bigger projects that are more ambitious and better networked than ever before. And while collecting seawater samples and photographing wild birds are two well-known examples of citizen science, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Citizen science is evolving thanks to new data collection techniques enabled by the internet, smartphones and social media. Increased connectivity is encouraging a wide range of observations that can be easily recorded and shared. The reams of crowd-sourced data from members of the public are a boon for researchers working on large-scale and geographically diverse projects. Often it would be too difficult and expensive to obtain this data otherwise.

Both sides win because scientists are helped to collect much better data and an enthusiastic public gets to engage with the fascinating world of science.

But success has been difficult to define, let alone to translate into indicators for assessment. Until now.

A group of EU researchers has taken on the challenge of building the first integrated and interactive platform to measure costs and benefits of citizen science….

“The platform will be very complex but able to capture the characteristics and the results of projects, and measure their impact on several domains like society, economy, environment, science and technology and governance,” said Dr. Luigi Ceccaroni, who is coordinating the Measuring Impact of Citizen Science (MICS) project behind the platform. Currently at the testing stage, the platform is slated to go live before the end of this year….(More)”

Inclusive policy making in a digital age: The case for crowdsourced deliberation

Blog by Theo Bass: “In 2016, the Finnish Government ran an ambitious experiment to test if and how citizens across the country could meaningfully contribute to the law-making process.

Many people in Finland use off-road snowmobiles to get around in the winter, raising issues like how to protect wildlife, keep pedestrians safe, and compensate property owners for use of their land for off-road traffic.

To hear from people across the country who would be most affected by new laws, the government set up an online platform to understand problems they faced and gather solutions. Citizens could post comments and suggestions, respond to one another, and vote on ideas they liked. Over 700 people took part, generating around 250 policy ideas.

The exercise caught the attention of academics Tanja Aitamurto and Hélène Landemore. In 2017, they wrote a paper coining the term crowdsourced deliberation — an ‘open, asynchronous, depersonalized, and distributed kind of online deliberation occurring among self‐selected participants’ — to describe the interactions they saw on the platform.

Many other crowdsourced deliberation initiatives have emerged in recent years, although they haven’t always been given that name. From France to Taiwan, governments have experimented with opening policy making and enabling online conversations among diverse groups of thousands of people, leading to the adoption of new regulations or laws.

So what’s distinctive about this approach and why should policy makers consider it alongside others? In this post I’ll make a case for crowdsourced deliberation, comparing it to two other popular methods for inclusive policy making…(More)”.

Towards Public Digital Infrastructure

Report by Katja Bego: “…We already have the technical and governance building blocks at our disposal to make this Public Digital InfrastructureI model a reality. We also have the political momentum on our side through a number of ambitious policy proposals and funding agendas on the European level. The challenge now is to integrate these building blocks into a single cohesive system, and to ensure we put into place the right institutions and rules to ensure the DPI can achieve trust, scale and openness. This approach is made up of three key pillars: 

  1. Generating an ecosystem of healthy, interoperable alternatives:
    Public Digital Infrastructure could help us move away from a platform economy, where one actor owns a whole suite of tools and can unilaterally set the rules, towards a protocol-based economy, in which we could see a collaborative ecosystem of smaller, interoperable solutions and applications emerge, built on top of a shared set of rules and open protocols. We could see this as an alternative, parallel infrastructure, made up of open, trustworthy solutions and public goods. Through collaborative interoperability, solutions built on top of the Public Digital Infrastructure would proactively set out to integrate their solutions with other tools built on the framework.

    To help this ecosystem thrive, the Commission and other governing bodies (from the local level to the supra-national) would seek to leverage their own market shaping-levers, for example through strengthening rule-setting through procurement, and moving their own solutions on top of the system. The European Commission would further provide the funds for an independent Public Technology Fund, which would support the development of applications on top of the Public Digital Infrastructure, as well as fund public goods to support the wider ecosystem.  
  2. Designing governance models fit for purpose: No single centralised entity – public or private – would control the underlying Public Digital Infrastructure model; instead, the system would be governed on the basis of a shared set of rules and protocols for, for example, interoperability, data sharing and online identity management. In this model, civil society, trusted public institutions, academia, and the public-interest technology community would be empowered to collaboratively shape the rules, standards and governance models underpinning this shared logic. 

To ensure these decision-making processes remain open and representative, but also geared towards effective decision-making, the European Commission would provide the funding for the establishment of a fully independent Public Digital Infrastructure Agency, tasked with bringing together the community, and providing resources for maintenance and auditing of the PDI’s components. 

  1. Opening up data and identity: Every internet user would be provided with the means to control their own digital identity and personal data online, empowering them to share what they want, with whomever they want, on their own terms. To do this, each user of the Public Digital Infrastructure model would have the right to be issued their own portable online identity and personal data wallet, which would allow them to share and pool data on a case by case, consent-based basis. 

Developers of applications and services would be able to tap into the user-generated data commons that would result from this pooling in a way that is accountable and fair, rather than feel compelled to amass their own proprietary data lakes in order to compete. We should not imagine these commons as one single enormous, distributed data lake, but rather as a set of data governance mechanisms, ranging from data commons to trusts, which would be employed and governed depending on the use case and sensitivity and utility of the data at hand. Users would be able to pick and choose which commons to participate in, and solutions would contribute to these commons as a condition of being part of the PDI….(More)”

Intermediaries do matter: voluntary standards and the Right to Data Portability

Paper by Matteo Nebbiai: “This paper enlightens an understudied aspect of the application of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Right to Data Portability (RtDP), introducing a framework to analyse empirically the voluntary data portability standards adopted by various data controllers. The first section explains how the RtDP wording creates some “grey areas” that allow data controllers a broad interpretation of the right. Secondly, the paper shows why the regulatory initiatives affecting the interpretation of these “grey areas” can be framed as “regulatory standard-setting (RSS) schemes”, which are voluntary standards of behaviour settled either by private, public, or non-governmental actors. The empirical section reveals that in the EU, between 2000 and 2020, the number of such schemes increased every year and most of them were governed by private actors. Finally, the historical analysis highlights that the RtDP was introduced when many private-run RSS schemes were already operating, and no evidence suggests that the GDPR impacted significantly on their spread…(More)”.

Facial Recognition Goes to War

Kashmir Hill at the New York Times: “In the weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine and images of the devastation wrought there flooded the news, Hoan Ton-That, the chief executive of the facial recognition company Clearview AI, began thinking about how he could get involved.

He believed his company’s technology could offer clarity in complex situations in the war.

“I remember seeing videos of captured Russian soldiers and Russia claiming they were actors,” Mr. Ton-That said. “I thought if Ukrainians could use Clearview, they could get more information to verify their identities.”

In early March, he reached out to people who might help him contact the Ukrainian government. One of Clearview’s advisory board members, Lee Wolosky, a lawyer who has worked for the Biden administration, was meeting with Ukrainian officials and offered to deliver a message.

Mr. Ton-That drafted a letter explaining that his app “can instantly identify someone just from a photo” and that the police and federal agencies in the United States used it to solve crimes. That feature has brought Clearview scrutiny over concerns about privacy and questions about racism and other biases within artificial-intelligence systems.

The tool, which can identify a suspect caught on surveillance video, could be valuable to a country under attack, Mr. Ton-That wrote. He said the tool could identify people who might be spies, as well as deceased people, by comparing their faces against Clearview’s database of 20 billion faces from the public web, including from “Russian social sites such as VKontakte.”

Mr. Ton-That decided to offer Clearview’s services to Ukraine for free, as reported earlier by Reuters. Now, less than a month later, the New York-based Clearview has created more than 200 accounts for users at five Ukrainian government agencies, which have conducted more than 5,000 searches. Clearview has also translated its app into Ukrainian.

“It’s been an honor to help Ukraine,” said Mr. Ton-That, who provided emails from officials from three agencies in Ukraine, confirming that they had used the tool. It has identified dead soldiers and prisoners of war, as well as travelers in the country, confirming the names on their official IDs. The fear of spies and saboteurs in the country has led to heightened paranoia.

According to one email, Ukraine’s national police obtained two photos of dead Russian soldiers, which have been viewed by The New York Times, on March 21. One dead man had identifying patches on his uniform, but the other did not, so the ministry ran his face through Clearview’s app…(More)”.

Data-driven orientation and open innovation: the role of resilience in the (co-)development of social changes

Introduction to Special Issue by Orlando Troisi and Mara Grimaldi: “…Contemporary organizations that aim at exploiting the opportunities offered from Big data should reframe their processes through new technologies and analytics not only to gain competitive advantage but also to implement flexible governance and foster diffused decision-making (Visvizi et al., 2018Polese et al., 2021).

In the last developments introduced in management research, new collaborative and open models are understood strategically according to a network view that considers the relationships with a broad set of stakeholders (from for-profit companies to users, non-profit and public institutions) as critical factors enabling well-being and innovation (Visvizi and Lytras, 2019a).

For this reason, open innovation (OI) (Chesbrough, 2003) is conceptualized to describe the way in which emergent models of innovation can enable the development of innovative insights thanks to the knowledge exchanged through a complex set of relationships enhanced by smart technologies.

Smart organizations based on OI models can be reread as smart communities, as technology-mediated networks that through the collaboration between people (Abbate et al., 2019) and the sharing of a set of norms, rules and values (Barile et al., 2017Vargo et al., 2020) can improve well-being in different areas, from economy to environment and social inclusion (Appio et al., 2019Kashef et al., 2021). The ability of communities to challenge environmental complexity through their constant evolution can help rereading the concept of resilience as the complex result of system’s adaptation, maintenance, change and disruption (Vargo et al., 2015). The investigation of the main resilient features (restructuring, adaptation, transformation) of smart communities can contribute to detect the transition from the emergence of innovation to the development of social changes.

Therefore, the goal of the current Special Issue is to advance new theoretical and empirical contributions that analysze how contemporary resilient data-driven organizations and communities can integrate technologies with human component (Bang et al., 2021) to reframe innovation emergence and foster the attainment of societal transformation. In this way, by using a collaborative approach, research can explore how organizations can develop innovation solutions to address relevant social issues thanks to the constant reshaping of culture and knowledge and to co-learning processes that can address the evolving community needs.

The exploration of the different ways to reframe organizational processes and policies thanks to human’s interactions mediated through technology can help the identification of how social, economic and health challenges (in COVID era but also in case of future crises) can be met through continuous transformation…(More)”

Can the use of minipublics backfire? Examining how policy adoption shapes the effect of minipublics on political support among the general public

Paper by Lisa van Dijk and Jonas Lefevere: “Academics and practitioners are increasingly interested in deliberative minipublics and whether these can address widespread dissatisfaction with contemporary politics. While optimism seems to prevail, there is also talk that the use of minipublics may backfire. When the government disregards a minipublic’s recommendations, this could lead to more dissatisfaction than not asking for its advice in the first place. Using an online survey experiment in Belgium (n = 3,102), we find that, compared to a representative decision-making process, a minipublic tends to bring about higher political support when its recommendations are fully adopted by the government, whereas it generates lower political support when its recommendations are not adopted. This study presents novel insights into whether and when the use of minipublics may alleviate or aggravate political dissatisfaction among the public at large….(More)”

The Russian invasion shows how digital technologies have become involved in all aspects of war

Article by Katharina Niemeyer, Dominique Trudel, Heidi J.S. Tworek, Maria Silina and Svitlana Matviyenko: “Since Russia invaded Ukraine, we keep hearing that this war is like no other; because Ukrainians have cellphones and access to social media platforms, the traditional control of information and propaganda cannot work and people are able to see through the fog of war.

As communications scholars and historians, it is important to add nuance to such claims. The question is not so much what is “new” in this war, but rather to understand its specific media dynamics. One important facet of this war is the interplay between old and new media — the many loops that go from Twitter to television to TikTok, and back and forth.

We have moved away from a relatively static communication model, where journalists report on the news within predetermined constraints and formats, to intense fragmentation and even participation. Information about the war becomes content, and users contribute to its circulation by sharing and commenting online…(More)”.

Dynamic capabilities of the public sector: Towards a new synthesis

Paper by Rainer Kattel: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important public sector capacities and capabilities are in terms of reacting to crises, and re-configuring existing policies and implementation practices. Prior to the pandemic, policy makers were increasingly turning their attention to challenge-driven innovation policies in order to tackle climate emergencies and other ‘wicked’ societal challenges. Such a ‘normative turn’ also assumes the existence of what can be called dynamic capabilities in the public sector. This paper offers a new synthesis of how to conceptualise dynamic capabilities in the public sector. The paper synthesises existing state capacity, public sector innovation capacity and dynamic capabilities literature. Using three brief case studies (the UK’s Government Digital Service, the city of Barcelona and Sweden’s Vinnova), the paper discusses the origins and constitutive elements (sense-making, connecting, shaping) of dynamic capabilities. The paper also discusses how dynamic capabilities could be assessed…(More)”.

The Digital, Data and Technology Playbook

Guidance by the UK Government: “Digital, data and technology (DDaT) underpins everything we do and the government provides vital services for millions of citizens every day. The public sector is estimated to spend £46 billion on digital in 2021/22. To ensure that spend meets the needs of our users in this rapidly evolving world, we need to continually strive for excellence by thinking about our products and services in new ways.

The Digital, Data and Technology Playbook is focused on getting things right from the start. Setting projects and programmes up for success can take more time upfront but we know from past experience that this early investment can be repaid many times over by enabling us to avoid costly mistakes later on.

Changing our approach to procurement in this sector will allow us to learn from successes and failures across government and industry. In order to decide on the correct delivery model, a robust assessment needs to be done of the options available (see Delivery Model Assessment in Chapter 5).

This mixed model of delivery is key. We will use the market’s expertise and capability to supplement agile teams and our commercial processes must be designed to enable this. Following the policies and principles in this Playbook, we will work with our suppliers to take an outcome-based approach and deliver innovative solutions which are focused on the user and create the best possible value for our citizens.

The Digital, Data and Technology Playbook sets out 11 key policy reforms which will transform how we assess, procure and manage our products and services. This includes:

  • online public services such as applying for a driver’s licence
  • business systems ranging from simple database applications through to large transactional systems supporting the operation of tax collection and benefits payments.
  • back-office systems such as finance, human resources, and facilities management systems
  • infrastructure which provides all the basic tools of the modern working environment such as computers and email

We will work together across government and industry to implement and drive the consistent application of the best practice and policies set out in this Playbook and deliver transformational change….(More)”.