Co-Producing Sustainability Research with Citizens: Empirical Insights from Co-Produced Problem Frames with Randomly Selected Citizens


Paper by Mareike Blum: “In sustainability research, knowledge co-production can play a supportive role at the science-policy interface (Norström et al., 2020). However, so far most projects involved stakeholders in order to produce ‘useful knowledge’ for policy-makers. As a novel approach, research projects have integrated randomly selected citizens during the knowledge co-production to make policy advice more reflective of societal perspectives and thereby increase its epistemic quality. Researchers are asked to consider citizens’ beliefs and values and integrate these in their ongoing research. This approach rests on pragmatist philosophy, according to which a joint deliberation on value priorities and anticipated consequences of policy options ideally allows to co-develop sustainable and legitimate policy pathways (Edenhofer & Kowarsch, 2015; Kowarsch, 2016). This paper scrutinizes three promises of involving citizens in the problem framing: (1) creating input legitimacy, (2) enabling social learning among citizens and researchers and (3) resulting in high epistemic quality of the co-produced knowledge. Based on empirical data the first phase of two research projects in Germany were analysed and compared: The Ariadne research project on the German Energy Transition, and the Biesenthal Forest project at the local level in Brandenburg, Germany. We found that despite barriers exist; learning was enabled by confronting researchers with problem perceptions of citizens. The step when researchers interpret and translate problem frames in the follow-up knowledge production is most important to assess learning and epistemic quality…(More)”.

A rough guide to being a public entrepreneur in practice


Report by the RSA: “Our health and social care systems have been working to meet people’s needs for over 70 years. Yet the approach to change is often incremental rather than radical or transformational. This means we sometimes ‘muddle through’ with the resources we have. Given the pace of change and long-term trends and challenges on the horizon this approach is no longer sufficient.

There are, however, people, processes and practices that are demonstrating a new kind of public entrepreneurship – responding fast, taking risks and experimenting to meet challenges head on. We’ve seen incredible responses to the pandemic and whilst it’s hit society hard, it’s also accelerated changes that might have otherwise taken decades to implement.

We need to harness the collective potential of creative people more systematically, working across the system to build resilience and support transformational change efforts. Staff commitment and energy is fundamental to spotting the challenges and the opportunities for change, taking action to not only meet the needs of today, but those of tomorrow. Together NHS Lothian and the RSA designed and ran a programme in an attempt to do just that.

This rough guide presents a summary of the insights gained by 12 members of NHS Lothian’s staff who came together to explore how they can support each other to challenge the status quo and find new ways of addressing challenges they face in their work…(More)”.

Platformization of Urban Life


Book edited by Anke Strüver and Sybille Bauriedl: “The increasing platformization of urban life needs critical perspectives to examine changing everyday practices and power shifts brought about by the expansion of digital platforms mediating care-services, housing, and mobility. This book addresses new modes of producing urban spaces and societies. It brings both platform researchers and activists from various fields related to critical urban studies and labour activism into dialogue. The contributors engage with the socio-spatial and normative implications of platform-mediated urban everyday life and urban futures, going beyond a rigid techno-dystopian stance in order to include an understanding of platforms as sites of social creativity and exchange…(More)”.

Policy Choice and the Wisdom of Crowds


Paper by Nicholas Otis: “Using data from seven large-scale randomized experiments, I test whether crowds of academic experts can forecast the relative effectiveness of policy interventions. Eight-hundred and sixty-three academic experts provided 9,295 forecasts of the causal effects from these experiments, which span a diverse set of interventions (e.g., information provision, psychotherapy, soft-skills training), outcomes (e.g., consumption, COVID-19 vaccination, employment), and locations (Jordan, Kenya, Sweden, the United States). For each policy comparisons (a pair of policies and an outcome), I calculate the percent of crowd forecasts that correctly rank policies by their experimentally estimated treatment effects. While only 65% of individual experts identify which of two competing policies will have a larger causal effect, the average forecast from bootstrapped crowds of 30 experts identifies the better policy 86% of the time, or 92% when restricting analysis to pairs of policies who effects differ at the p < 0.10 level. Only 10 experts are needed to produce an 18-percentage point (27%) improvement in policy choice…(More)”.

Designing Digital Participatory Budgeting Platforms: Urban Biking Activism in Madrid


Paper by Maria Menendez-Blanco & Pernille Bjørn: “Civic technologies have the potential to support participation and influence decision-making in governmental processes. Digital participatory budgeting platforms are examples of civic technologies designed to support citizens in making proposals and allocating budgets. Investigating the empirical case of urban biking activists in Madrid, we explore how the design of the digital platform Decide Madrid impacted the collaborative practices involved in digital participatory budgeting. We found that the design of the platform made the interaction competitive, where individuals sought to gain votes for their single proposals, rather than consider the relations across proposals and the larger context of the city decisions, even if the institutional process rewarded collective support. In this way, the platforms’ design led to forms of individualistic, competitive, and static participation, therefore limiting the possibilities for empowering citizens in scoping and self-regulating participatory budgeting collaboratively. We argue that for digital participatory budgeting platforms to support cooperative engagements they must be revisable and reviewable while supporting accountability among participants and visibility of proposals and activities…(More)”.

Democratic innovation and digital participation


Nesta Report: “Overcoming barriers in democratic innovations to harness the collective intelligence of citizens for a 21st-century democracy.

This report sets out the need for democratic innovations and digital participation tools to move beyond one-off pilots toward more embedded and inclusive systems of decision-making.

This is the first comprehensive analysis of the barriers experienced by democratic innovators around the world. Alongside the barriers, we have captured the enablers that can help advance these innovations and tools to their full potential.

The report is published alongside the advancing democratic innovation toolkit which supports institutions, practitioners and technologists to diagnose the barriers that they face and identify the enablers they can use to address them.

This report is based on insights from global examples of digital democratic innovation, and in particular, three pilots from the COLDIGIT project: a citizens’ assembly in Trondheim, Norway; participatory budgeting in Gothenburg, Sweden; and participatory budgeting in Helsinki, Finland.

The work is a collaboration between Nesta, Digidem Lab, University of Gothenburg, University of Helsinki and SINTEF funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)….(More)”.

Exhaustive or Exhausting? Evidence on Respondent Fatigue in Long Surveys


Paper by Dahyeon Jeong et al: “Living standards measurement surveys require sustained attention for several hours. We quantify survey fatigue by randomizing the order of questions in 2-3 hour-long in-person surveys. An additional hour of survey time increases the probability that a respondent skips a question by 10-64%. Because skips are more common, the total monetary value of aggregated categories such as assets or expenditures declines as the survey goes on, and this effect is sizeable for some categories: for example, an extra hour of survey time lowers food expenditures by 25%. We find similar effect sizes within phone surveys in which respondents were already familiar with questions, suggesting that cognitive burden may be a key driver of survey fatigue…(More)”.

Community science draws on the power of the crowd


Essay by Amber Dance: “In community science, also called participatory science, non-professionals contribute their time, energy or expertise to research. (The term ‘citizen science’ is also used but can be perceived as excluding non-citizens.)

Whatever name is used, the approach is more popular than ever and even has journals dedicated to it. The number of annual publications mentioning ‘citizen science’ went from 151 in 2015 to more than 640 in 2021, according to the Web of Science database. Researchers from physiologists to palaeontologists to astronomers are finding that harnessing the efforts of ordinary people is often the best route to the answers they seek.

“More and more funding organizations are actually promoting this type of participatory- and citizen-science data gathering,” says Bálint Balázs, managing director of the Environmental Social Science Research Group in Budapest, a non-profit company focusing on socio-economic research for sustainability.

Community science is also a great tool for outreach, and scientists often delight in interactions with amateur researchers. But it’s important to remember that community science is, foremost, a research methodology like any other, with its own requirements in terms of skill and effort.

“To do a good project, it does require an investment in time,” says Darlene Cavalier, founder of SciStarter, an online clearing house that links research-project leaders with volunteers. “It’s not something where you’re just going to throw up a Google form and hope for the best.” Although there are occasions when scientific data are freely and easily available, other projects create significant costs.

No matter what the topic or approach, people skills are crucial: researchers must identify and cultivate a volunteer community and provide regular feedback or rewards. With the right protocols and checks and balances, the quality of volunteer-gathered data often rivals or surpasses that achieved by professionals.

“There is a two-way learning that happens,” says Tina Phillips, assistant director of the Center for Engagement in Science and Nature at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “We all know that science is better when there are more voices, more perspectives.”…(More)”

The End of Real Social Networks


Essay by Daron Acemoglu: “Social media platforms are not only creating echo chambers, propagating falsehoods, and facilitating the circulation of extremist ideas. Previous media innovations, dating back at least to the printing press, did that, too, but none of them shook the very foundations of human communication and social interaction.

CAMBRIDGE – Not only are billions of people around the world glued to their mobile phones, but the information they consume has changed dramatically – and not for the better. On dominant social-media platforms like Facebook, researchers have documented that falsehoods spread faster and more widely than similar content that includes accurate information. Though users are not demanding misinformation, the algorithms that determine what people see tend to favor sensational, inaccurate, and misleading content, because that is what generates “engagement” and thus advertising revenue.

As the internet activist Eli Pariser noted in 2011, Facebook also creates filter bubbles, whereby individuals are more likely to be presented with content that reinforces their own ideological leanings and confirms their own biases. And more recent research has demonstrated that this process has a major influence on the type of information users see.

Even leaving aside Facebook’s algorithmic choices, the broader social-media ecosystem allows people to find subcommunities that align with their interests. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you are the only person in your community with an interest in ornithology, you no longer have to be alone, because you can now connect with ornithology enthusiasts from around the world. But, of course, the same applies to the lone extremist who can now use the same platforms to access or propagate hate speech and conspiracy theories.

No one disputes that social-media platforms have been a major conduit for hate speech, disinformation, and propaganda. Reddit and YouTube are breeding grounds for right-wing extremism. The Oath Keepers used Facebook, especially, to organize their role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol. Former US President Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim tweets were found to have fueled violence against minorities in the US.

True, some find such observations alarmist, noting that large players like Facebook and YouTube (which is owned by Google/Alphabet) do much more to police hate speech and misinformation than their smaller rivals do, especially now that better moderation practices have been developed. Moreover, other researchers have challenged the finding that falsehoods spread faster on Facebook and Twitter, at least when compared to other media.

Still others argue that even if the current social-media environment is treacherous, the problem is transitory. After all, novel communication tools have always been misused. Martin Luther used the printing press to promote not just Protestantism but also virulent anti-Semitism. Radio proved to be a powerful tool in the hands of demagogues like Father Charles Coughlin in the US and the Nazis in Germany. Both print and broadcast outlets remain full of misinformation to this day, but society has adjusted to these media and managed to contain their negative effects…(More)”.

Collection of Case Studies of Institutional Adoption of Citizen Science


About TIME4CS : “The first objective was to increase our knowledge about the actions leading to institutional changes in RPOs (which are necessary to promote CS in science and technology) through a complete and up-to-date picture based upon the identification, mapping, monitoring and analysis of ongoing CS practices. To accomplish this objective, we, the TIME4CS project team, have collected and analysed 37 case studies on the institutional adoption of Citizen Science and Open Science around the world, which this article addresses.

For an organisation to open up and accept data and information that was produced outside it, with a different framework for data collection and quality assurance, there are multiple challenges. These include existing practices and procedures, legal obligations, as well as resistance from within due to framing of such action as a threat. Research that was carried out with multiple international case studies (Haklay et al. 2014; GFDRR 2018), demonstrated the importance of different institutional and funding structures needed to enable such activities and the use of the resulting information…(More)”.