Multi-disciplinary Perspectives on Citizen Science—Synthesizing Five Paradigms of Citizen Involvement

Paper by Susanne Beck, Dilek Fraisl, Marion Poetz and Henry Sauermann: “Research on Open Innovation in Science (OIS) investigates how open and collaborative practices influence the scientific and societal impact of research. Since 2019, the OIS Research Conference has brought together scholars and practitioners from diverse backgrounds to discuss OIS research and case examples. In this meeting report, we describe four session formats that have allowed our multi-disciplinary community to have productive discussions around opportunities and challenges related to citizen involvement in research. However, these sessions also highlight the need for a better understanding of the underlying rationales of citizen involvement in an increasingly diverse project landscape. Building on the discussions at the 2023 and prior editions of the conference, we outline a conceptual framework of five crowd paradigms and present an associated tool that can aid in understanding how citizen involvement in particular projects can help advance science. We illustrate this tool using cases presented at the 2023 conference, and discuss how it can facilitate discussions at future conferences as well as guide future research and practice in citizen science…(More)”.

21st Century technology can boost Africa’s contribution to global biodiversity data

Article by Wiida Fourie-Basson: “In spring in the Southern hemisphere, the natural world is on full throttle: “Flowers are blooming, insects are emerging, birds are singing, and reptiles are coming out of their winter hibernation,” wrote Pete Crowcroft, known as @possumpete on the citizen science app, iNaturalist.

Yet, despite this annual bursting forth of life, a 2023 preprint puts the continent’s contribution to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility at a dismal 2.69%, with huge disparities between African countries…

Since its formation in 2008 as part of a graduate project at the University of California, the iNaturalist platform has evolved into one of the world’s most popular biodiversity observation platforms. Anyone, anywhere in the world, with a smartphone can download the app and start posting images and descriptions of their observations, and a large community of identifiers helps to confirm the species’ observation and label it as “research grade”.

Rebelo says iNaturalist is now used on a massive scale: “During the 2023 City Nature Challenge almost 67,000 people made nearly two million observations over four days – that is, five observations each second. Another 22,000 specialists identified 60 thousand species of animals, plants, and fungi. Few citizen science platforms are as powerful and efficient.”..

Andra Waagmeester, data scientist at Micelio in Belgium and a Wikimentor, believes the dearth of biodiversity data from Africa can be solved by combining the iNaturalist and Wikipedia communities: “They are independent communities, but there is substantial overlap between them. By overlaying the two data sets and leveraging the semantic web, we have the means to deal with the challenge.”

The need for biodiversity-related knowledge from Africa was first acknowledged by the Wiki-community during the 2018 Wikimania conference in Cape Town. The Wiki Biodiversity Project has since grown into an active global community that leverages crowd-sourced knowledge from platforms like iNaturalist…(More)”.

Millions of gamers advance biomedical research

Article by McGill: “…4.5 million gamers around the world have advanced medical science by helping to reconstruct microbial evolutionary histories using a minigame included inside the critically and commercially successful video game, Borderlands 3. Their playing has led to a significantly refined estimate of the relationships of microbes in the human gut. The results of this collaboration will both substantially advance our knowledge of the microbiome and improve on the AI programs that will be used to carry out this work in future.

By playing Borderlands Science, a mini-game within the looter-shooter video game Borderlands 3, these players have helped trace the evolutionary relationships of more than a million different kinds of bacteria that live in the human gut, some of which play a crucial role in our health. This information represents an exponential increase in what we have discovered about the microbiome up till now. By aligning rows of tiles which represent the genetic building blocks of different microbes, humans have been able to take on tasks that even the best existing computer algorithms have been unable to solve yet…(More) (and More)”.

Citizen silence: Missed opportunities in citizen science

Paper by Damon M Hall et al: “Citizen science is personal. Participation is contingent on the citizens’ connection to a topic or to interpersonal relationships meaningful to them. But from the peer-reviewed literature, scientists appear to have an acquisitive data-centered relationship with citizens. This has spurred ethical and pragmatic criticisms of extractive relationships with citizen scientists. We suggest five practical steps to shift citizen-science research from extractive to relational, reorienting the research process and providing reciprocal benefits to researchers and citizen scientists. By virtue of their interests and experience within their local environments, citizen scientists have expertise that, if engaged, can improve research methods and product design decisions. To boost the value of scientific outputs to society and participants, citizen-science research teams should rethink how they engage and value volunteers…(More)”.

The Eyewitness Community Survey: An Engaging Citizen Science Tool to Capture Reliable Data while Improving Community Participants’ Environmental Health Knowledge and Attitudes

Paper by Melinda Butsch Kovacic: “Many youths and young adults have variable environmental health knowledge, limited understanding of their local environment’s impact on their health, and poor environmentally friendly behaviors. We sought to develop and test a tool to reliably capture data, increase environmental health knowledge, and engage youths as citizen scientists to examine and take action on their community’s challenges. The Eyewitness Community Survey (ECS) was developed through several iterations of co-design. Herein, we tested its performance. In Phase I, seven youths audited five 360° photographs. In Phase II, 27 participants works as pairs/trios and audited five locations, typically 7 days apart. Inter-rater and intra-rater reliability were determined. Changes in participants’ knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and self-efficacy were surveyed. Feedback was obtained via focus groups. Intra-rater reliability was in the substantial/near-perfect range, with Phase II having greater consistency. Inter-rater reliability was high, with 42% and 63% of Phase I and II Kappa, respectively, in the substantial/near-perfect range. Knowledge scores improved after making observations (p ≤ 0.032). Participants (85%) reported the tool to be easy/very easy to use, with 70% willing to use it again. Thus, the ECS is a mutually beneficial citizen science tool that rigorously captures environmental data and provides engaging experiential learning opportunities…(More)”.

Using the future wheel methodology to assess the impact of open science in the transport sector

Paper by Anja Fleten Nielsen et al: “Open Science enhances information sharing and makes scientific results of transport research more transparent and accessible at all levels and to everyone allowing integrity and reproducibility. However, what future impacts will Open Science have on the societal, environmental and economic development within the transport sector? Using the Future Wheel methodology, we conducted a workshop with transport experts from both industry and academia to answer this question. The main findings of this study point in the direction of previous studies in other fields, in terms of increased innovation, increased efficiency, economic savings, more equality, and increased participation of citizens. In addition, we found several potential transport specific impacts: lower emission, faster travel times, improved traffic safety, increased awareness for transport policies, artificial intelligence improving mobility services. Several potential negative outcomes of Open Science were also identified by the expert group: job loss, new types of risks, increased cost, increased conflicts, time delays, increased inequality and increased energy consumption. If we know the negative outcomes it is much easier to put in place strategies that are sustainable for a broader stakeholder group, which also increase the probability of taking advantage of all the positive impacts of Open Science…(More)”

When Concerned People Produce Environmental Information: A Need to Re-Think Existing Legal Frameworks and Governance Models?

Paper by Anna Berti Suman, Mara Balestrini, Muki Haklay, and Sven Schade: “When faced with an environmental problem, locals are often among the first to act. Citizen science is increasingly one of the forms of participation in which people take action to help solve environmental problems that concern them. This implies, for example, using methods and instruments with scientific validity to collect and analyse data and evidence to understand the problem and its causes. Can the contribution of environmental data by citizens be articulated as a right? In this article, we explore these forms of productive engagement with a local matter of concern, focussing on their potential to challenge traditional allocations of responsibilities. Taking mostly the perspective of the European legal context, we identify an existing gap between the right to obtain environmental information, granted at present by the Aarhus Convention, and “a right to contribute information” and have that information considered by appointed institutions. We also explore what would be required to effectively practise this right in terms of legal and governance processes, capacities, and infrastructures, and we propose a flexible framework to implement it. Situated at the intersection of legal and governance studies, this article builds on existing literature on environmental citizen science, and on its interplay with law and governance. Our methodological approach combines literature review with legal analysis of the relevant conventions and national rules. We conclude by reflecting on the implications of our analysis, and on the benefits of this legal innovation, potentially fostering data altruism and an active citizenship, and shielding ordinary people against possible legal risks…(More)”.

Managing Intellectual Property Rights in Citizen Science: A Guide for Researchers and Citizen Scientists

Report by Teresa Scassa & Haewon Chung: “IP issues arise in citizen science in a variety of different ways. Indeed, the more broadly the concept of citizen science is cast, the more diverse the potential IP interests. Some community-based projects, for example, may well involve the sharing of traditional knowledge, whereas open innovation projects are ones that are most likely to raise patent issues and to do so in a context where commercialization is a project goal. Trademark issues may also arise, particularly where a project gains a certain degree of renown. In this study we touch on issues of patenting and commercialization; however, we also recognize that most citizen science projects do not have commercialization as an objective, and have IP issues that flow predominantly from copyright law. This guide navigates these issues topically and points the reader towards further research and law in this area should they wish to gain an even more comprehensive understanding of the nuances. It accompanies a prior study conducted by the same authors that created a Typology of Citizen Science Projects from an Intellecutal Property Perspective…(More)”.

The Power of Citizen Science

Lauren Kirchner at ConsumerReport: “You’ve heard of Erin Brockovich, the law clerk without a science degree who exposed the existence of a dangerous contaminant polluting a town’s groundwater, a toxic hazard that otherwise might have stayed invisible.

She’s not the first person to practice “citizen science” to powerful effect, nor will she be the last.

Maybe you’ve wondered whether that plastic container you’re about to zap in the microwave is really safe to use or whether your favorite chipped coffee mug is exposing you to toxic paint. Some particularly enterprising people who’ve had similar concerns have also wondered—but then took the extra step of testing the chemical makeup of what they were concerned about and then publicized the results.

These citizen testers aren’t professional chemists or government regulators, but all of them were able to raise red flags and spark important conversations about the health hazards that can be hiding in our homes and lives…(More)”.

The Risks of Empowering “Citizen Data Scientists”

Article by Reid Blackman and Tamara Sipes: “New tools are enabling organizations to invite and leverage non-data scientists — say, domain data experts, team members very familiar with the business processes, or heads of various business units — to propel their AI efforts. There are advantages to empowering these internal “citizen data scientists,” but also risks. Organizations considering implementing these tools should take five steps: 1) provide ongoing education, 2) provide visibility into similar use cases throughout the organization, 3) create an expert mentor program, 4) have all projects verified by AI experts, and 5) provide resources for inspiration outside your organization…(More)”.