Open Science: the Very Idea

Book by Frank Miedema: “This open access book provides a broad context for the understanding of current problems of science and of the different movements aiming to improve the societal impact of science and research. 

The author offers insights with regard to ideas, old and new, about science, and their historical origins in philosophy and sociology of science, which is of interest to a broad readership. The book shows that scientifically grounded knowledge is required and helpful in understanding intellectual and political positions in various discussions on the grand challenges of our time and how science makes impact on society. The book reveals why interventions that look good or even obvious, are often met with resistance and are hard to realize in practice. 

Based on a thorough analysis, as well as personal experiences in aids research, university administration and as a science observer, the author provides – while being totally open regarding science’s limitations- a realistic narrative about how research is conducted, and how reliable ‘objective’ knowledge is produced. His idea of science, which draws heavily on American pragmatism, fits in with the global Open Science movement. It is argued that Open Science is a truly and historically unique movement in that it translates the analysis of the problems of science into major institutional actions of system change in order to improve academic culture and the impact of science, engaging all actors in the field of science and academia…(More)”.

Citizen Science Project Builder 2.0

About by Citizen Science Center Zurich: “The Citizen Science Project Builder allows the implementation of Citizen Science projects, specifically in the area of data analysis. In such projects volunteers (“citizens”) collaborate with researchers in different kinds of scientific endeavors, from labeling images of snakes to transcribing handwritten Swiss German dialect, or classifying insects and plants. The Project Builder facilitates the implementation of such projects, supporting the collaborative analysis of large sets of digital data, including images and texts (i.e. satellite pictures, social media posts, etc.), as well as videos, audios, and scanned documents.

What makes the tool so special?

The Citizen Science Project Builder features a web interface that requires limited technical knowledge, and ideally little or no coding skills. It is a simple modular “step-by-step” system where a project can be created in just a few clicks. Once the project is set up, many people can easily be involved and start contributing to the analysis of data as well as providing feedback that will help you to improve your project!

What is new?

The new release of the Citizen Science Project Builder allows the building of full-fledged questionnaires for media analysis (including conditions and multiple formats for questions). A brand new functionality allows the geolocation of content on Open Street Map (e.g. mark the location of the content of an image) and also the delimitation of an area of interest (e.g. delimitate green areas). The interface still includes an “expert path” for developers, so if you can code (vue.js) the sky is the limit!…(More)”

Volunteers Sped Up Alzheimer’s Research

Article by SciStarter: “Across the United States, 5.7 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the seventh leading cause of death in America. But there is still no treatment or cure. Alzheimer’s hits close to home for many of us who have seen loved ones suffer and who feel hopeless in the face of this disease. With Stall Catchers, an online citizen science project, joining the fight against Alzheimer’s is as easy as playing an online computer game…

Scientists at Cornell University found a link between “stalled” blood vessels in the brain and the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. These stalled vessels limit blood flow to the brain by up to 30 percent. In experiments with laboratory mice, when the blood cells causing the stalls were removed, the mice performed better on memory tests.about:blankabout:blank

The researchers are working to develop Alzheimer’s treatments that remove the stalls in mice in the hope they can apply these methods to humans. But analyzing the brain images to find the stalled capillaries is hard and time consuming. It could take a trained laboratory technician six to 12 months to analyze each week’s worth of data collection.

So, Cornell researchers created Stall Catchers to make finding the stalled blood vessels into a game that anyone can play. The game relies on the power of the crowd — multiple confirmed answers — before determining whether a vessel is stalled or flowing…

Since its inception is 2016, he project has grown steadily, addressing various datasets and uncovering new insights about Alzheimer’s disease. Citizen scientists who play the game identify blood vessels as “flowing” or “stalled,” earning points for their classifications.

One way Stall Catchers makes this research fun is by allowing volunteers to form teams and engage in friendly competition…(More)”.

Who takes part in Citizen Science projects & why?

CS Track: “Citizen Science in Europe, as elsewhere, continues to manifest itself in a variety of different ways. While attracting interest across multiple sectors of society, its definition remains unclear. The first CS Track White Paper on Themes, objectives and participants of citizen science activities has just been published and, along with the initial results of the first large scale survey into participation in citizen science, provides an important overview of who participates in citizen science projects and what motivates them. This short report focuses on one aspect that emerges in this white paper.

Citizen Science Participants – who are they? 

Participants and who they are, have a significant impact on the objectives and outcomes of citizen science projects. However, existing information on the demographics of participants in citizen science projects is very limited and most studies have focused on a single project or programme. Furthermore, certain groups, like young people, are underrepresented in the available data.

What our research team has gathered from the literature and the initial results of the CS Track large-scale survey is the following:

  • Well-educated, affluent participants outnumber less affluent participants,
  • More men than women take part in many of the programmes that have been analysed.
  • Citizen scientists seem to be whitemiddle-agedscientifically literate or generally interested in science or scientific topics.
  • Scientistsacademicsteachersscience students and people who have a passion for the outdoors are among the groups of people most likely to take part in citizen science.
  • In agricultural, biological and environmental science-based programmes, participants are often scientists themselves, science teachers or students, conservation group members, backpackers or hikers or other outdoor enthusiasts – in other words people who care about nature.
  • Community and youth citizen science projects are underrepresented in the available data….(More)“.


About: “Afyanet is a voluntary, non-profit network of National Health Institutes and Research Centers seeking to leverage crowdsourced health data for disease surveillance and forecasting. Participation in AfyaNet for countries is free.

We aim to use technology and digital solutions to radically enhance how traditional disease surveillance systems function and the ways we can model epidemics.

Our vision is to create a common framework to collect standardized real-time data from the general population, allowing countries to leapfrog existing hurdles in disease surveillance and information sharing.

Our solution is an Early Warning System for Health based on participatory data gathering. A common, real-time framework for disease collection will help countries identify and forecast outbreaks faster and more effectively.

Crowdsourced data is gathered directly from citizens, then aggregated, anonymized, and processed in a cloud-based data lake. Our high-performance computing architecture analyzes the data and creates valuable disease spread models, which in turn provide alerts and notifications to participating countries and helps public health authorities make evidence-based decisions….(More)”

Citizen science—discovering (new) solutions to wicked problems

Paper by Ian R. Hodgkinson, Sahar Mousavi & Paul Hughes: “The article explores the role citizen science can play in discovering new solutions to pressing wicked problems. Using illustrations of citizen science projects to show how and where citizens have been fundamental in creating solutions and driving change, the article calls for wider recognition and use of citizen science in public administration and management research. For wider utilization of citizens’ active co-participation in research design, delivery and dissemination, the article presents a set of citizen science pathways….(More)”.

The controversy over the term ‘citizen science’

CBC News: “The term citizen science has been around for decades. Its original definition, coined in the 1990s, refers to institution-guided projects that invite the public to contribute to scientific knowledge in all kinds of ways, from the cataloguing of plants, animals and insects in people’s backyards to watching space.

Anyone is invited to participate in citizen science, regardless of whether they have an academic background in the sciences, and every year these projects number in the thousands. 

Recently, however, some large institutions, scientists and community members have proposed replacing the term citizen science with “community science.” 

Those in favour of the terminology change — such as eBird, one of the world’s largest biodiversity databases — say they want to avoid using the word citizen. They do so because they want to be “welcoming to any birder or person who wants to learn more about bird watching, regardless of their citizen status,” said Lynn Fuller, an eBird spokesperson, in a news release earlier this year. 

Some argue that while the intention is valid, the term community science already holds another definition — namely projects that gather different groups of people around environmental justice focused on social action. 

To add to the confusion, renaming citizen science could impact policies and legislation that have been established in countries such as the U.S. and Canada to support projects and efforts in favour of citizen science. 

For example, if we suddenly decided to call all species of birds “waterbirds,” then the specific meaning of this category of bird species that lives on or around water would eventually be lost. This would, in turn, make communication between people and the various fields of science incredibly difficult. 

A paper published in Science magazine last month pointed out some of the reasons why rebranding citizen science in the name of inclusion could backfire. 

Caren Cooper, a professor of forestry and environmental resources at North Carolina State University and one of the authors of the paper, said that the term citizen science didn’t originally mean to imply that people should have a certain citizenship status to participate in such projects. 

Rather, citizen science is meant to convey the idea of responsibilities and rights to access science. 

She said there are other terms being used to describe this meaning, including “public science, participatory science [and] civic science.”

Chris Hawn, a professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and one of Cooper’s co-authors, said that being aware of the need for change is a good first step, but any decision to rename should be made carefully….(More)”.

Crowdsourced Sensor Data Powers Smoke Map

OpenGov: “The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have released updates to the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map to help protect communities from the effects of wildfire smoke. Started as a pilot project last year, the map pulls data from three sources: temporary monitors such as those the Forest Service and other agencies have deployed near fires; crowdsourced data from nearly 10,000 low-cost sensors nationwide that measure fine particle pollution, the major harmful pollutant in smoke; and monitors that regularly report to AirNow, EPA’s one-stop source for air quality data.

The agencies announced improvements to the map, including a dashboard that gives users quick access to information that can help them plan their outdoor activities, the current Air Quality Index (AQI) category at the monitor or sensor location, data showing whether air quality is improving or worsening, and information about actions to consider taking based on the AQI.

EPA and USFS developed the map-pilot to provide information on fire locations, smoke plumes and air quality in one place. It had more than 7.4 million views in its first three months. The map imports data from almost 10,000 sensors from an air quality sensor network that crowdsources data on particle pollution, providing real-time measurement of air quality on a public map. This was a logical addition to two other projects already underway.

The extra data points the sensors provided proved useful in characterising air quality during the 2020 fire season, and we had positive reception from state, local and tribal air agency partners, and from the public. The map is intended for individuals to use in making decisions about outdoor activities based on air quality, but the unique fire, smoke and concentration data can help increase awareness of the significant impacts of wildfires across all levels of government — federal, state, local and tribal — and provide a valuable tool to assist agencies as they work to protect public health from wildfire smoke during these emergencies….(More)”.

New knowledge environments. On the possibility of a citizen social science.

Article by Joseph Perelló: “Citizen science is in a process of consolidation, with a wide variety of practices and perspectives. Social sciences and humanities occupy a small space despite the obvious social dimension of citizen science. In this sense, citizen social science can enrich the concept of citizen science both because the research objective can also be of a social nature and because it provides greater reflection on the active participation of individuals, groups, or communities in research projects. Based on different experiences, this paper proposes that citizen social science should have the capacity to empower participants and provide them with skills to promote collective actions or public policies based on a co-created knowledge.

Citizen science is commonly recognised as the participation of the public in scientific research (Vohland et al., 2021). It has been promoted as a way to collect massive amounts of data and accelerate its processing, while also raising awareness and spreading knowledge and a better understanding of both scientific methods and the social relevance of results (Parrish et al., 2019). Some researchers support the idea of maintaining the generality and vagueness of the term citizen science (Auerbach et al., 2019), due to the youth of the discipline and the different ways it can be understood (Haklay et al., 2020). Such diversity can be considered positively, as a way to enrich citizen science and, more generally, as a catalyst for the emergence of trans-disciplinary and transformative science.

The sociologist Alan Irwin, one of the authors to whom we owe the concept, already said over 25 years ago: «Citizen Science evokes a science which assists the needs and concerns of citizens» (Irwin, 1995, p. xi). The book argues that citizens can create reliable knowledge. However, decades later, the number of contributions using the term citizen science in social sciences and humanities is scarce, smaller than the number of items published in environmental sciences or biology, which predominate in the field (Kullenberg & Kasperowski, 2016). Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus that social sciences and humanities are necessary for citizen science to reach maturity, both so that the object of study can also be of a social nature, and also so that these disciplines can provide a more elaborate reflection on participation in citizen science projects (Tauginienė et al., 2020)….(More)”.

Future Directions for Citizen Science and Public Policy

Open Access Book by The Centre for Science and Policy: “…The OED tells us that citizen science is “scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.” However, even this definition raises many questions for policy makers trying to figure out how they might make use of it: “What is the difference between a volunteer in a scientific study and a citizen scientist?” they might ask. “Are all forms of public engagement with science considered citizen science?” or “What does it look like in practice?” – or even “Why do I need to bother engaging citizen science at all?”

This collection of essays presents a range of perspectives on these questions, and we hope it will encourage greater use of citizen science by governments. The authors have been brought together by the Centre for
Science and Policy (CSaP) through a series of seminars, lectures and an online conference. Three observations were made time and again:

  • First, there has been an extraordinary flourishing of citizen science during the past two decades. Huge numbers have participated in projects ranging from spotting patterns in protein structures to monitoring local air pollution; from garden bird surveys to deciphering the handwritten notes from the archives of philosophers; and from tracing radioactive contamination to spotting new planets in distant galaxies.
  • Second, there is a growing imperative in government to find new ways to involve citizens as partners in the development and delivery of policy.
  • Third, that while public funds have supported the expansion of citizen science’s contributions to scientific research, there have been surprisingly few experiments drawing on citizen science to contribute to the business of government itself…(More)”