The European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) 2020 Conference – Encounters in Citizen Science was held on September 6-10. Although the conference was originally to take place in Trieste (Italy), due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic it took place exclusively online, with about 400 participants and nearly 200 speakers.
Inspired by the history of Trieste as a city of scientific interactions and junctures, the ECSA 2020 Conference focused on connections in science:
between scientists and citizens; between East and West; between North and South; and between the different fields of science.
One of the key aims of the Conference was bring citizen science projects together in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. During the weeks prior to the event, participants had the opportunity to collaboratively elaborate the “Declaration on citizen science and the SDGs”, a commitment between scientific citizens, academics and politicians to advance the agenda of the SDGs according to their own possibilities.
During the events, many interesting topics of discussion emerged, like the need for greater inclusiveness in citizen science, not only in terms of research fields, but also of geographical areas, cultural styles and other features of the participants. Citizen science projects should strive to expand their reach to new groups of people, and are a powerful way to advocate for open science and for a more open and democratic culture in general.
The importance of ethics in various fields, for example in the areas of data privacy and health, was also discussed, along with the consideration that data management should be a key, and not a duty, of citizen science projects.
Among the highlights of the Conference was the presentation of of the EU-Citizen.Science platform. As explained by Marzia Mazzonetto during the introduction, EU-Citizen.Science is an EC-funded platform launched in the spring of 2020 to provide the citizen science community with high quality resources and networking opportunities. Muki Haklay, UCL professor and director of Extreme Citizen Science UCL, announced the launch of new tools on the platform, including training courses and coaching services. Francisco Sanz, executive director of the Ibercivis Foundation, presented the main technical developments to improve accessibility, interoperability and usability of projects and resources of the platform, under the basic principles of open science. Then Dilek Fraisl, researcher of Ecosystem Services and Management of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), explained the relevance of having the appropriate criteria to justify the inclusion of the various initiatives in the platform. Finally, Margaret Gold gave a tour of the platform showing its functionalities and new tools, such as the possibility of creating or participating in forums.
Members of the NEWSERA Consortium spoke about their experience with citizen science during other sessions.
During the workshop session “Engagement in citizen science”, an excellent example of the importance of the presence of civil society representatives in CS conferences, Science for Change introduced D-NOSES, a project that empower citizens to become drivers of change in their own communities. The group shared their methodology to promote social innovation at the local level and how they were able to adjust it to different cultures and social structures.
During the e-poster session “Designing a specific policy for citizen science in Spain”, Maite Pelacho, researcher at Ibercivis and coordinator of the Observatorio de la ciencia ciudadana en España explained that shaping the network of citizen science in Spain is being made possible thanks to the work of thousands of people in citizen science projects. Ibercivis Foundation, along with the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)-Ministry of Science and Innovation have carried out several actions together with representatives of research groups, citizen scientists, and agents from all areas, with results that are being reflected in current science and innovation policies.
The ECSA 2020 Conference is supported by the local and regional government institutions; it’s also organized in collaboration with Trieste Città della Conoscenza, a network that brings together research centers, universities and government institutions in the Trieste area. Among the sponsors are citizen science platform such as EU-Citizen.Science and Spotteron, as well as museums and local industries.
February 2021 update: the Conference Report has been published.
Cover photo source: Stephen Colebourne/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)