Since the launch of the NEWSERA #CitSciComm Labs in December 2020, NEWSERA partners have been meeting regularly with the citizen science projects enrolled as pilots in the Labs, in order to follow and support them in the implementation of their co-designed science communication actions. But it turns out that original communication strategies are not the only innovation that is coming from the #CitSciComm Labs! Some of the NEWSERA Pilots based in the Iberian Peninsula and focused on freshwater ecosystems have decided to come together and bring others along and form a new interest group that met for the first time in January, the Iberian Group on Citizen Science of Freshwater Ecosystems.
How the group Iberian Group on Citizen Science of Freshwater Ecosystems started
Citizen science is becoming a flowering ecosystem, and projects are addressing a multitude of different environmental and social issues. While some issues are inherently local, others can benefit greatly from cross-border synergies in neighbouring countries: for example biodiversity, climate change, or water ecosystems, that often span across wide territories and are affected by activities in different countries. That’s why projects based in Spain and Portugal decided to meet and discuss common concerns.
The idea of collaborating sparked from the representatives of NEWSERA Pilot projects RIUNET (Spain) and Rios Potáveis (Portugal), together with NEWSERA team members, during periodic mentoring sessions; they detected the clear need of exchanging experiences, validating and upscaling methodologies, and bringing people together around the topic of citizen science for freshwater ecosystems.
After the initial contacts, this need evolved into the idea of creating a group of interest of researchers, managers and educators from Spain and Portugal that are working or want to work with citizen science related to water. This development happened with the involvement of different entities that work with freshwater ecosystems or citizen science (or both), namely: Plataforma de Ciência Aberta – Município de Figueira Castelo Rodrigo, Faculdade de Ciências – Universidade de Lisboa, Science for Change and FEHMLab – Universitat de Barcelona.
The first meeting
Just a few months later, on January 13 2022, the first meeting of the Iberian group on citizen science of freshwater ecosystems took place. It involved the participation of 23 people from 17 projects, including the ones aforementioned as well as: Observatorio Ciudadano de la Sequía – Universidad Pablo Olavide, Living River – Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Universidade de Coimbra, AquaColab – Universidad de Burgos, Ríos ciudadanos, Projeto Rios – ASPEA, Floodup, Grupo MiraVolta, Projecte Rius – Associació hàbitats, Rios Livres, GEOTA, the Red Cántabra de Desarrollo Rural, eGroundWater-ISEG, Pescadors de Plàstics, and CITAQUA – Universidade de Aveiro, Bioazul.
It was an opportunity for participants from the academia, industry, and civil society sectors, to get to know each other, introduce the different projects they were working on, and start a discussion on common interests, issues, and opportunities at hand.
The last part of the meeting was dedicated to decide, together, the next steps in the group’s work. These future working topics were listed:
- Data validation and analysis;
- Community participation: involvement with stakeholders (citizens, industry, management);
- Communication and awareness;
- Governance: impact on citizen science;
- Joint proposals between projects.
Future group meetings will be organised periodically, from March to June 2022.
If you wish to be involved in the Iberian Group on Citizen Science of Freshwater Ecosystems or to learn more, please contact the organisers. The organisers are particularly interested in having representatives from the public sector and science communication/journalism arena.
About NEWSERA and the #CitSciComm Labs
NEWSERA is a EU-funded project with the aim to show that citizen science can be used as a powerful science communication tool. The core of the project are the #CitSciComm Labs, or Citizen Science Communication Labs. They involve citizen science practitioners from ongoing citizen science initiatives (the NEWSERA “Pilots”), representatives from different stakeholders groups and science communication experts: together they collaborate on new and improved communication strategies to employ in the Pilots themselves.
Each Lab consists of a series of three co-creation workshops, that are held online and with different groups for each country involved in the project (Spain, Portugal and Italy). While the co-creation workshops are held within each group, all participants come together in common sessions to share their work and findings.
The first round of Labs was held in 2021 and was focused on framing the needs of pilot projects, as well as those of the key target stakeholders. The second round is being held during these months, in the first half of 2022, and will deal with cross-cutting topics such as defining indicators of success, increasing trust in citizen-generated data and tackling misinformation.
The results of the Labs will be the basis for five Communication Blueprints, guidelines for more effective science communication strategies in citizen science projects that will be produced by the NEWSERA Team and made available online.