During the last decade, citizen science has grown in popularity and effectiveness as a tool for scientific research. However, many scientists still see it as an activity for science communication or outreach, instead of a way to co-produce scientific knowledge and to increase science literacy.
Even when it’s seen as a science communication tool, the potential of citizen science is often overlooked by academic scientists. There is a general lack of information and interest in its methods as well as in its results, making it more difficult for them to consider participating in or starting a citizen science project.
For citizen science to become mainstream among academic scientists, we need to build trust between these two environments. If citizen science practitioners work together with scientists, they can learn how to reach them better as an audience, also enlarging their network. On the other hand, scientists can experience citizen science practices and see how the data gathered during citizen science projects could be transformed into science results.
Engaging both groups in a two-way learning process leads to synergies in research, teaching, public engagement, and may help in obtaining funding as well.
In the “NEWSERA Academic scientists Lab”, scientists and citizen science practitioners will work together towards these goals, during a series of co-creation workshops.
Participants include a small group of: citizen science practitioners (selected during the NEWSERA survey), scientists working in academic institutions (some of which already worked with citizen science, and others who did not), a science communication expert acting as moderator, and members from the NEWSERA Team.
The Lab is held online, with three different groups of participants in Spain, Portugal and Italy. While the co-creation workshops are held within each group, there will be moments in which all groups come together to share their work and findings.
The 1st workshop was conducted between January 11 and January 21, 2021; the 2nd workshop will take place in Autumn 2021.
More details on the 3rd workshop will be published in the upcoming months.
The projects taking part in this Lab
Biodiversidad Virtual is a scientific and information platform based on cooperative work and the participation of citizens who collect photos of flora and fauna. The project is managed by the non-profit association Fotografia & Biodiversity. Hundreds of citizens and specialists from various sectors participate.
Genigma is a smartphone app based on real data obtained in the lab. During a game, volunteers analyze fragments of cancer cell DNA, for which there is no better identifier than the human eye. The objective is to build a genome map of cancer cells, that would allow to understand which parts of the genome of these cells play a fundamental role in the development of cancer.
DENIS has been created to help researchers to compute very large groups of cardiac electrophysiological model variations. It connects volunteers with researchers to help them in their projects. All the results obtained using DENIS must be published, and all the models used in DENIS must be shared once the project has ended.
The MammalNet project aims to gain insight on the benefits and limitations of using Citizen Science to monitor mammals across Europe, and to learn how we can collect better data and encourage participation.
BioDiversity4All, the largest biodiversity platform in Portugal, is linked to iNaturalist and aims to increase knowledge about Portuguese biodiversity and involve the largest number of people in registering biodiversity. Through the platform, anyone interested can develop projects that allow them to collect information on certain taxonomic groups. The platform aims to collect data that can be used to increase scientific knowledge.
Memória para Todos is a collaborative research and citizen science project that promotes the study, organization and dissemination of Portugal’s historical, cultural and technological heritage. It is developed in close relationship with archives, institutions, municipalities, schools and local associations. The gathered contents (e.g., photographs, audio and video testimonies, sounds and other records), with the participation and involvement of citizens and institutions, are made available online in open access.
Rios Potáveis is part of the international citizen science project Drinkable Rivers. It aims to understand the impact of tourism on the water quality of the Douro River, involving the local community in monitoring actions to investigate several parameters (e.g. nitrate and phosphate content, water hardness, amount of minerals, number of bacteria, surrounding landscape). The project aims to inform and influence public policies in order to improve the conservation status of the region’s water bodies.
ReefCheck Italia is a scientific association dedicated to the protection and recovery of the Mediterranean rocky reefs and tropical coral reefs. Volunteers are recreational scuba divers who observe and verify the health status of the coastal marine habitats. The Underwater Monitoring Program for the Mediterranean Sea is based on data collection about indicator species, on quantitative surveys in fixed stations, and on measuring temperature variations. It promotes local actions for environmental conservation and restoration, as well as beach clean-up activities with schools.
Sea Cleaner is a project focused on the problem of anthropogenic waste in the marine environment. Citizens are an active part in monitoring and data collection processes, together with professional researchers or trainers. Its aim is to raise awareness among young people on the environmental issues, and to bring them closer to science in an active and exciting way. Through education and training, students who participate in these science activities learn how to apply the scientific method in the field.