Auf 1940 m Grenzen überwinden – Die Österreichische Citizen Science Konferenz 2019

von Sophie Hanak, Citizen Science Network Austria

(c) by Universitätszentrum Obergurgl

Derzeit liegt in Obergurgl (Tirol, Österreich) noch Schnee, jedoch wird dieser den saftigen Wiesen Platz gemacht haben, wenn sich die TeilnehmerInnen zur 5. Österreichischen Citizen Science Konferenz vom 26.-28. Juni in das Universitätszentrum Obergurgl aufmachen. Die Konferenz steht dieses Jahr unter dem Motto “Grenzen und Übergänge“. In zahlreichen Vorträgen, Workshops und Postersessions werden Fragen diskutiert wie beispielsweise: Was sind die Grenzen in Citizen Science, wer bestimmt diese, und wie können Grenzen, Übergänge oder auch Hindernisse genützt werden? Obergurgl ist dafür ein passender Ort, denn hier stößt man sowohl auf natürliche Grenzen, wie etwa auf die Schneegrenze oder die Baumgrenze, als auch auf politische Grenzen, wie die Staatsgrenze zwischen Österreich und Italien.

Das Universitätszentrum in Obergurgl ist nicht nur mit Vortrags- und Seminarräumen inkl. neuestem Stand der Technik ausgestattet, sondern auch mit gemütlichen Zimmern, einem Restaurant und einer Bar, wo die spannenden Vorträge und Workshops  abends am Kamin reflektiert werden können. Und sollte der Konferenztag gar zu spannend gewesen sein, kann man im hauseigenen Wellnessbereich diese Spannung auch wieder abbauen.

„Besonders gespannt sind wir auf unsere beiden Keynote-Speaker, die uns Einblick in ihre vielfältigen Tätigkeiten im Bereich Citizen Science geben werden“, freuen sich Florian Heigl und Daniel Dörler, Gründer und Koordinatoren von “Österreich forscht“. Denn Mag. Susanne Hecker untersucht am Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung und am Deutschen Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung in Leipzig den Einfluss von Citizen Science am Übergang zwischen Wissenschaft, Gesellschaft und Politik. Im Mai 2016 hat sie außerdem die erste europäische Citizen Science Konferenz in Berlin organisiert und ist Erst-Herausgeberin des neuen Buches “Citizen Science – Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy”. Durch Susanne Hecker werden wir die neuesten Entwicklungen zu Citizen Science in Europa erfahren.

Monica Peters, wird in ihrer zweite Keynote hingegen Citizen Science in Neuseeland beleuchten und diese spannende Herangehensweise mit der europäischen vergleichen. Neben der breiten Beteiligung von BürgerInnen in wissenschaftlichen Projekten zum Natur- und Artenschutz (sogenanntes “community-led environmental monitoring”), wird Monica Peters vor allem auch über “Matauranga Maori”, das traditionelle ökologische Wissen der neuseeländischen Ureinwohner, sprechen, und dabei die Verbindung zu Citizen Science aufzeigen.

Gleich zu Beginn der Vorträge werden die Übergänge zwischen Wissenschaftskommunikation, wissenschaftlicher Bildung der Citizen Scientists und deren Beteiligung an der Forschung dargestellt. Beispielsweise wird im Vortrag „Biodiversitätsmonitoring mit Landwirtinnen: Grenzen zwischen Landwirtschaft und Naturschutz auflösen“ ein Projekt präsentiert, in welchem BäuerInnen und AlmbewirtschafterInnen mit extensiven Wiesen und Weiden teilnehmen können. In diesem Projekt werden jedes Jahr bestimmte Indikatorarten festgelegt, die die TeilnehmerInnen beobachten und zählen sollen. Diese Daten werden dann auf einer Online-Plattform, gemeinsam mit der Bewirtschaftungsart der Wiesen gespeichert und ausgewertet.

Im Zentrum der zweiten Vortragssession stehen Projekte aus inter- und transdisziplinärer Zusammenarbeit wie etwa D-NOSES. In diesem geht es darum gemeinsam mit BürgerInnen, NGOs, lokalen Behörden, geruchsemittierenden Industrien und Hochschulen Maßnahmen zur Bekämpfung von Geruchsverschmutzung zu gestalten.

„Die grundlegenden Fragen von wissenschaftlichen Untersuchungen, wie Studiendesign, Datenqualität, Datenschutz oder Reproduzierbarkeit werden in der dritten Session behandelt“, so Heigl. In diesem Zusammenhang besonders interessant dürfte auch die Diskussion über das Spannungsfeld zwischen professioneller Forschung und ehrenamtlichem Engagement werden. Im Vortrag “Homegrown – There is nothing like a homegarden” beispielsweise, werden die Nutzung bäuerlicher Hausgärten und die Veränderungen der Gärten und ihrer Bewirtschaftung über die Jahre dargestellt.

Vortragssession vier beschäftigt sich mit dem Überwinden von Grenzen. Citizen Science kann in diesem Bereich in einer sich ständig verändernden Welt eine Vielzahl an Lösungsansätzen bieten. Um kritische Ereignisse, wie vermehrte Felsstürze und Murenabgänge besser verstehen und vorhersagen zu können, ist es wichtig, möglichst viele Daten darüber zu sammeln und zu analysieren. Das Projekt CitizenMorph etwa beschäftigt sich mit der Erfassung und dem Verstehen geomorphologischer Phänomene, ein besonders aktuelles Thema in Zeiten des Klimawandels.

Für die Mitarbeit der Bevölkerung an Forschungsprojekten ist das grundlegende Verständnis für Wissenschaft Voraussetzung. Dieses Thema soll in der letzten Session behandelt werden. Ein Vortrag über Wissensvermittlung durch Gamification stellt das Projekt spacelab girls & exploreAT! vor. Die Produktionsschule spacelab ist ein Angebot für Jugendliche und junge Erwachsene zwischen 15 und 24 Jahren, die einen erhöhten Bedarf an begleitender Unterstützung bei der Bildungs- und Berufsplanung haben.

Die TeilnehmerInnen können erfahren was ein MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) ist und wie eine Citizen Science-Projektfinanzierung aussehen könnte.
Zu guter Letzt sollen im Workshop „Wie mache ich meine Daten FAIR: Findable — Accessible — Interoperable — Reproducible?“ die eigenen Daten genauer unter die Lupe genommen werden und Fragen wie etwa: was sind FAIRe Daten und wie kann ich meine Daten “fair” aufbereiten, besprochen werden.

Sicher ist, dass die TeilnehmerInnen dieser Konferenz unabhängig von ihrem Wissensstand zum Thema Citizen Science inspiriert werden, ihre Forschung der Öffentlichkeit näher zu bringen, dass sie das nötige Know-How dafür bekommen und zum Schluss vielleicht noch eine entspannte Sommerwanderung auf die umliegenden Gipfel machen können. Bis 19. Mai 2019 ist es noch möglich sich für diese Konferenz zu registrieren.

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The Citizen Science Center Zürich at the UN Environment Assembly

Our Managing Director Rosy Mondardini was part of the international Citizen Science delegation that attended the Science-Policy-Business Forum at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA4), with the aim of promoting Citizen Science at the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment.

A lot of the focus at UN Environment is quantifying the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but statistics are depressing as data are available on only around 30% of the indicators. There is huge potential for citizen science to fill these gaps, and the topic was discussed in most sessions. The delegation issued an official declaration in the closing plenary, and got citizen science referenced and endorsed in the UN resolution and on the statement of the Science and Tech Major Group.

The gathering was also a chance for a governance meetup for the new Citizen Science Global Partnership (CSGP), including welcoming CitizenScience.Asia and the Ibero-American network (Red Iberoamericana de Ciencia Participativa) in the Citizen Science networks, together with the well established USEuropean and Australian Citizen Science Associations.

The CSGP is currently running a SDG and Citizen Science Maximization group specifically with the SDGs issue in mind.

Members of the delegation drafting the final declaration for the UNEA 4 conference

Citizen Science for Global Health

Interview with Andrew Durso from the Snake ID Challenge

Crotalus horridus, a Timber Rattlesnake from the USA (Illinois), foto by Andrew Durso.

“Do you know this snake?” That was the question we asked a vivid community of snake lovers out there in our Snake ID Challenge in late February. We were overwhelmed by the level of participation from all over the world.

Venomous snakebite is responsible for over 100,000 deaths and many permanent disabilities every year, mostly affecting poor and rural communities in the parts of the world where snake diversity is the highest. Communities and healthcare providers working in these areas are often limited in their herpetological expertise.

The ultimate goal of the snake ID challenge was to create digital tools that anyone can use to identify snakes in order to help clinicians better treat snakebite cases, and improve snake conservation through educating people and communities. Read more about the background of the challenge here.

Andrew is a herpetologist and postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva and a member of the team behind the Snake ID challenge. He was born in New York and grew up catching snakes in North Carolina. He also writes a blog about snakes called ‘Life is Short, but Snakes are Long‘.

Hi Andrew, how many people took part in the challenge and where were they from?

Just over 1,000 people took part in the challenge, from 48 countries. In total they contributed over 115,000 image identifications.

The goal of that first challenge was to measure the performance of the crowd. So how well did they perform?

Overall, 42% of the answers were correct at the species level, a further 11% at the genus level, and yet a further 19% at the family level. About 13% of the answers were incorrect at the family level. Finally, 14% answered “I don’t know”.

What feedback did you get?

We got very positive feedback! Most users found the challenge fun. Many users were proud of how well they did, especially at identifying snakes from regions with which they were unfamiliar, and many people said that participating in this challenge was a great learning opportunity for them.

What happens with the results now?

We’ll analyze the results in greater detail soon, including a breakdown by species, geographic region, and higher taxonomic group (e.g. vipers, elapids). Preliminary analysis suggests that the most important factor influencing how correct people were was the species of snake—some groups are simply more diverse and difficult to identify than others. This seemed to have a far greater effect than global region or the quality of the image.

What are the next steps?

We’ll do a second challenge where we ask people to suggest IDs with and without geographic information, to test more explicitly how much knowing the location of a snake influences someone’s ability to correctly identify it. We also want to move forward soon with asking participants to help us tag images that we don’t already have IDs for, to grow the overall size of our dataset & formalize a process for identifying snakes from images

Were there some funny or special interactions happening?

Several people told me that they worked on this challenge while they were at work or while they were supposed to be doing other things, suggesting that we did a good job making it fun! Some found it quite addictive, staying up late or neglecting other important tasks to complete it (we did not explicitly encourage this behavior)! A few people recognized their own images in the challenge & one person said that if they had not identified that images correctly, his privileges as a group admin for a prominent snake ID group on Facebook should be revoked!

The challenge was developed and implemented with the Citizen Science Center Zürich. How did you find the collaboration with the Center and what was the most useful support in your opinion?

Working with the Center was fantastic! Everyone at the Center was very helpful & enthusiastic about the challenge. In my experience most people don’t get particularly excited about snakes, at least not in a positive way, but the Citizen Science Center Zürich fully took on this challenge. Their technical support was rapid & accommodating and their help with community management was invaluable.

Thank you very much for your positive feedback and the interview! We also enjoyed collaborating with you a lot and are very much looking forward to the next steps together in this unique and important Citizen Science project.

Visit snakes.citizenscience.ch for more information.

Why a Citizen Science Center in Zurich?

Since the Citizen Science Center Zurich is quite young (the team started working about a year ago) we would like to open this blog by introducing ourselves and explain why we are here:
The Citizen Science Center Zurich is a joint initiative of the University of Zurich and the ETH Zurich. It aims at engaging academic scientists and the public in next-generation citizen science projects. That means projects that are scientifically excellent and also have a high degree of participation of citizens in ideally all phases of the research process. Why is that necessary? As with all things, people have different opinions whether something is useful or not. But here are three reasons why we think Zurich needs a Citizen Science Center

1. Zurich has a local history of participatory research

Researchers at both UZH and ETHZ have a strong track record in citizen science, participatory research, and citizen science-related fields such as artificial intelligence, social science and the law. Combining these researchers’ expertise represents a unique opportunity for synergy. Check out some projects of the past here.
But also Citizen Scientists have been around in Zurich since quite a while, just think of the long tradition of the so called naturalists. We will explore that a bit further in one of the upcoming blog posts.

2. Fuel for Innovation and Education

Citizen Science bears the opportunity to promote creativity, scientific literacy, and innovation. On the cover of the newly published book Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy it says:
Citizen science […] is a rapidly expanding field in open science and open innovation. It provides an integrated model of public knowledge production and engagement with science. As a growing worldwide phenomenon, it is invigorated by evolving new technologies that connect people easily and effectively with the scientific community. Catalysed by citizens’ wishes to be actively involved in scientific processes, as a result of recent societal trends, it also offers contributions to the rise in tertiary education.”

3. Data and Action for Sustainability

Citizen science provides a valuable tool for citizens to play a more active role in sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of global goals developed in 2015 by the 193 UN member states and representatives of civil society. They are part of the UN Agenda 2030, a comprehensive call for action to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
High quality, timely and accessible data are required to monitor progress towards the goals, and there is a strong consensus that citizen engagement is critical.
Through citizen science, people can directly engage with and monitor issues that affect them, bring new perspectives and knowledge into science and decision-making, and ultimately demand or drive change.

This is why we, funded by the two biggest universities of the country, think it is a good idea to promote, support and further develop Citizen Science here in Zurich, with national and international collaborations. Join us in that journey if you have a great idea for a Citizen Science project. Reach out and tell us.

The journey begins …

What to expect from this blog?

Thanks for joining us!

The best two things about Citizen Science in my view are: First, it is super diverse (just like science in general), and second, everyone can do it (unlike in academic/professional science, where you need a university degree to be acknowledged as researcher) – because science should be accessible to everyone, not only as a profession but also as a hobby. All this makes Citizen Science a perfect topic for a blog.

We will cover a wide range of topics and formats from the world of Citizen Science, asking questions like: What are the benefits and challenges of Citizen Science? What kinds of projects are out there? Who are the people behind these projects and what are their stories and motivations? What Citizen Science activities happen here in Zurich and Switzerland?
To read on all that, stay tuned and do not hesitate to comment and tell me what you would like to read about here in future.

Spark ideas