After CitSciOz18, Yaela Golumbic hopes to raise the profile of citizen science in Israel.
Yaela Golumbic, Israel
I will start this post, by expressing my sincere appreciation to the ACSA team and conference organizers. I know how difficult it can sometimes be, and yet, everything seemed to be so carefully planned with a calm, peaceful and respectful atmosphere.
My impressions from the conference are entwined with my impression of Australia at large. Being in Australia for the first time was a wonderful and somewhat exotic experience. The beautiful scenes, the beaches, the mountains, the exotic animals (which for Australians may not even be considered exotic), all contributed to my overall excitement of citizen science in Australia. During my visit, I got the overall feeling that people in Australia care about the environment and the natural life around them. It seems that this love of nature is somewhat embedded in the Australian culture. Citizen science sits with this culture in a perfect way, like a glove to a hand, and that is beautiful to see.
Coming from such a small country like Israel, the size of Australia is overwhelming. Israel, which is just four hundred kilometers long and one hundred and fifteen kilometers wide, can be driven north to south in just eight hours. For such a small country, we have a lot going on. Unfortunately, we still do not have a large citizen science community. Seeing all the citizen science work that is being done in Australia was therefore quite inspiring.
The ACSA conference brought together 250 from across Australia and the world, for three days to talk only about citizen science. All people who love science, who love the environment, who made this a purpose for their lives. People working in conservation, in policy, in academia, all working together for a greater good. I was especially inspired, seeing the Chief Scientist of Australia Dr. Alan Finkel, talking about the importance of citizen science. The entrance of citizen science to the public discussion, in such high official ranks, suggests that citizen science is becoming prolific and widespread in Australia. The connection between government and citizen science projects, seeing the many citizen science projects funded by government, to me, seems exceptional.
Back home, I lead a small but national citizen science project, for monitoring air quality in the local environment. This has been somewhat difficult at times, since many scientists believe citizens cannot really contribute to science, and officials in the Environmental Protection Agency believe they are the sole experts in environmental knowledge and decision making. I feel the government in Israel, in general, does not involve the citizen enough in decision making, and does not see the value in including non-experts in the process.
Citizen science in the long run, may be able to change that. Seeing Dr. Finkel talking about the importance of citizen science gave me hope and challenged me to get the chief scientist in Israel to talk about citizen science. To create a collaboration between citizen scientists and government officials. Looking into this future, I cannot wait to see what the next years of citizen science will look like.
Gordon Claridge was concerned he might be the only person at the 2018 Adelaide conference from a small community group – his fears were soon allayed!
Gordon Claridge, President Lockyer Community Action Inc.
Lockyer Community Action is a small group and a recent entrant to the field of Citizen Science – in fact we had never thought of ourselves in citizen science terms – we just got stuck into doing koala surveys as part of our battle against a motocross development. Then so many members liked the feeling of doing something meaningful for koala conservation that we kept on, and on, and on. I guess we never looked up from what we were doing to see the wider implications. No wonder we were surprised and delighted when our abstract was accepted for a “long talk” presentation at CitSciOz18.
There was a bit of a reality check though, when we realised that the total costs of travel, accommodation, registration, etc. would be over $1,000 (money that our group just didn’t have). However ACSA quickly came to our rescue and awarded us a $1,000 scholarship to allow me to attend. Thanks.
Prior to the conference I was a bit unsure what to expect. I’d been to a number of conferences over the years as a consultant or NGO representative where it felt like the focus of most attendees seemed to be principally to network with other academic researchers. Would there be others at CitSciOz18 from small community groups? Would the topics really be relevant to what our group is trying to achieve? Would anyone be interested in our programs and experiences?
That uncertainty began to be dispelled from the moment I arrived at the conference location on the first morning. People were keen to connect and to share interests, and before long we were exchanging comments like “Have you talked to so and so? They seem to be doing something you’d be interested in.” If there isn’t a term for “mutual networking facilitation” there should be now (MNF?) – it was rampant at CitSciOz18.
By the second day it was clear that most people found the lunch break too short – there were just so many people to connect with and so little time.
My concerns about whether there would be presentations on community group projects from which we could learn and with whom we might share information were soon shown to be unfounded. Not only were there somewhat similar organisations to ours, but also there were some activities being facilitated by or fostered within government agencies that were, in reality, grass roots action.
But, perhaps equally important for the long-term development of Lockyer Community Action’s programs, were presentations on the last day that dealt with the methodology and sociology of citizen science. These presentations on Friday raised a whole raft of important considerations, “lessons learned” and food for thought, and left me hungry for more of the same. I can’t wait to see these on the ACSA YouTube Channel. And, by the way, I’ve taken on board the advice that labelling an activity citizen science can be off-putting for people who are daunted by science.
A range of presentations on data collection and storage also broadened my thinking about this aspect of citizen science. Lockyer Community Action has, from the outset, had the view that information only becomes truly useful when it is publicly accessible. All of our “confirmed presence” koala records are submitted to the Queensland Government’s WildNet database. Some records (from our ‘Other Wildlife’ Program) are also put into Bowerbird, from where they migrate to the Atlas of Living Australia once ID is confirmed. Now I know there are other options.
Peter Brenton (Atlas of Living Australia) made the point well when he said that data needs to have a life beyond the project and putting it into accessible databases for aggregation and use in larger studies generates ongoing usefulness, including through contributions to conservation – something that applies equally to both citizen science data and to data stored in research institutions. Peter’s presentations really opened my eyes to the value-adding potential of databases, as well as to the wide range of contributions that ALA is making to facilitating and value-adding to citizen science projects.
For me, an unexpected insight that emerged only after sitting through a range of presentations on citizen science projects of different types was how much an individual’s view of what citizen science is can be influenced by the type of project they have been exposed to. This was particularly noticeable where the involvement had been with large contributory projects run by large institutions. The impressions given were often that the citizen science had been “done” by the bureaucrats and that lessons learned from such projects applied to all models of citizen science. A somewhat similar situation emerged in group discussions on database management – people saw the data management process largely from the point of view of their role in relation to the database – whether as data managers, contributors or users – and managers sometimes seemed to have difficulty in taking on board other views. There are definite lessons there for anyone leading a citizen science program – beware of having only the view from your own role or your own type of project; make efforts to put yourself in the shoes of all those different categories of people involved in the program, and of those you are seeking to influence with your outcomes.
I could go on and on, but you get the drift. It was a fantastic conference, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend CitSciOz18 and for all the insights gained there.
In early 2017, I had the good fortune of meeting Alasdair Davies when he ventured to Brisbane Australia, where we both participated in a workshop about technology use for conservation. My role at the workshop was to share my knowledge of how scientists and members of the public, or citizen scientists, were working collaboratively to make innovative discoveries that have benefitted conservation efforts. While there, I shared information regarding local, national, and global efforts aiming to increase capacity, uptake, and outcomes of citizen science, technology use, and conservation actions. I absolutely had my heart set on attending the Citizen Science Association Conference in 2017 that was set to take place in Saint Paul Minnesota, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to given the substantial funding required to get to the U.S. from Australia.
Why did I want to go so far away? I wanted to run an accepted symposium that would explore how citizen science varies in different regions of the world. I hoped to discuss with a panel of citizen science leaders, how scientific practices, cultural, societal, and political factors are shaping the spread, uptake, and diversification of citizen science in four key regions of the world. I also hoped to attend so that I could meet people with expertise in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) technology design strategies, environmental acoustics, and citizen science. Doing so also had the potential to further my own research, investigating how to design engaging citizen science technology to review environmental acoustic recordings, which I also wanted to present as a poster.
You can imagine my surprise when, several weeks later, I received an email informing me that I had been chosen by Alasdair to be awarded a Shuttleworth Foundation Flash Grant! Being afforded such an amazing opportunity, I quickly got to work organising a fireside-chat style symposium with the following panellists:
Myself, Jessie Oliver, a Management Committee member of Australian Citizen Science Association, sharing knowledge of Australian citizen science, which was largely acquired through my four years of volunteer work helping to develop the Association;
Darlene Cavalier, CEO of SciStarter, summarising citizen science projects across the United States based data from the project finder;
This symposium highlighted key differences between citizen science regionally and what factors drive this variation. Language is certainly a key factor for how project information and resources are disseminated across Europe, having to contend with far more languages than Australia, China, and the United States. While all these regions are relatively similar in geographic size, the distribution and overall populations are vastly different. Australia, for instance, has vast expanses with relatively few people, and a population of only about 24 million primarily concentrated in five cities. At the time of the conference, the U.S., Europe, and Australia all had formed young citizen science associations working to facilitate networking between citizen scientists, scientists, and other stakeholders. China, by contrast, had several projects across the nation, but had yet to establish a network to actively bring stakeholders of different projects together, although this is now underway. Environmental and biodiversity-focused sciences were shown to dominate citizen science relative to other sciences for all regions featured.
WeDigBio is an example of how increases in technological infrastructure now allow people from a variety of regions to also contribute to global projects both in person and online. Access to these technologies, however, varied by region. In the latter half of the symposium, ample time was allocated for audience questions and discussion, and this proved incredibly useful, allowing for inclusion of perspectives from regions such as Japan, Iran, Iraq, New Zealand and South America. This exchange of information led to a greater appreciation for the need to carefully identify and understand what factors are likely to influence the regional development of citizen science.
There was an amazing amount of networking and learning to be had as well. In terms of my own technology design research, I was absolutely thrilled to meet and discuss my research with people such as Jenny Preece, who research citizen science and HCI technology design! These discussions later inspired me to organise a workshop at the #OzCHI2017 Conference in Brisbane, which brought citizen scientists and scientists together with designers to explore technology development needs for saving species like glossy black cockatoos, koalas, wombats, and shorebirds! I was also delighted to find that my #CitSci2017 poster exploring how to design engaging technologies for citizen scientists to review acoustic data, was also well received by former colleagues from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I met many of the citizen science leaders I had corresponded with remotely while working for the TV series The Crowd & The Crowd. My attendance and work with the show also prompted an invite to a conference meeting regarding a Global Mosquito Alert Consortium, and I subsequently joined the global working group.
Many of the connections and lessons learned from the conference have continued to positively impact my citizen science work in Australia and abroad. This conference was incredibly well run with very interesting, empowering, and informative ways to convey information beyond the standard talk formats. My experiences there directly fed into my work on our organising committee for the last Australian Citizen Science Conference (#CitSciOz18) as well. While in the U.S. I often shared experiences regarding the development and happenings of ACSA, which later led to speaking invitations to share this knowledge at events. Most recently, for example, I spoke remotely from Brisbane at #CitSciNZ2018 Symposium, which was led by Monica Peters in New Zealand.
Relationships I have forged as a result my receiving the Shuttleworth Flash Grant continue to be fruitful. Next, I am planning to travel to Geneva in early June to attend the European Citizen Science Conference (#ECSA2018) and participate in several meetings and workshops before and after the conference as well. One of those meetings is at the UN office in Geneva to discuss the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the potential for citizen science to contribute to these goals globally, and the role that the nascent Citizen Science Global Partnership will play. It’s wonderful to reflect a year later and realize that Shuttleworth Foundation helped to catapult all aspects of my citizen science work to new heights, and I am beyond grateful for this opportunity!
It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly two months since the 2nd Australian Citizen Science Association Conference, #CitSciOz18 in Adelaide, South Australia. For six days I was constantly on the go – averaging around 3-4 hours of sleep per night.
#CitSciOz18 featured international keynote speakers Dr. Caren Cooper and Amy Robinson Sterling, along with Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr. Alan Finkel and Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science 2017 co-recipient Dr. Emilie Ens. The aim of the conference was to showcase best practice in citizen science and share project outcomes from across Australia and the world. Every continent of the world, except Antarctica was represented too. North America, South America, Asia, Europe and Africa were all there as well as our mates from “across the ditch”, New Zealand.
In fact there were there were over 120 talks, posters and workshops falling within the conference themes of #EngagingCitizens (20), #EmpowerWithData (19), #ShowcasingOutcomes (16), #Partnerships (15), #FieldProjects (14), #SocialResearch (8), #Education (6) and #Communication (4). The conference was also mentioned more than 2000 times over the three conference days on Twitter as well as Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Where did it start?
The planning process for #CitSciOz18 started well over a year ago. One of the first things the Conference Committee decided on was to try and make the conference as sustainable as possible. Plastic pens were out. Backpacks were out. People have their own backpacks and pens after all. Conference “swag”* as it is usually called was out. We even vetoed keep cups – who doesn’t have a few of them lying around?
Instead it was decided to do a bamboo pen and paper for the conference and, as an added bonus, a t-shirt for all our members. The t-shirts, designed by Ellie Downing and Amy Slocombe with input from the Conference Committee, were a huge hit. Featuring the tools of citizen science these shirts will soon be available on the ACSA website for anyone to buy. Perhaps at our next conference we might make badges or patches delegates can sew on to the t-shirt? Let us know if we missed anything and perhaps that could be the first badge!
Last week I received all of the conference talks via email – audio and video in one continuous stream from 4 different lecture spaces at the University of South Australia. It is probably the largest download my computer has ever had to do. My next job as the volunteer social media moderator for ACSA is to edit all of the 100+ hours of speeches into their individual talks and upload them on to the new ACSA YouTube channel for everyone to enjoy.
In early May the Conference Committee will meet to go over the conference feedback, discuss what we could do better next time and also start the decision process for #CitSciOz20. We hope to make the next conference bigger and better. Want to tell us how we can do better or even what we did well? Drop us a line. Interested in going to #CitSciOz20? Sign up for the newsletter. We promise we don’t spam!
If you would like to read more about #CitSciOz18 grab a cuppa and put your feet up to read my colleague Jessie Oliver’s fantastic blog here. I recommend it for a truly great read! You can also look at the #CitSciOz18 Twitter Moments too!
“Sounds like…Looks like…. Feels like….CitSciOz18! What a buzz!!!!!! 💛”
*swag has another meaning in Australia as some of our overseas guests found out. In Australia it means bedroll or sleeping bag or to travel with one’s personal belongings in a bundle. I have since found out it was originally an economic term which stood for Silver, Wine, Art and Gold. I learn something new every day with #CitizenScience!
Michelle Neil is the Australian Citizen Science Association’s volunteer social media moderator. Having worked in analytical chemistry for over a decade Michelle finds herself in an interesting place – a scientist as well as a citizen scientist, with a passion for science communication. @michelle_neil
An epic adventure through the wild world of citizen science kicked off on Adelaide’s City West campus of the University of South Australia on 7 February 2018 with the start of Australia’s second national citizen science conference. The conference brought together citizen science practitioners, participants, thought leaders and decision-makers, with the aim of showcasing best practice in citizen science and sharing project outcomes from across Australia and around the world. You can find out all the information about the presentations and workshops of #CitSciOz18 here and the Book of Abstracts can be viewed here.
#CitSciOz18 at a Glance
There were over 125 talks, posters and workshops falling within the conference themes of #SocialResearch (8 presentations), #EngagingCitizens (20 presentations), #Education (6 presentations), #Communication (4 presentations), #EmpowerWithData (19 presentations), #FieldProjects (14 presentations), #ShowcasingOutcomes (16 presentations) and #Partnerships (15 presentations). The conference was buzzing with discussions around the interplay between social outcomes, building an understanding of current initiatives, and harnessing technology to increase participation, improve data management as well as maximizing scientific and societal outcomes.
Workshops also explored topics such as artificial intelligence, participant experiences, policy, social impact, bioblitzes, gamification, and data management.
Our 250 delegates included representatives from the U.S. Citizen Science Association, European Citizen Science Association, Citizen Science Asia and all the State offices of Inspiring Australia — just to name a few.
Delegates came from every state and territory of Australia, including the Australian Capital Territory (19), New South Wales (48), Northern Territory (1), Queensland (37), South Australia (77), Tasmania (2), Victoria (39) and Western Australia (13). We also had a number of delegates from overseas such as Austria (1), Germany (1), Hong Kong (1), Ireland (1), Israel (1), Netherlands (2), New Zealand (2), Scotland (1), South Africa (1) and the United States of America (4). Attendees also contributed via pre-recorded videos from the United Kingdom and Kenya.
We were very pleased to be able to award 14 scholarships to students, community members and indigenous participants to the value of $9,000!
#CitSciOz18 Key Outcomes
From #CitSciOz18 Policy Sessions to a Meeting in the Capital!
The conference included a fantastic two-part session highlighting citizen science policy development and impacts on society, which was championed by Libby Hepburn and had over 120 delegates in attendance.The session kicked off with inspiring pre-recorded videos from Professor Alexandre Caldas, with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Martin Brocklehurst, an independent environmental consultant in the United Kingdom and founding member of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), providing inspiring visions for citizen science to combat worldwide issues through global citizen science partnerships. The recent United Nations Science-Policy-Business Forum, which Erin Roger, our fearless ACSA chair attended and blogged about, and initiatives such as the Citizen Science Global Partnership (“Citizen Science Global”) and Global Mosquito Alert Consortium were highlighted. Martin also shared the commitment adopted by the Global Citizen Science Delegation to have 1 billion people participating in citizen science globally by 2020. Follow this via #1BillionCitSci2020on Twitter! We all certainly have our work cut out for us, but let’s all do our part!
Jo White, Director Science Strategy, Science Division, New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, discussed how the state agency has harnessed the power of citizen science and developed an OEH Citizen Science Strategy, which is delivering on key science priorities.
On Monday the 12th of February a forum in Canberra was held to share highlights from the conference with those who couldn’t attend in person. Lea Shanley and Amy Kaminski joined these sessions in the capital city to share their experiences on bridging citizen science and policy in the United States.
ACSA Regional Chapters announced at #CitSciOz18:
Friday the 9th of February 2018 will go down in ACSA history as the launch of the first three regional chapters of ACSA! We welcome and congratulate ACSA Western Australia, ACSA South Australia, and ACSA Victoria!
ACSA Chapters will play integral roles in fulfilling the vision to build an Australian community of practice that supports, informs, and develops citizen science. We hope that Chapters in Queensland, Northern Territory, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory will be joining the ranks soon.
The ACSA Data & Metadata Working Group, which will be chaired by Peter Brenton from the Atlas of Living Australia, was also introduced. It was also announced that Dr. Geoff Garrett, former Chief Scientist of Queensland, has agreed to be an ACSA Adviser. We couldn’t be more thrilled with him taking this role, as he has been advocating for citizen science from behind the scenes since the inception of the Association.
The ACSA Management Committee also took the opportunity to outline our priorities for the upcoming year. These include: evaluating the conference and our strategic plan, outlining the benefits of regional chapters, and refining our working group process, just to name a few.
#CitSciOz18 Invited Plenary Speakers
Dr. Alan Finkel Australian Chief Scientist, gave opening address with his thoughts on three key foundational elements of great citizen science projects:
they must be based on robust science,
projects must open doors to the world of science for the broader community, and
they must make the world a better place.
An overview of Dr. Finkel’s speech was published viaConversation.
Dr. Emilie Ens spoke of the brilliant citizen science outcomes from the Ngukurr Wi Stadi bla Kantri (We Study the Country) Research Team, which are working to protect the environment and actively maintain endangered cultural knowledge.
This project is conducted in affiliation with Macquarie University, Yugul Mangi Rangers, and Ngukurr School, and was the recipient of the 2017 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.
Perhaps I was the only sook in the crowd, but learning of this project’s profound community outcomes and Dr Ens passion for the people she works with choked me up!
Dr. Caren Cooper, author of the book Citizen Science: How Ordinary People are Changing the Face of Discovery, from North Carolina State University, U.S. gave a great talk providing a historical perspective on citizen science and demonstrating how the science from citizen science projects can feed into social activism and create broad-scale change.
Amy Sterling, Executive Director of Eyewire, a project hosted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), U.S. showed us live how you can play a game to map the brain, while demonstrating how crafty platform designs, gamification, community building, and providing tools for citizen scientists will not only engage them to participate, but also to help develop new features to the platform! Live chatting players caused the conference attendees to roar with laughter a few times!
#CitSciOz18 Additional Awesomeness
The conference affiliated public lecture was also a roaring success with over 300 people attending! Dr Leanna Read South Australia’s Chief Scientist opened the event, which was sponsored by the Government of South Australia, where Caren Cooper and Amy Sterling gave headline talks. Our very own ACSA volunteer social media moderator Michelle Neil also joined the Q&A panel! We were lucky to have ABC journalist Jessica Harmsen be the master of ceremonies (MC) for this event. You can catch a listen online via the Hawke Centre.
Citizen Science TV Series Screening:
Episode 3 of the 4-part series of The Crowd and the Cloud was shown at the conference, but if you missed it, or would like to view it or one of the other episodes, the are all freely available online. If you would like high quality videos for public screenings, let us know.
Getting our citizen science on outside & unwinding!
We rounded off the conference with two days jam packed with field trips which allowed delegates to tour Adelaide and surrounds, and learn about South Australian based citizen science projects. The inclusiveness, awesomeness, and fun of our citizen science community was also highlighted for me on a personal level many times! For example, folks were all too happy to help to get me exploring those rocky reefs without anything other than my feet getting wet!
#CitSciOz18 Makes the Big Time in Media!
We are very grateful to have had quite a bit of media coverage during and following the conference! If you know of more, be sure to send us message! Here are the ones we know of:
ABC Radio Canberra also conducted a live interview with Erin Roger, ACSA Chair.
A number of competitions were held during the conference, and we would like to congratulate our winners once again! They picked up some terrific prizes including copies of Caren Cooper’s book “Citizen Science: How Ordinary People are Changing the Face of Discovery“, 60x microscopes, ACSA t-shirts and more!
Join the ACSA Interest Group “#CitSciOz18 Conversation Continued!” Members of ACSA can create and join special interest discussion groups, and this group is for those would like to further discuss any aspect of the #CitSciOz18 Conference. Did the conference, for example, help you make vital collections, foster collaborations, or provide learning applicable to your work? The ACSA Management Committee would love to know conference related feedback, testimonials, media, and outcomes! Please share what you liked most and what you hope to see in the future, as well as what you would like to see come out of the conference from this point forward. Many thanks in advance for any information you provide! Members, just log into the ACSA website to join in the conversation!
Share outcomes, testimonials, learnings, or other feedback directly! If you would like to share these conference experiences aspects with us, you can do so via a direct private message via the ACSA website. We will be using your testimonials and outcome accounts to garner further support for future events. We are also keen understand what the learnings were for attendees of #CitSciOz18, and are hopeful that you as community members would be interested in contributing to white papers assessing key conference learnings broadly. If you’re keen to contribute send us a message on the website!
Connect via Social Media: Be sure to check out social media to explore conference happenings, whether for the first time or to reminisce about the fabulous happenings and glorious people! Luckily, many conference goers were furiously exchanging ideas, experiences, talk highlights, posters, and discussion via the conference hashtag #CitSciOz18 on twitter and facebook.
Sign up for ACSA updates: If you haven’t already, sign up for the ACSA Newsletter to keep up with all things ACSA and citizen science happenings across the nation.
#CitSciOz18 Thank You!
Sponsors! This conference would not have ever been possible without each and every one of our generous sponsors.
You beautiful delegates! What a privilege it has been to volunteer for a community of such incredibly passionate citizen science enthusiasts near and far who collectively made this event so unbelievably wonderful! We thank each and every one of you personally for all of the diverse ways you contributed!
Tweeters! Much of the conference was indexed thanks to folks tweeting at the conference and we would also like to give special thanks to those overseas tweeting from afar and helping to share the great work of our Australian citizen science community!
I’d heard about the traffic gridlock in Nairobi- but I guess I never really understood how bad it could be. I am stuck in traffic heading back to my hotel and going nowhere fast.
But let me re-wind.
I’m in Nairobi as one of around 20 people who are part of an international citizen science delegation attending the United Nations Science-Policy-Business Forum from December 2nd-3rd at the UN Complex. The UN complex in Gigiri is an oasis of green set on 140 acres and filled with indigenous tree species and Sykes’ monkeys. The focus of the Forum is pollution and how to bring together and encourage collaboration between science, policy and business to address global scale challenges. Our mission as a delegation is to ensure citizen science has a voice throughout the Forum and to place it firmly in the minds of forum participants as a tool to help address sustainability goals.
The opening plenary with African drumming kicking off the forum was a privilege to attend. Moderated by Axel Threfall the opening was filled with hopeful words encouraging attendees to use the time to shape our own engagement and to think of the UN as the facilitator of the process. Anne Bowser, from the Woodrow Wilson Centre and on the CSA Board of Directors, led the charge for the citizen science delegation at the plenary, inviting Forum delegates to attend the citizen science session held later that day and announcing the bold target of 1 billion people engaged in citizen science by 2020.
The citizen science delegation then split up to make sure our voices were heard in all the sessions throughout the Forum. We also organised our own session titled ‘Future of Citizen Science’, which featured panels and talks from citizen science representatives from around the world. The challenge set for this well-attended session was to tackle ‘how to scale the impact of citizen science’. You can read another perspective on the forum and citizen science session, as well as see a final statement video via Scott Edmunds’ (GIGI) Blog post. Scott was one of the citizen science delegates from Hong Kong.
The Forum closed with a challenge for all attendees to set pledges and goals and to push the pollution agenda forward. It was reiterated that everyone’s voice counts and that it is critical for science, policy, and business to collaborate. The message from the President of the UN General Assembly resonated with me. Miroslav Lajcak highlighted the ‘importance of government policy being informed by science and for it to be made in the best interest of the people. Furthermore, it is no longer business savvy to place profit above the environment and that dialogue between us is the most powerful tool we have’. Powerful words.
The closing concluded with pledges from forum attendees, including the launch of a new gap analysis on the science policy interface by the UN. Johannes Vogel, who is currently Chair of the Executive Board of the European Citizen Science Association (our citizen science delegation lead), made the final pledge of the forum. Johannes urged us to move forward as a society together and underscored that in order to meet the problems of today, professional science alone cannot provide the necessary evidence. He reiterated our ambition of ‘1 billion global citizens engaged in citizen science by 2020’ and launched the Global Secretariat that will convene a standing committee to work with the UN. He also indicated the intent of forming an African Citizen Science Association. African drumming concluded the forum.
My final day in Nairobi as a delegate was spent at the United States International University (USIU). USIU is a beautiful campus and I was surprised by the number of common plants that I see in Sydney, such as bottlebrush and interestingly lots of lantana! At the meeting, faculty and students, as well as members of the citizen science delegation including CitSci Asia, ECSA, ACSA and CSA representatives, agreed on draft governance arrangements for the Global Citizen Science Partnership that was announced by Johannes Vogel at the closing plenary. It was agreed that ACSA will have a seat on the steering committee, so I will be able to provide regular updates about this exciting and fantastic initiative. It was also agreed that USIU would serve as the host institution to help establish the African Citizen Science Association. The other associations would support by offering to help with connections to other people and organisations that are active in the citizen science space and to share lessons learnt from our experience in setting up respective associations.
Back in Nairobi traffic, my Uber was making slow progress, but I had much to reflect on. It was an absolute privilege to attend both the Forum and the meeting of Associations (and prospective Associations) at USIU. What an experience to meet all the fantastic citizen science delegates, learn about another culture and country, as well as help advance and advocate for citizen science on a global scale. Stay tuned for reports from ACSA detailing how the network is advancing the commitments made to the UN. My thanks to Anne Bowser, Martin Brocklehurst, and Johannes Vogel for leading the delegation. In the words of Martin Brocklehurst, ‘It is an event that in retrospect will, in my opinion, be seen as a watershed in the growth of the global citizen science movement’. Exciting times indeed!