Your knowledge + Small digital acts of science = Answers to the world’s most pressing challenges
April 22nd, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In recognition of this milestone a consortium of partners is launching Earth Challenge 2020 (EC2020) as the world’s largest coordinated citizen science campaign to date. By working with existing citizen science projects and building capacity for new activities, EC2020 will foster the collecting and integration of one billion open, interoperable data points to strengthen links between science, the environment, and society. In addition to integrating existing citizen science data, Earth Challenge 2020 will also create a new mobile application and app framework, available in six UN languages, to help communities around the world participate in citizen science.
To make sure that Earth Challenge 2020 is relevant to everyday people’s lives, we launched a public call for questions and insights around“critical topics in environmental and human health” in fall 2018. We collected hundreds of responses, with engagement from all seven continents. After analyzing common themes with our partners, we identified six high-level questions to become focal points for our work:
1. What is the extent of plastic pollution?
2. What’s in my drinking water?
3. What are the local impacts of climate change?
4. How are insect populations changing?
5. How does air quality vary locally?
6. Is my food supply sustainable?
We’ve mapped United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to each research question to highlight their intersectional nature, create links to an international policy framework, and further engage the global community. Now, we’re reaching out to a range of communities, including experts working in citizen science and complementary research areas, to understand where exactly Earth Challenge 2020 can provide the most value and to invite potential partners to join us on this endeavor.
Contribute Your Expertise
Join us in developing the research methods we’ll use to guide the Earth Challenge 2020 effort. We understand that partnering with the research community is critical for making sure that Earth Challenge 2020 data are useful, usable, and used. We’re enlisting citizen science practitioners, other scientists, educators, and others to decide what data and information will be most helpful to answer these questions using citizen science. We’re organizing six Research Teams—each focused around one of the research questions.
Research Teams will work with us and each other to:
Take a critical look at how the research questions align with the relevant SDGs.
Decide how the SDG indicator and target structure will influence data collection and integration in Earth Challenge 2020.
Identify what citizen science data already exists.
Ensure existing data can be documented in a harmonized way.
Determine what new data should be collected using the Earth Challenge 2020 mobile app.
Help identify and/or design protocols for data collection, validation, and integration.
Identify complementary data and information, including data from sensors (Earth observations and low cost/ open source).
Offer strategic advice on other aspects of the project, including the design of educational materials and a what-you-can-do toolkit.
We’re seeking individuals to serve as volunteer advisors to research teams who:
Are committed to helping collaborative citizen science scale.
Have an interest in one or more of the research questions.
Value and/or have expertise in data interoperability.
Value scientific rigor.
Value and/or have experience in engagement, education, and impact evaluation.
Are willing to share their knowledge with a broader community.
Can commit to monthly or bimonthly phone calls and periodic emails.
Join a Research Team
Some of you previously expressed interest in becoming a member of one of the Earth Challenge 2020 research teams. Others of you may be learning of this project for the first time. Either way, please email Sarah Newman, Research Team Coordinator, at email@example.com if you are interested in participating AND indicate which research team question(s) you are interested in.
Towards the end of 2019 we will see something that has never happened in citizen science before – our first ever worldwide twitter conference!
Do you have a smartphone? An internet connected laptop? A computer with wifi? Does your local library have public computers connected to the internet or provides access to wifi? If so then you can participate. But here’s the great thing – there is no venue to pay for and no accommodation needed so this is the cheapest conference you will ever attend!
What is a Twitter Conference?
A Twitter conference is a virtual conference that takes place on Twitter under the hashtag #CitSciTC. Just like a regular conference, #CitSciTC will feature research presentations and even keynotes, but the talks will be delivered via a series of tweets under the conference hashtag.
At this stage #CitSciTC is still in the planning stages. However the conference organisers would love some help including some tweeters to be our “Spam Police” both leading up and during the conference. If you would like to help in any way please contact the twitter account for the conference @CitSciTC or email CitSciTC@gmail.com.
Never tweeted before or not sure how to set up an account? Have a look at this really helpful video.
If you would like to see a twitter conference in action the 5th World Seabird Twitter Conference (#WSTC5) starts next week and you can already follow the online conversation here.
By Michelle Neil (ACSA Secretary and social media moderator)
“We come together at this conference to learn and work together for positive, productive outcomes.”
Every year ACSA sends a member of the Management Committee to a sister citizen science association conference somewhere in the world. This year I was the lucky one, so earlier this month I set off to attend the Citizen Science Association’s #CitSci2019 Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina USA.
After more than 30 hours of travel I flew into Raleigh at 4am on Tuesday the 12th of March, grabbed an UBER and headed to the hotel.
The first day of the conference dawned cold and fine. I headed across the road to the Raleigh Convention Centre to help with the expected 800+ registrations!
I was very impressed by CSA’s organization of this event. At #CitSciOz18 we had 3 concurrent sessions running at any one time. However at #CitSci2019, CSA had up to 7 sessions running concurrently! This made me very busy trying to figure out which sessions I had already pre-booked and which ones I had already nominated to go to. I would have loved to go on the excursions but I wasn’t sure what I would miss out on that day. Thank goodness for the conference app!
The theme for the conference was “Growing Our Family Tree”. There were 4 main sub-themes intertwined throughout the conference. The themes were Equity (not equality), Education, Environmental Justice and Applied Ecology. These themes were very well represented by the keynote speakers each morning and the Environmental Justice Panel on the Friday night.
Dr Liboiron spoke about the difference between equity and equality, the power relations within citizen science, humbleness and paying her citizen scientists. I thoroughly recommend you read her speech as she has transcribed it here.
She neatly summed it up in the end with the words “Let’s use citizen science as an opportunity to be more equitable, more humble, more diverse.”
I was so impressed with Dr Libiron’s speech I even tweeted to #CitSciOz18 keynote speaker Dr Emilie Ens (We Study Country, Macquaire Uni) and e-introduced these two amazing citizen science researchers. I found their methods of citizen science very interesting and thought that they should at least be aware of one another.
Education, particularly STEM, is a subject very dear to my heart so it was fantastic to hear Marine Biologist-turned-science teacher Rachael Polmanteer and three of her students from River Bend Middle School in Raleigh talk about how citizen science had been incorporated into their classroom and how much they now like to go to science class and what they want to do in science in the future.
Rachael, in conjunction with citizen science practitioners, is literally writing the book on how to incorporate citizen science into classrooms with their local curriculum. This means that students (and teachers) can do more hands-on science with citizen science plus further the field of scientific knowledge. I would love to see more of this work in the open access journal “Citizen Science: Theory and Practice”. Perhaps there should be a student edition?
I was very impressed with both Rachael’s and her students’ talks. It’s not easy standing up in front of so many people to talk!I gave them each a little clip on koala as a keepsake, I think they were a hit, don’t you?
Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA have developed an “Air Sensor Toolbox”? The EPA site “provides information for citizen scientists and others on how to select and use low-cost, portable air sensor technology and understand results from monitoring activities. The information can help the public learn more about air quality in their communities.” Enviromental Justice (EJ) is really just starting out here in AUstralia but in the USA it is in full swing and has been for many years. The EJ panel brought together citizen scientists and practitioners in a compelling arguement for equity.
I attended one of the Air Quality Workshops presented by the EPA USA where we talked about what sort of air monitoring we would need in different situations and also about which commercially available sensors were the best fit for each situation. Then we got to go out and put the sensors to the test! My personal favourite was the AirBeam air pollution monitor which wifi’d to an Android tablet. I did find out that it wasnt available on iphone or ipads as yet.
Environmental Justice (EJ) is really just starting out here in Australia but in the USA it is in full swing and has been for many years. The EJ panel brought together citizen scientists and practitioners in a compelling arguement for equity.
The panel was live streamed and I recommend you watch the entire program on the CSA YouTube site here. It will be very interesting to see how Australia develops in citizen science in this sector. Should we be proactive and have an Environmental Justice working group? Food for thought…
Have you ever wondered if sour dough bread is the same in USA as it is in Australia? Or what are the microbes in your belly button? Rob Dunn from North Carolina State University spoke about the smaller things in life – ants and microbes and what they can tell us about our environment and how it is shaping us!
Rob’s team of citizen science practitioners run all sorts of cool projects. In fact you can ask to do the Sour Dough Project here in Australia through the SciStarter website. In fact there is even a project to make beer from the yeast wild bees pick up!
On the Friday night we had all heard the news about the terrible Christchurch Mosque Shooting. It was a tough day for our Kiwi friends in our ACSA contingent and also those of us who have family and friends “across the ditch” in New Zealand. The Environmental Justice panel Chair Dr Sacoby Wilson asked everyone to pay their respects and stand for a moment of silence for the victims of gun violence.
Podcast with SciStarter
One of my highlights was chatting with and recording a podcast with SciStarter’s Caroline Knickerson and finally getting to meet the founder of SciStarter, Darlene Cavalier with whom I have been tweeting and interacting back and forth on Facebook with for ages. I even got to sit in on a few workshops with Darlene and the SciStarter crew including the all-important Citizen Science Day working group. Citizen Science Day falls on the 13th of April this year.
Caroline and I after taping the podcast. I loved the badges! She loved the koala!
Finally got a moment to say hello to the amazing Darlene and pose for a #CitSciSelfie!
Citizen Science Day
So how do you run Citizen Science Day if you’re the moderator of the Australian Citizen Science Association’s social media platforms?
The answer is to encourage everyone to go to the Citizen Science Day website and sign up to do the Stall Catchers Megathon to help scientists find a cure for Alzheimers!
If you are running a Bioblitz or any other citizen science day event please let us know via email so that we may help you promote it on our ACSA channels.
City Nature Challenge
While at CitSci2019 I also wanted to find out more about the City Nature Challenge that is run every year in the last weekend of April using the iNaturalist app. I was too late to sign up this year as an organiser but I have put my name down for next year to get some people together and Bioblitz my hometown in SE Qld.
Team to beat: Boston, USA!
One of my absolute favourite symposia was led by our own International Liasion Officer, Jessie Oliver as a fireside-style chat. With a truly stellar line up Jessie and her team talked tech design with around 30 audience participants. This was great because this style got everyone involved. In fact I was quite hard pressed to keep up with the minutes! You can check out the blog I co-wrote with Muki Haklay here. Collaborative note taking! Yay!
Jessie and I were also invited to attend a working group for the emerging Iberamericano (South American) Citizen Science Association and share our memories and ‘dos and donuts’ of setting up a citizen science association from scratch. I was amazed at just how much we had done, when Jessie and I started putting it all down on paper. Redricap (as it is known) has the added problem of language barrier. Portuguese, Spanish and English are the three main languages of South America. I suggested that Twitter and Facebook, with their translation abilities, would be ideal platforms to start on. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops!
On the final day of the conference I got up in front of everyone and asked 7 important words “Who would like to go to Australia?”
And the whole room leapt to their feet!
So I extended the invitation to come along to our ACSA #CitSciOz20 conference in SE Qld next year.
I wonder how many will come along?
I also announced the creation of a new conference which a few of us had been discussing last year in April – the first ever Citizen Science Twitter Conference to be held later this year. @CitSciTC is currently seeking moderators so if you are interested please contact the twitter account.
In closing, I would like to thank ACSA and CSA for supporting me to go to #CitSci2019. It was a fantastic experience working with amazing people. The work we have done in various symposia and workshops continues to this day as I am now contributing to Jessie’s HCI Group, Dr Andrea Wiggin’s Risk and Responsibility Group and the Iberoamericana (South American Citizen Science Association) formation working groups document.
We will have representatives of the major citizen science associations in Africa, Asia, USA, Europe and Australia and this year, citizen science is firmly on the agenda in both sessions. This is significant for the development of the movement as these are the major policy forums for world-leading actions on the environment and this year the theme of the SPBF is; Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production. Recommendations from the Forum inform the UN Environment Assembly and the UN’s work on the Sustainable Development Goals and participating will be leaders from the worlds of Government, Finance, Industry, Science, Citizen Science and Civil Society. The forum is designed to tear down traditional barriers between these sectors and the citizen science delegation will be busy contributing to that process and demonstrating what valuable contributions we can make.
We will be contributing presentations in several streams including Science for decision making: Shaping policies and Market Responses and Redesigning the Metropolis: Smarter, Greener Solutions for Cities. A new global citizen science video will be premiered at this event.
We will then take a supporting role in session 2. Laying the Foundations for a Global Platform for Big Data on the Environment using Frontier Technologies; Session 6. Sustainable Food for a Healthy Planet and in Session 5. The Climate Challenge and Non-State Actors: From Transparency to Leadership. In this session (Reuters who are organising it) have asked for CS input.
Finally with respect to Session 4. Green Technology Startup Hub we aim to have a presence in the Hub and to stimulate discussions with Venture capital Funds over the opportunity CS presents for new business partnerships.
In the main UNEA4 citizen science will feature in the text of the Ministerial Declaration; in the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO); and the CSGP, with support UNEP, will be able to make major new announcements at UNEA4 and the UNSPBF on its development (more details will follow in due course). We have citizen science in the negotiated GEO-6 summary for policy makers and the main report. We understand the USA want citizen science in the resolution for the next GEO so it appears the governments in relation to UNEP are accepting that citizen science is a fundamental component of moving forward with regards to monitoring our environment. A concept for possible funding called ‘GEO-6 – Citizen Science’ is proposed.
Much of the progress at these global events has been based on the hard work done by the delegation who attended UNEA3, where Erin Roger represented ACSA and the delegation was led by Martin Brocklehurst and Johannes Vogel from ECSA. It was at that event that the Citizen Science Global Partnership was launched, giving citizen science and ACSA a leadership role with the important global institutions.
Progress on the world stage reflects well on Australia as an innovative leader in citizen science and this should flow back into higher recognition and support through government policy and funding.
We are witnessing an explosion of Citizen Science activity as technology makes it possible for citizens to take part in science and deliver unprecedented levels of quality data across the globe. Martin Brocklehurst has been at the fore front of activity to bring the global citizen science community together to develop global programmes that have the potential to provide data and information that can be used to:
Empower citizens to manage emerging risks to their health and wellbeing;
To provide information to Governments that can be used to justify policy shifts to deal with emerging global problems such as poor urban air quality and invasive species that bring new diseases and disrupt existing ecosystems;
Track progress against the UN Sustainable Development Goals; and
Provide health professionals with levels of detail on disease and disease vector carrying species, at a speed and accuracy that will enable scarce resources to be targeted with a precision not possible using conventional scientific approaches.
With support from UNEP and the Wilson Centre in the US, the Citizen Science Global Partnership (CSGP) was agreed at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA3) in Nairobi 2017. Citizen Science Associations have emerged in Australia (ACSA), Europe (ECSA), the USA (CSA) and Asia (CSAsia) and discussions are underway to set up Associations in Africa and South America. CSGP is planning sessions on Citizen Science in Dubai at the Eye-on-Earth Symposium in October 2018 that will take part in parallel with the UN World Data Forum as the value of unconventional data sources is increasingly recognised by National Government. CSGP will also be present in Nairobi at UNEA4 in March 2019 at the highest-level environmental decision making body on the planet.
This talk and the associated discussions will explore whether we are ready to take the next step as Global Citizen Scientists and develop the integrated programmes that will prove the value of citizen science at the global level. Successful programmes are needed to drive change and encourage Governments to actively engage across the planet with the citizen science community. It will also explore the leading role that Australia could play in that process as the lessons learnt in running citizen science programmes on the Australian continent are shared with the global community.
Speaker: Martin Brocklehurst
Chair of the European Citizen Science Association Policy Working Group & Coordinator of the CSGP Delegation to the UN World Data Forum in Dubai October 2018.
Martin is a founding instigator of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) and the Global Mosquito Alert Consortium. He is Chair of the ECSA Policy Working Group and has significantly raised the profile of Citizen Science and its potential value to governments and global institutions, working with UNEP and Citizen Science Associations around the world. Martin is an acknowledged leader of the Citizen Science movement and has developed working relationships at the highest level globally to promote the value of Citizen Science and the data it can deliver to the UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Martin is also a national expert on Waste and Resource Management and the UK National Representative on the ISO and CEN/CENELEC Ad Hoc Groups to explore what additional standards are needed to promote the Circular Economy and previously he was the Technical Advisor to the Parliamentary Environment Audit Select Committee, Growing a Circular Economy; Ending the throwaway society as well as adviser to the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) on the same topic.
Martin has taken on environmental advisory roles for a wide range of organisations including NGOs, Public Sector Regulators, Trade Bodies and the UK Parliamentary Audit Committee. For 13 years, he was a senior public-sector regulator, in developing and delivering UK Environmental Regulations, pioneering new approaches to regulation. For 14 years, he was a senior health safety and environmental manager in business recognised for delivering outstanding performance for multi-national oil companies. Independent Environmental Consultant (2011-18), Executive Manager UK Environment Agency (1998-2011), Senior HSE Manager Gulf Oil, Chevron and BP (1984-1998).
Martin’s specific interests in Citizen Science and the SDG’s relate to:
Invasive species and in particular tree diseases;
Citizen science Global Mosquito Alert and linked CS health monitoring;
Citizen science Air Quality monitoring and linked CS health monitoring;
Citizen science projects on Resource Efficiency and the Circular economy;
Citizen science projects relating to litter monitoring on land and programmes to reduce plastic litter into the marine environment from land; and
Citizen science in supporting programmes to understand and reduce the decline in natural ecosystems.
The WA Chapter of the Australian Citizen Science Association was officially launched in February 2018 at the Australian Citizen Science Conference, #CitSciOz18.
We had our first ACSA-WA public event on Saturday 12th May and invited citizen science practitioners, volunteers, scientists and end-users to meet and mingle to learn about many active and successful projects. It was a perfect sunny day in King’s Park and there was a good number attending. A few new faces as well. We heard about a number of interesting projects including an astronomy project to be launched by ICRAR, also a bit about DolphinWatch and fungi walks and a PhD project on red-tailed black cockatoos, another on non-insect pollinators and Birdlife Australia.
We celebrated with Microblitz which, after several months of planning, had re-launched new MicroBlitz apps and website the day before. We heard that Professor Andy Whiteley, the MicroBlitz Project Director chatted with Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall broadcast in real time to a few hundred School of Isolated & Distance Education (SIDE) students who tuned in to a very special science lesson.
All in all it was a most successful get-together and lots of people stayed on to exchange business cards, stories and experiences which is always a good sign of some excellent networking going on.
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!
On the August 17th Erin Roger, Amy Slocombe and Michelle Neil, together with Streamwatch coordinator Greg McDonald, hosted a South Korean delegation at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Ms Park (Dongguk University) and Mr Kim (Korea University) were in Australia on a research trip to gather information for their new citizen science project “Building a Citizen Science Platform in South Korea”. It was interesting to chat with people who are just starting to realise the potential of citizen science, and who are seeking to learn from countries who are ahead in this space. Ms Park and Mr Kim are aspiring to establish citizen science as a mainstream scientific strategy for their country and it was rewarding to be able to share ACSA’s story with them, and a great opportunity for us to reflect on how far we’ve come in such a short period of time! We hope to see Ms Park and Mr Kim at our conference next February!