Report of the citizen science delegation to the UN Science Policy Business Forum and UN Environment Assembly 4 Nairobi March 2019
By Libby Hepburn
Amongst a cast of thousands from across the globe, the citizen science delegation in Nairobi included 20+ representatives from the global citizen science community, Europe, US, Australia, Africa, Madagascar, Asia, South America….The focus of our big delegation was for strong advocacy across as many sessions as possible to promote citizen science as a valuable and significant provider of data towards the SDGs, bringing in local knowledge and changing behaviours.
Building on the great work done in 2017, when citizen science was really introduced as an important concept, the citizen science team was again organised, co-ordinated and inspired by Martin Brocklehurst. We met before and after every day during both main events, to share insights and contacts, usually in the famous café where we enjoyed great Kenyan coffee.
The key theme of the Science Policy Business Forum seemed to be that data alone achieves nothing. There was an amazing array of technologies on display, but an acknowledgement that there are many data gaps and progress towards the SDGs will only be achieved with the transformation of the way we work and the engagement of public and civil society in this great endeavour.
Citizen science and its critical part in contributing to the SDGs, was mentioned in the opening plenary of both main sessions and many of the other presentations and discussions. The level of understanding of all its potential may be questioned, but citizen science is definitely the hot topic at this global policy forum just now.
Many of the presentations talked about the huge advances in Earth Observation technologies and showed great examples from developed and developing countries and the oceans where previously impossible to measure or influence problems are becoming seen and therefore able to be tackled.
Again and again people from many different perspectives working on many different kinds of problems were saying that we are getting access to much more detailed data, but for the SDGs there are still many data gaps which are becoming more evident as the whole 2030 Agenda moves forward. There is also much data which will not be of any use unless there is the engagement of local communities to ground truth and action what is becoming known.
Our citizen science global community has had great visibility, with presentations by Dilek Fraisl, Anne Bowser, Martin Brocklehurst, Jacquie McGlade and Herizo Andrianandras showcasing key projects and demonstrating the value we can bring to the sustainable development agenda.
We are getting the clear message that it is incumbent on our global community to demonstrate its capability through results. In Nairobi, we were an international delegation representing the Citizen Science Global Partnership(CSGP) which is in its early stages of development and the UN who encouraged its formation two years ago, wants to see it institutionalised in some way so they have a single entry point to act as an interface for all the world’s citizen science networks.
At the end of the UN Science Policy Business Forum, we added a day-long workshop for all the delegates present, working as the CSGP Task Force to develop proposals for the governance of the Partnership. There was a planning meeting of the SDG/citizen science Maximisation group and we announced another CSGP hub in Geneva hosted by the Citizen Cyberlab and University of Zurich – just a desk and meeting room so far, but at the heart of the UN.
A positive and powerful declaration of citizen science’s advances and aims was announced at the end of the Science Policy Business Forum and was included by UNEA4 in their records and final declaration. It is added here for you to see.
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.
Voting is now open for the election of members to the ACSA Management Committee for 2019-2020. We received ten nominations in total for six open positions (General Member Jennifer Loder still has one year remaining in her term, and she will continue on the committee through 2019).
For the positions of Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer and Secretary, one nomination was received per position. The candidates who nominated for these positions will therefore be elected unopposed.
For the two open positions of General Member, we received six nominations. The six Candidates are listed below – you can find their profiles and answers to four questions about the field of citizen science, together with details relevant skills and experience, here. Please use this information to help you decide which two candidates to vote for.
General Member Candidates
Alanna Gardner Bell
Monique van Sluys
Remember, you must be a Member to vote!
Ready to vote now? Members, log in here to access the ballot.
ACSA would like to extend an invitation to you to attend our Annual General Meeting of 2018 and elections for the next two year’s management committee positions. All members of ACSA are invited to attend.
During the AGM we will provide:
An overview of our achievements from the year;
A summary of the 2017 and 2018 Financial Statements, audited by the Australian Museum, and
An opportunity for members to elect the new management committee.
10:30am – Doors Open
10:30am to 10:45am – Registration / Networking
10:45am – Annual General Meeting
Thursday 15th November, 2018
Hallstrom Theatre, Australian Museum | 1 William Street, Sydney, NSW 2010
For those unable to attend in person, we will be live streaming the event via our Facebook page.
Being involved in the ACSA Management Committee is a highly rewarding experience which provides members with an opportunity to engage with peers, professionals and the community to help advance citizen science both within Australia and globally. Nominating for a Management Committee position shows your willingness to be a crucial part of the ACSA team for 2019 and beyond. You are committing to attend a minimum of one committee meeting a month. For the Terms of Reference of the Management Committee, and list of basic responsibilities of each position, please click here.
We ask that you fill out and submit the nomination form. All nominations will be reviewed by the current committee, and someone from ACSA will be in contact with you. Nomination deadline is Monday 29th October, 2018.