Some highlights from our citizen science enhancement project
A lot has happened in the first year of the IMPETUS project which aims to enhance the impact of citizen science in Europe. Here are some of the highlights.
The main progress has been successfully running a first open call to seek out innovative and creative citizen science projects, focusing on the topics of healthy planet and cities for life. 34 pilots were selected to become the first cohort to go through our accelerator programme. The accelerator runs from mid-June to mid-December 2023 and offers tailored support, mentoring and training to the cohort of pilots over the six months it is running. The first cohort are working on a diverse range of topics from women's health and energy poverty to urban extreme heat mapping and biodiversity monitoring. We’ve begun to deliver a tailored training programme for the emerging and established citizen science initiatives in the accelerator.
The first EU prize for citizen science has been awarded to citizen science initiatives for outstanding achievements by Ars Electronica on behalf of the European Commission. The Grand prize was awarded to Isala: Citizen-science map of the vaginal microbiome from Belgium. The Diversity and Collaboration Award was given to Urban Belonging Project, initiated by a collective of urban planners to map the lived experiences of diverse communities in Copenhagen to design a more socially sustainable city. The Digital Communities Award was given to The Restart Project from the UK which addresses the environmental costs of our linear, consumerist economy, by combining hands-on community repair engagement with the need for system change, via citizen data collection and analysis, campaigning and policy influencing at EU and national level. There were also 27 honorary mentions for projects. All the prize winners this year have been on fascinating journeys to get to where they are today and have been sharing invaluable insights and learning with the cohort of pilots in the accelerator programme.
Many sustainability targets aren’t adapted to regional or city levels where most citizen science happens and there aren’t clearly mapped ways that citizen science projects can feed into national or international monitoring systems and decision making. Whilst citizen science has enormous potential to contribute to international policy agendas such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or national climate targets such as the European Green Deal, it is still underused. It will take further recognition and increased trust as a practice for it to become mainstream. The standardisation of citizen science methodologies by national agencies can help contribute to it becoming officially adopted by public authorities .
As part of our work to improve the evidence base for making citizen science-related policy, we have developed a set of guidelines for local decision makers to maximise the benefits of using data and insights from citizen science to help achieve sustainability targets. The guidelines will be tested and refined throughout the course of the IMPETUS project (2022-2026) through planned activities with decision makers. We’ve also used the research underpinning this work to develop training for the pilots in the accelerator programme to try to strengthen the capacity of the citizen science community to achieve policy impact. We did this by consolidating existing impact pathways in citizen science – for example, improving the flow of citizen science data into local, national and international environmental monitoring efforts.
The big challenge for the next few years will be to orchestrate collective intelligence more strategically or at scale and citizen science is a core method for doing this. The field will also develop faster with greater support for innovators to share information and knowledge, so a stronger evidence base is needed around impact to support collaborative experimentation in a greater number of communities. IMPETUS is a four-year project that gathers seven European partners to work together towards delivering more accessible funding schemes for the development of citizen science.
We have begun our futures work which includes reviewing emerging trends in citizen science and where it crosses over with wider developments in research, innovation and evidence-based policy over the next 5-10 years. These might also include technology trends such as artificial intelligence, robotics, simulations and the changing landscape of participatory practice for policy. We’re holding our first futures drop-in workshop at Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria in September 2023.
As part of our work to understand the current citizen science policy landscape and needs, we’re also developing a policy brief for local decision makers on data management best practices in citizen science. We’ll also be at the European Week of Cities and Regions in October 2023 in Brussels so let us know if you will too.
Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design focuses on new ways to bring people, data and technology together to harness their collective intelligence, solve problems that matter and strengthen collaboration between citizens and institutions. IMPETUS is led by Zabala and King’s College London, with the collaboration of Ars Electronica, T6 Ecosystems, EUSEA, Science for Change and Nesta.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funds Nesta and King’s College London’s work on the IMPETUS project. Horizon Europe funds the other consortium partners’ work on the IMPETUS project.
If you are interested in keeping up to date on our policy-focused activities contact [email protected]