IMPETUS is a project that strengthens the ecosystem for citizen science across Europe and builds the pathways for citizen science to contribute to local and national sustainability targets.
Recent analysis suggests that even though citizen science has enormous potential to contribute to the UN sustainable development goals and national climate targets it is a method that is currently underused. Many sustainability targets aren’t adapted to regional or city level 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. There’s also a disconnect between the teams implementing projects and the institutions setting policy outcomes – which can mean projects aren’t designed to maximise impact.
As part of a consortium with King's College London, Science for Change, Ars Electronica, EUSEA, T6 Ecosystems and Zabala, we will deliver a tailored accelerator programme for emerging and established citizen science initiatives. The programme will run over three rounds to support projects that contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each call will focus on a topic linked to the SDGs.
During the accelerator, IMPETUS will provide funding and training on inclusion, data standards, alignment with SDGs and volunteer engagement by drawing on a network of expert mentors. Each year, the consortium will also award a Citizen Science Prize as part of the Ars Electronica Festival to raise awareness of the best projects across Europe from the accelerator and beyond.
Alongside these activities, IMPETUS will work with decision makers to create a policy environment that enables citizen science to deliver impact.
Nesta has long argued that to achieve meaningful progress on some of the biggest challenges facing society, we need to look beyond the usual suspects and mobilise wider societal collective intelligence. Citizen science is a core method that involves the public in designing research, gathering data and acting on evidence to achieve both individual behavioural change for those involved and broader societal impact through the new knowledge created. In 2020, the Zoe project, a citizen science approach to tracking the symptoms and impacts of COVID-19 helped to fill evidence gaps that ultimately informed policy decisions and treatment options.
CCID’s role within the project is to improve the evidence base for making citizen science-related policy and to strengthen the capacity of the citizen science community to achieve policy impact. We’ll explore how to consolidate existing impact pathways – for example, improving the flow of citizen science data into local, national and international environmental monitoring efforts, as well as identifying policy mechanisms that can allow citizen science to flourish in domains where it’s currently underused. We’ll also activate a community of individuals working in relevant policy and innovation environments across Europe through an online policy seminar series to present and discuss emerging evidence from the pilots and policy research.
This project builds on our previous work. A key finding from our collective intelligence grants programme was the dearth of evidence about the impact of collective intelligence initiatives, including citizen science. And in our partnership with UNDP, we outlined six key ‘use cases’ or practical ways in which people could use collective intelligence to contribute to the UN SDGs but found that most projects don’t actively set out to do this.
The big challenge for the next few years will be to orchestrate collective intelligence more strategically or at scale. 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.
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. 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: [email protected]