‘Science has no borders: real life DIY sensing and mapping techniques for environmental monitoring in London‘ is the title for a proposal put forth for the Inclusion Awards at UCL. We are happy to have been granted the funds to begin an Extreme Citizen Science project with a Civic Science twist by engaging communities who are usually not involved in carrying out scientific research. The funding will allow us to take the first step in starting a project with deprived communities in London and work closely with the US-based organisation Public Laboratory for Open Science and Technology.
The idea is to engage people not as participants but as community researchers to develop and deploy their own DIY investigative toolkit that will enable them to critically and actively examine, identify and address environmental issues such as (but not limited to) heat loss and air quality. With DIY tools, communities can become investigators of the subjects of concern to them, and through the process, come to understand and own the results. Once data is collected and interpreted, community researchers can leverage it to influence and convince journalists, scientists and policymakers. In addition, the community will also share their findings, stories and innovations in an online community map with Mapping for Change and as open-knowledge with the global community through Grassroots Mapping as wiki articles, how-to videos and pictures.
But the initiative is not limited to ExCiteS. If you want to get involved and make a difference in your community while exploring and learning about the world around you then join us to learn how you can get involved in an Extreme Citizen Science project here in London!
But hold on a second, what is Extreme Citizen Science? Extreme or Collaborative Citizen Science is a grassroots approach to research. It is science by citizens where people take ownership over an issue that concerns them. These issues can range from social awareness (e.g. services for the disabled or homelessness) to environmental monitoring (e.g. air, water and noise pollution)
But how can citizens do science? A “new” grassroots movement for science is developing fast and there are many resources and tools available for anyone to get involved. Through collaborative citizen science people from all walks of life can collect, analyse and act on information by using adaptable scientific methods with which they can advocate for change and support their case. Science is not confined to lab coats and microscopes; science is about the methods people use to collect information about their environment and how they analyse it: systematic, repeatable, agreed upon methods.
Citizen Science is not new
Famous projects include Fold.it, Feeder Watch, Galaxy Zoo, Zooniverse and ReCaptcha. These projects contribute to broadening the knowledge of our environment and in the process it may give you a sense of satisfaction. However,in these projects you are still in a sense, used as a sensor. Projects such as Vizzuality.com have made a tremendous effort in placing more emphasis on the “citizen” part of citizen science by creating projects that are meaningful to the participants. One of their principles is to value and respect participants. However, even in these very valuable and visionary projects the participant is just that: a participant.
Extreme Citizen Science lets you take an issue into your own hands, framing the issue, posing the challenge and connecting with the resources and people that you need to make it happen. One of these resources is the Public Laboratory with whom we did a balloon mapping demo and Arduino with whom we built a humidity and temperature sensor and thermal flashlight at the recent Citizen CyberScience Summit.”
This initiative officially started with an introductory session on the 19th of April with the members of Citizens without Borders. Further developments and events with be posted here in our blog and if you would like to get involved or would like more information about this initiative please contact Cindy.
It’s a good concept. The planet can use all the help it can get. Responsible citizens can do science!