Excerpt: Citizens who research and gather data: digital media are opening up whole new ways for science to arrive at new insights. Citizen science is in gold rush fever, with researchers around the world – at University of Zurich (UZH) as well − sounding out the potential of crowd-sourced research and hatching promising new project ideas. This year’s LERU (League of European Research Universities) Doctoral Summer School, organized by the Graduate Campus at UZH under the banner “Citizen Science – Nexus between Research and Public Engagement,” revolved around participatory research. Forty-four junior researchers from all over Europe met to exchange and develop professionally. At the end of last week at UZH, seven Summer School working groups presented their ideas for citizen science projects, and discussed them with their peers and a range of experts.

Under great pressure – they had only around 24 hours –they came up with project outlines covering an astonishingly broad array of research topics. The ideas included enlisting the help of laypeople to ferret out and document old lost movies, analyze and measure medical images to improve the diagnosis of disease, and track down harmful asbestos in cities.

Source: Nickl, Roger, 2017. Friendly Wake-up Calls and Fine Tomatoes, 14 July 2017. Available at UHZ News: http://www.news.uzh.ch/en/articles/2017/doctoral-summer-school-0.html [Last accessed 1 August 2017]

UZH – UZH News – Friendly Wake-up Calls and Fine Tomatoes

Abstract: The number of emerging tree diseases has increased rapidly in recent times, with severe environmental and economic consequences. Systematic regulatory surveys to detect and establish the distribution of pests are crucial for successful management efforts, but resource-intensive and costly. Volunteers who identify potential invasive species can form an important early warning network in tree health; however, what these data can tell us and how they can be best used to inform and direct official survey effort is not clear. Here, we use an extensive dataset on acute oak decline (AOD) as an opportunity to ask how verified data received from the public can be used. Information on the distribution of AOD was available as (i) systematic regulatory surveys conducted throughout England and Wales, and (ii) ad hoc sightings reported by landowners, land managers and members of the public (i.e. ‘self-reported’ cases). By using the available self-reported cases at the design stage, the systematic survey could focus on defining the boundaries of the affected area. This maximized the use of available resources and highlights the benefits to be gained by developing strategies to enhance volunteer efforts in future programmes.

Source: Brown, N., van den Bosch, F., Parnell, S., Denman, S., 2017. Integrating regulatory surveys and citizen science to map outbreaks of forest diseases: acute oak decline in England and Wales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, Vol 284(1859). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0547

Abstract: Neighborhood level air pollution represents a long-standing issue for many communities that, until recently, has been difficult to address due to the cost of equipment and lack of related expertise. Changes in available technology and subsequent increases in community-based participatory research (CBPR) have drastically improved the ability to address this issue. However, much still needs to be learned as these types of studies are expected to increase in the future. To assist, we review the literature in an effort to improve understanding of the motivations, approaches, and outcomes of air monitoring studies that incorporate CBPR and citizen science (CS) principles. We found that the primary motivations for conducting community-based air monitoring were concerns for air pollution health risks, residing near potential pollution sources, urban sprawl, living in “unmonitored” areas, and a general quest for improved air quality knowledge. Studies were mainly conducted using community led partnerships. Fixed site monitoring was primarily used, while mobile, personal, school-based, and occupational sampling approaches were less frequent. Low-cost sensors can enable thorough neighborhood level characterization; however, keeping the community involved at every step, understanding the limitations and benefits of this type of monitoring, recognizing potential areas of debate, and addressing study challenges are vital for achieving harmony between expected and observed study outcomes. Future directions include assessing currently unregulated pollutants, establishing long-term neighborhood monitoring sites, performing saturation studies, evaluating interventions, and creating CS databases.

Source: Commodore, A., Wilson, S., Muhammad, O. et al., 2017. Community-based participatory research for the study of air pollution: a review of motivations, approaches, and outcomes. Environ Monit Assess 189: 378. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-017-6063-7

Abstract: Fisheries management is potentially a short-term measure for reducing floodplain fisheries degradation. This objective can only be achieved if adequate measures to improve fishery governance and ecosystem conservation are taken. The monitoring of fisheries management is likely to be important for understanding the effectiveness of local rules and the impacts on aquatic biodiversity. Given that monitoring is the periodic assessment of fish stock characteristics regarding reference data, adopting tools and procedures for monitoring at different scales is a challenging task. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have enabled local communities to gather data on key resources in a cost-effective way. This article presents a community-based monitoring of fisheries based of smartphones that supports the annual fishing quotas and legal harvest permits procedures. The precision of community-based monitoring data is assessed and a model to integrate these data into a large-scale monitoring scheme examined. Data collection performance was evaluated at communities in the Kaxinawá Nova Olinda Indigenous Territory, in the State of Acre, where fishery management was monitored. The results indicate that voluntary collectors are able to provide data with precision comparable with government agency measurements, but at lower cost.

Source: Oviedo, A.F.P., Bursztyn, M., 2017. Community-based monitoring of small-scale fisheries with digital devices in Brazilian Amazon. Fisheries Management and Ecology, Vol 24(4): 320–329. DOI: 10.1111/fme.12231

Abstract: Public participation in scientific research, now commonly referred to as citizen science, is increasingly promoted as a possibility to overcome the large-scale data limitations related to biodiversity and conservation research. Furthermore, public data-collection projects can stimulate public engagement and provide transformative learning situations. However, biodiversity monitoring depends on sound data collection and warranted data quality. Therefore, we investigated if and how trained and supervised pupils are able to systematically collect data about the occurrence of diurnal butterflies, and how this data could contribute to a permanent butterfly monitoring system. We developed a specific assessment scheme suitable for laypeople and applied it at 35 sampling sites in Tyrol, Austria. Data quality and its explanatory power to predict butterfly habitat quality was investigated comparing data collected by pupils with independent assessments of professional butterfly experts. Despite substantial identification uncertainties for some species or species groups, the data collected by pupils was successfully used to predict the general habitat quality for butterflies using a linear regression model (r² = 0.73, p <0.001). Applying the proposed method in a citizen science context with laypeople could support both the long term monitoring of butterfly habitat quality, as well as the efficient selection of sites for professional in-depth assessments. Source: Rüdisser, J., Tasser, E., Walde, J., Huemer, P., Lechner, K., Ortner, A., Tappeiner, U., 2017. Simplified and still meaningful: assessing butterfly habitat quality in grasslands with data collected by pupils. Journal of Insect Conservation (2017): 1–12. DOI: DOI 10.1007/s10841-017-0010-3

Abstract: Citizen science, where citizens play an active role in the scientific process, is increasingly used to expand the reach and scope of scientific research while also achieving engagement and educational goals. Despite the emergence of studies exploring data outcomes of citizen science, the process and experience of engaging with citizens and citizen-lead groups through participatory science is less explored. This includes how citizen perspectives alter data outcomes, a critical upshot given prevalent mistrust of citizen versus scientist data. This study uses a citizen science campaign investigating watershed impacts on water quality to interrogate the nature and implications of citizen involvement in producing scientifically and societally relevant data. Data representing scientific outcomes are presented alongside a series of vignettes that offer context regarding how, why, and where citizens engaged with the project. From these vignettes, six specific lessons are examined towards understanding how integration of citizen participation alters data outcomes relative to ‘professional’ science. In particular, elements of participant social identity (e.g., their motivation for participation), and contextual knowledge (e.g., of the research program itself) can shape participation and resulting data outcomes. Such scientific outcomes are particularly relevant given continued concerns regarding the quality of citizen data, which could hinder scientific acceptance of citizen sciences. Importantly, the potential for meaningful engagement with citizen and participants within citizen groups – given significant capacity within the community – represents a substantial and under-realized opportunity.

Source: Jollymore, A., Haines, M.J., Satterfield, T., Johnson, M.S., 2017. Citizen science for water quality monitoring: Data implications of citizen perspectives. Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 200: 456–467. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.05.083

Editor’s Choice: This paper underscores a very important point to keep in mind when designing a citizen science project: make sure you understand what motivates your target participants and how your project design feeds into this. This is particularly true when considering whether to “gameify” your project – some people are actually disincentivized by overt competition such as that displayed through a leaderboard. –LFF–

Abstract: Quantum Moves is a citizen science game that investigates the ability of humans to solve complex physics challenges that are intractable for computers. During the launch of Quantum Moves in April 2016 the game’s leaderboard function broke down resulting in a “no leaderboard” game experience for some players for a couple of days (though their scores were still displayed). The subsequent quick fix of an all-time Top 5 leaderboard, and the following long-term implementation of a personalized relative-position (infinite) leaderboard provided us with a unique opportunity to compare and investigate the effect of different leaderboard implementations on player performance in a points-driven citizen science game. All three conditions were live sequentially during the game’s initial influx of more than 150.000 players that stemmed from global press attention on Quantum Moves due the publication of a Nature paper about the use of Quantum Moves in solving a specific quantum physics problem. Thus, it has been possible to compare the three conditions and their influence on the performance (defined as a player’s quality of game play related to a high-score) of over 4500 new players. These 4500 odd players in our three leaderboard-conditions have a similar demographic background based upon the time-window over which the implementations occurred and controlled against Player ID tags. Our results placed Condition 1 experience over condition 3 and in some cases even over condition 2 which goes against the general assumption that leaderboards enhance gameplay and its subsequent overuse as a an oft-relied upon element that designers slap onto a game to enhance said appeal. Our study thus questions the use of leaderboards as general performance enhancers in gamification contexts and brings some empirical rigor to an often under-reported but overused phenomenon.

Source: Kock Pedersen, M., Ravn Rasmussen, N., Sherson, J.F., Vaid Basaiawmoit, R., 2017. Leaderboard Effects on Player Performance in a Citizen Science Game. arXiv:1707.03704

Excerpt: Thanks to a chance encounter in Baker, the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka will soon be the proud owner of a powerful microscope that will be used in a citizen project to study ancient insects and plants preserved in amber. Museum Director Sabre Moore ordered the microscope on Wednesday and expects to have it on-site in time for the museum’s flagship event—the Annual Dino Shindig on the last weekend of July. Moore bought the research tool after receiving a $4,300 check from the Red Ants Pants Foundation. The museum, the first county museum in Montana and the first to display dinosaur fossils, received the largest of the 13 grants the foundation awarded this year.

Source: Kemmick, E., 2017. Red Ants grant aids ‘citizen science’ in Carter County. 14 July 2017 on KTVQ.com. Available at: http://www.ktvq.com/story/35886442/red-ants-grant-aids-citizen-science-in-carter-county [Last accessed 31 July 2017].

Excerpt: By the time officials in Flint, Mich., declared a state of emergency in response dangerously high levels of lead in the city’s drinking water in mid-December of 2015, residents had been complaining to each other about discolored and foul-smelling drinking water for more than a year. That time lag, between residents identifying a potential hazard and government officials taking action, shocked Pooja Chandrashekar, A.B. ’18, a biomedical engineering concentrator at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “That was when we first conceived the idea of leveraging social media data, media reports, and Google trends data to come up with an environmental monitoring system,” she said. “We thought that, by using non-traditional data sources, we could get a better idea of what people are discussing online and what kinds of things are raising red flags for them.”

Source: Harvard University, 2017. Detecting dangers with crowdsourcing. Posted on phys.org, 18 July 2017. Available at: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-dangers-crowdsourcing.html. [Last accessed 31 July 2017].

Editor’s Choice: One of Citizen Science’s most iconic projects, the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, yields another excellent research result and a great lesson for all citizen science projects. By better understanding how certain species of flies impact monarch butterfly populations, researchers can better pinpoint which are human-based factors in monarch decline. — LFF —

Excerpt: Thanks to citizen volunteers, scientists now know more than ever about the flies that attack monarch butterfly caterpillars. Since 1999, volunteers participating in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project have collected and raised more than 20,000 monarch eggs and caterpillars, and they’ve recorded incidents of those specimens being parasitized by fly larvae. They have also collected more than 1,100 specimens of those flies and sent them to entomologists at the University of Minnesota for identification. Findings from this long-running collaboration are published today in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Source: Entomology Today, 2017. Citizen Science Delivers “Unprecedented View” of Monarch Butterfly Parasitoids. Posted 10 July 2017. Available at: https://entomologytoday.org/2017/07/10/citizen-science-delivers-unprecedented-view-of-monarch-butterfly-parasitoids/. [Last accessed 31 July 2017].