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Five hands from diverse people, each holding a leaf that differs from the others in terms of shape or colour.
Event

Fostering diversity and inclusivity in citizen science: a collective exploration

SEI York’s Citizen Science Research Group are running this panel session at the Science in Public 2024 conference in Birmingham, UK. They will explore the breadth of research in citizen science, emphasizing the need for a more diverse and inclusive participation in scientific endeavors, using four narratives arising from their own research portfolio.

8 to 10 July 2024

Session description

Rachel Pateman will introduce the theme by exploring findings from the paper ‘Citizen Science: Pathways to Impact and why Participant Diversity Matters‘, which explores the significance of participant diversity in citizen science and its impact on the overall success of scientific endeavors.

Each panelist will then share their first hand experiences of pathways and barriers to fostering diversity and inclusivity in their citizen science research. Rhys Archer will explore inclusive youth citizen science through two recent projects: SAMHE and Youth LIVES, showcasing the approaches utilized, and the challenges of involving youth citizen scientists in collaborative research. Luke Gooding will explore the convergence of citizen science and energy research, examining how citizen science can foster an inclusive and equitable transition towards net-zero energy for all. Sagarmoy Phukan will discuss the diversity challenges in citizen science projects, noting gender and ethnic disparities in the Global North and emphasizing the need for further research in the Global South to comprehensively address socioeconomic, cultural, and religious factors impacting participation.

By exploring these individual narratives, the session aims to emphasize the importance of embracing diversity and inclusivity in citizen science. Panelists argue that a more inclusive approach both enhances the scientific process and fosters a collaborative and empowered society.

Session abstracts

Diversity and inclusion in citizen science: why is it so important?

Rachel Pateman & Sarah West

Citizen science, the participation of the public in conducting real world scientific research, claims to be a mechanism for democratising and increasing the societal relevance of science. But for whom is this the case? It is increasingly well established that citizen science, particularly mass participation projects, struggles to engage the already disempowered in society. Participants’ demographics tend to mirror those of the scientific workforce and other positions of power. This calls into question the extent to which citizen science democratizes science and, worse still, raises the possibility that it can further engrain existing inequalities.

In this talk we present the state of the evidence of inequalities in citizen science participation. We then explore in detail the consequences of this, for science, for the people participating, and for wider society and the environment. Finally, we give an overview of the strategies that have been used to overcome the barriers that marginalized groups face to participate in citizen science.

SAMHE: from classrooms to communities: a journey of inclusive youth citizen science

Rhys Archer & Sarah West

This talk explores the journey of inclusive youth citizen science through two research projects: SAMHE (Schools Air quality Monitoring for Health and Education) and Youth LIVES (Youth Lived experience of Evidence Synthesis).

SAMHE, funded by the Department for Education and EPSRC, is a co-designed project that deployed over a thousand air monitoring devices in UK schools, empowering pupils to actively record and analyze classroom air quality data. Pupils were also given access to a Web App to provide real-time data visualizations, and activities, fostering a sense of environmental stewardship and scientific engagement among students. In parallel, Youth LIVES, a UKRI-funded Citizen Science Collaboration award, addressed the challenge of prioritising youth mental health by embedding young people as partners and leaders in mental health research. Through collaborative workshops and research meetings, young citizen scientists with lived experiences actively co-create research proposals, contributing unique perspectives and insights into the process.

Both projects exemplify the potential of inclusive youth citizen science, not only by involving young individuals in data collection but by fostering genuine collaboration and leadership throughout the research process. This talk will consider both the inclusive approaches used, and addresses the challenges inherent in using inclusive citizen science within traditional research structures, illustrated through discussion of these two case studies.

Fueling change: championing diversity and inclusivity in citizen science for a sustainable energy revolution.

Luke Gooding

As the field of energy research expands, the integration of citizen science could become pivotal for innovation and widespread community involvement. However, the success of citizen science initiatives relies on conscientious consideration of diversity and inclusivity.

In the energy sector’s citizen science projects, diversity considerations span ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic background, and educational attainment. Embracing this diversity not only enriches collective knowledge but also enhances the relevance of findings in energy research. Inclusivity involves actively engaging individuals facing participation obstacles, such as those with disabilities or limited access to resources, necessitating projects to adopt an inclusive approach.

The study evaluates current citizen science projects in the energy sector, assessing participant diversity, involvement methods, registration processes, technology usage, and range of beneficiaries. Our analysis reveals that existing projects struggle to establish pathways attracting a broad participant spectrum, with a notable absence of widespread measures promoting accessibility and fair access in shaping the energy landscape. Despite these challenges, citizen science energy initiatives addressing the energy system transition offer various engagement avenues for citizens.

As we approach a future dominated by renewable energy imperatives, this research underscores the significance of prioritizing diversity and inclusivity in citizen science endeavors for a more equitable and impactful energy research landscape.

Diversity challenges in citizen science: a global south perspective, with a focus on India

Sagarmoy Phukan

A lack of participant diversity is a major challenge for citizen science, impacting participation rates, data generation, and overall project impact. An understanding of diversity patterns and barriers to participation is needed to introduce measures to increase diversity. However, most of the current research comes from the Global North (GN) and an understanding of diversity and inclusivity in citizen science in the Global South (GS) is lacking.

This talk will explore why lessons learnt from the GN do not directly translate to the GS, drawing in particular on the case of India. Barriers to participation may differ compared with the GN; including, for example, poorer access to technologies, lower literacy rates and political concerns. Understanding and identifying marginalized groups and indigenous populations is also different compared with GN; for example, marginalization in GS includes factors such as culture, religion, tribes, and caste within the same ethnicity. Examples from India show barriers to women’s participation arise from rural patriarchy and restrictions on physical movement for women wearing sarees for field data collection; although participation in projects focused on household activities is higher. Religious conditioning has also affected participation in data collection.

This study concludes that a significant knowledge gap persists concerning the diversity and inclusivity of CS projects in India. This underscores the need for further studies based on socioeconomic, caste, tribe and religious contexts to comprehensively address the challenges and opportunities for fostering diversity in CS initiatives in the GS.

The Science in Public Research Network (SiP) is for anyone involved with or is interested in research about ‘Science in Public’ in the broadest sense. It aims to foster cross-disciplinary discussion and debate between researchers across the many disciplines which address this topic, including science and technology studies, history of science, geography, psychology, cultural studies, media and communication studies, sociology, development studies, English literature, policy and political studies, and more.

Founded in 2006, its annual conference is a central point of contact for UK practitioners and research communities that consider the relationship between science, technology, and the public sphere.

Registration for the conference is now closed.

Rachel Pateman

Speaker

SEI York

Rhys Archer
Rhys Archer

Speaker

SEI York

Luke Gooding

Speaker

SEI York

Sargamoy Phukan

Speaker

SEI York

Sarah West

Co-author

SEI York

SEI York’s Citizen Science Research Group has been designing, running, evaluating, and consulting on citizen science projects on a wide range of topics since 2008, as well as publishing impactful research on Citizen Science theory.

Design and development by Soapbox.