What is co-design?
Co-design aims to empower citizens to work with stakeholders and scientists to develop meaningful citizen science activities from the beginning of a project. This allows the creation of activities within communities with common interests helping to sustain longer-term citizen science involvement and impact because of the co-operative process. Under the guidance of IHE Delft, MICS adopts and applies the best practice generated by the Ground Truth 2.0 project in the co-design of citizen science. The co-design process involves a series of workshops with citizens and stakeholders to understand their views and interests. The first co-design workshop has taken place in the Italian and Hungarian case studies.
Further co-design sessions are being organised to explore the themes identified by the citizens and stakeholders, and to design the hands-on citizen science activities.
The MICS project explores the impact of citizen science activities on five domains – ENVIRONMENT, GOVERNANCE, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, SOCIETY and ECONOMY. To develop a methodology to measure impact it is important to understand what people perceive impact is and how it manifests itself in citizen science activities. To do this, we invited citizens from the Outfall Safari citizen science project to a workshop to discuss their understanding and perspectives of ‘impact’.
What is Outfall Safari?
Outfall Safari is an innovative citizen science method for locating, assessing the impact of, and reporting on polluted surface water outfalls. Polluting surface water outfalls often occur when household appliances are incorrectly plumbed, ‘misconnected’, into surface water drains, which flow directly into rivers. Citizens use an app to score outfalls based on the appearance and flow. The polluting outfall scores are reported to local water companies who work to trace misconnected pipes to remedy pollution hotspots.
Since Outfall Safari began in 2016 over 200 citizen scientists have been involved in surveying over 150 km of rivers across Greater London. The project helps raise awareness of the issue, collect valuable data and helps water companies target efforts to reduce pollution and improve our rivers. Outfall Safari is one of the UK MICS case studies.
More information about Outfall Safari is here: www.catchmentbasedapproach.org/learn/outfall-safari-guide/
The MICS project partners joined with citizen scientists and the coordinator of the Outfall Safari project to discuss impact. The workshop began with an overview of the MICS project, followed by a presentation about Outfall Safari. This was a good introduction to set the context for the session. We then split into small groups to discuss the five impact domains.
What did we learn from the workshop?
We asked the citizens to write a summary sentence of the discussion related to each impact domain. The sentences provide an overview of the discussions -
“Outfall Safari contributes to the ECONOMY by identifying problems early before the solution becomes more expensive, via cheap labour, although the reduction of economic costs is not a primary motive for the volunteers”
“SOCIETY is divided; some [citizens] are interested and motivated to take action, some [citizens] are disconnected – the key is to connect the “bubbles” and networking to generate real impact”
“Citizen science provides an opportunity to fill the evidence gap which enables a positive action on policy, GOVERNANCE, and the redirection of resources to tackling the issue”
“We learnt about pollution in our rivers and this is an environmental concern, however, the action of collecting data does not immediately impact the ENVIRONMENT, learning about how the data is used from our [citizen] involvement to improve the environment is important”
“Citizen science provides the opportunity to collect scientific data over large spatial and temporal scales supporting SCIENTIFIC discovery and TECHNOLOGY development.”
The workshop was a great opportunity to explore impact. The citizen scientists found the session useful and many had not considered their role as ‘impactful’ before. The outputs of this workshop are being used in the development of the MICS method. We would like to thank all the volunteers who came to the workshop!