MICS is a new project to measure the impact of citizen science which received two million euros of funding from the European Commission. The project started in January 2019 and involves six European partners from five countries. Luigi Ceccaroni, the project’s Scientific Coordinator, explains the idea behind the project:
To understand the importance of MICS, let's think for a moment about consumers in our current society. If we believe that we are just “consumers”, we focus our attention on “price” and we forget about other issues, for example the ones related to the environment. But when we think of ourselves as citizens, our interests change and we start thinking in a broader way leading us to ask specific questions. How can citizens express their voice on these specific questions? For example, about food. Big and serious questions about food need our attention. What is the relation between the food we eat, the status of the environment, the quality of freshwater? Who decides the food policy or the environmental policy, in Europe or in each of our countries? The answer is maybe some obscure expert easily influenced by the industry lobby. Alongside those experts and interest groups, policymakers should engage citizens and communities (much more than they currently do). And policymakers can only take citizens' views into account if they know what these views are and if people have had a real and meaningful opportunity to define and explore the issues, give voice to their concerns, understand the implications of the decisions they make, and come to terms with the choices required. We need to think afresh about our policies, about our environmental policies, about the food, the water. We need to do it based on evidence and science. The governments, the experts, the citizens, together. This is citizen science. We need to understand its impact; we need to measure it. And then we need to use it. Wisely.
In MICS, we´re working on a toolbox for project leaders, for them to quantify the impact of their projects, and for citizens, for them to understand the impact of their projects. And we already know that we´ll face a challenge – making the toolbox appealing to use. We’ll make the quantification of impact fun, and relevant for every project using the toolbox and, above all, we’ll make it useful for society and policy makers. MICS will not look like a survey from the 90s. We want to make it beautiful, interesting and high-quality.
But, why a toolbox for measuring the impact of citizen science? Everybody already has access to public data on citizen-science projects: there are databases and repositories collecting and sharing these data, and even efforts to standardise them are under way. But impact? The Commission has invested several tens of millions of euros on citizen science in the last seven years, but nobody has a clue of the impact generated by this significant investment. We want to start to quantify this impact and we want everyone to have easy and convenient access to the results. And for these results to be useful, we are working both on the high quality of the MICS toolbox itself and of its content, and on the algorithms analysing the data collected about the projects.
At the moment, the MICS team is about 20 people working part-time on the project. The whole project is paid for by the European Commission. We have small and large national and international institutions and organisations behind us, and above all we have our enthusiasm and passion for citizen science and the environment. We are not independent but, this being a research project, science comes first and pleasing those big institutions is not a necessity.