Citizen Science and Public Engagement Program

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Registration and Coffee


Welcome and Introductions

Palmyre Pierroux, Department of Education, University of Oslo


Science, Politics and Public Engagement

Bernard Schiele, Faculty of Arts, University of Québec, Montreal




Citizen Science and Citizen Humanities: Perception, Representation and Interpretation

Dick Kasperowski, LETStudio, University of Gothenburg




Authenticity and Accountability in Online Interactions

Christine Hine, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey


Ethical Engagement Strategies for Citizen Science and Citizen Humanities

Alexandra Eveleigh, Wellcome Trust, London




User Perspectives on Social Media, Crowdsourcing and the Cultural Heritage Mediascape

Per Hetland and Emily Oswald, Department of Education, University of Oslo


Panel Discussion

Presentation Abstracts

Science, Politics and Public Engagement

Bernard Schiele, Études supérieures en muséologie, Université du Québec à Montréal

Public Engagement (PE) refers to a two-way communication between experts (decision makers, scientists….) and lay-persons, contrary to the one-way science communication (SC) which has characterized and dominated so far the relations between the scientific community (or its representatives or spokespersons) and the general public. On the one hand, from a practical point of view, PE is all about making decisions on matters that concern a community (such as managing environment,  health, risk….) by bringing together a diversity of interacting competencies and interests in order to reach a consensus (through public meetings, expert-citizen panels, public hearings, deliberative forums….). Sometimes the engagement is indirect (public consultations, Internet, discussion groups….). So far three key modes of PE can be accounted for: 1) promoting dialogue : it ranges from information transmission to information exchange or critical dialogue; 2) promoting engagement: it emphasizes deliberative processes between citizens in order to reach a decision – some see in it a renewal of democracy in the form of deliberative democracy –; 3) knowledge coproduction: it brings together amateur volunteers known as citizen scientists and professional scientists on research projects in order to produce new knowledge – this process takes part in the wider transformation of knowledge production which is increasingly object-oriented, and for this reason, transdisciplinary –. This communication will present a critical review of the modes of PE as they are competing with traditional modes of science diffusion. And in doing so, it will discuss the new political role of science at stake including that of science museums.

Citizen science and citizen humanities: Perception, representation and interpretation

Dick Kasperowski, LETStudio, University of Gothenburg

The history of volunteer participation in scientific work usually starts with ornithology in the late 19th century. Since then this practice has spread to many disciplines in the sciences. The success of such projects has to a large extent been a question of data quality and design of participatory protocols, which puts the contributor on par with the scientist as an observer of the natural world. The ability of the protocol to produce valid data, while also being inclusive enough to mobilize the volunteer contributors in large numbers, is still a challenge to citizen science (CS) projects. To enable the perceptual qualities of the contributor in mass observations, the cognitive thresholds has often been kept low, making CS as inclusive as possible.

However, with some exceptions, the humanities have not managed to facilitate broad public participation the same way as the sciences have. Nevertheless several citizen humanities (CH) projects have been launched lately on platforms such as Zooniverse, Scholars’ Lab and Micropast. As the humanities are generally associated with interpretation – a hard-earned ability acquired only through specialized studies (Bildung) – data is often perceived as inaccessible without training. Implied in hermeneutic ideals of knowledge, context is viewed as a prerequisite for informed interpretation and contribution. In this presentation we are exploring how the design of participatory protocols in CS and CH are constructed, with special attention to where and how in the research process “citizen humanists and scientists” are put to work. Our empirical analysis consists of analyses of the online environments generated by a number of contemporary citizen humanities projects.

Authenticity and accountability in new knowledge infrastructures

Christine Hine, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey

A focus on how judgments of authenticity are made and how accountability is established online is an important step towards understanding how a meaningful public engagement in new cultural heritage mediascapes may be achieved. The presentation will first review some recent work on new knowledge infrastructures from a Science and Technology Studies perspective, focusing on the recurring concerns about who contributes knowledge and whether it is to be trusted. These issues will be explored from an ethnographic perspective, looking at the means that participants use to render their contributions convincing to one another, and to hold one another accountable for making credible statements. There is considerable diversity across different online spaces in the criteria by which judgments are made and the extent to which these judgments are implemented overtly through technology in forms of ratings and reputational displays. There are also differences in the visibility of the practices of judgment that participants engage in, within the online space itself. Often we will need to construct ethnographic studies that combine online and offline observation in order to understand how far participants view online activities as meaningful in terms of generating factual and reliable information and to understand how quality judgments are made.

‘She is doing none of the work, and getting all the hard earned rewards’: Ethical engagement strategies for citizen science and citizen humanities.

Alexandra Eveleigh, Wellcome Trust, London

The prevailing rhetoric around citizen humanities advocates knowledge exchange and online social interaction, championing a sustained and deep style of engagement which is assumed to be ethically positive. Evaluation studies have largely reinforced this model of committed participation by focusing on small samples of contributors who are intensely engaged, and who share strong similarities to humanities scholars or cultural heritage volunteers; conversely, they have rather ignored project drop-outs or those whose involvement has been more sporadic. A recent trend in humanities participation projects, however, has been to borrow competitive or goal-setting designs from online citizen science in an attempt to hook in participants and boost short-term productivity. These ‘gamification’ techniques typically require little collaboration between participants, and tend to reduce both the cognitive and emotional effort expected of contributors. This presentation, based in large part on a survey of contributors to the interdisciplinary Old Weather ( crowdsourcing project, will explore a framework for showcasing participants’ perspectives on citizen science and citizen humanities. I will challenge some widely-held assumptions about the motivations and goals of those who give their time, effort, skills and knowledge, and begin to consider how professionals who support these citizen participation initiatives might create more ethical contribution opportunities and provide benefits which adequately and appropriately reward participants’ efforts.

Published Aug. 11, 2016 3:08 PM - Last modified June 17, 2021 10:49 PM