Report: Vespucci Training School

Vespucci Training School on Digital Transformations in Citizen Science and Social Innovation

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Photo by CA15212

A training school co-funded by JRC (www.vespucci.org) and COST Action 15212 Citizen Science to promote creativity, scientific literacy, and innovation throughout Europe

Date: January 21-25, 2019
Venue:
Fattoria di Maiano, Via Benedetto da Maiano, 11, 50014 Fiesole FI, Italy
Website: http://fattoriadimaiano.com/
Nearest airports: Florence and Pisa; Nearest railway station: Florence.
Language of the training school: English
Maximum Number of Participants: 20

Organization Committee:
Sven Schade, European Commission DG Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy
Marisa Ponti, European Commission DG Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy
Cristina Capineri, University of Siena, Italy (local organiser)

Lecturers/Facilitators (confirmed) - more to be added when confirmed:

  • Muki Haklay, University College London, UK
  • Mara Balestrini, CEO Ideas For Change, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
  • Stefan Daume, Founder and Chief Data Wrangler at the Scitingly Project, Stockholm Sweden
  • Sven Schade, JRC
  • Cristina Capineri, University of Siena, Italy
  • Marisa Ponti, JRC

Report about the Vespucci Training School on Digital Transformations in Citizen Science and Social Innovation

A training school co-funded by European Commission Joint Research Centre and COST Action 15212 Citizen Science to promote creativity, scientific literacy, and innovation throughout Europe

 

This training school (TS) was a five-day event for doctoral students, researchers, policymakers, civic entrepreneurs, designers, and civil servants who were interested in exploring and learning about:

 

  1. how Citizen Science (CS) can be understood and/or used as a strategic or intentional approach to social innovation;
  2. the intertwinement of social innovation with socio-technical developments, including the impacts of digital transformation;
  3. the relationship between policy framing, participatory research, and social innovation.


Twenty-one participants took part, selected on the quality and relevance of the CVs and motivation letters provided as part of their application procedure. Their backgrounds were diverse, ranging from law and technology to public health and geoinformatics. About 57% were women. Eight participants (about 38%) were from six Inclusiveness Target Countries: Albania, Estonia, Hungary, Turkey, Portugal and Lithuania. Twenty were Early Career Investigators. Five trainers held lectures and facilitated group work: Cristina Capineri (University of Siena), Muki Haklay (University College London), Marisa Ponti (JRC Ispra), Sven Schade (JRC Ispra), Mara Balestrini (CEO of Ideas for Change, Barcelona, Spain), Stefan Daume (Founder and Chief Data Wrangler at the Scitingly Project, Stockholm Sweden).

 

The week programme was a mix of keynotes, short presentations by the participants on their work, hands-on citizen science tools and group work to develop research proposals. The keynotes addressed different aspects of citizen science projects, such as data management, ethics and privacy, participation and funding, but it particularly focused on social innovation and co-creation. It is important to recognize that there are different types of Citizen Science projects, as different types involve different aspects, from participation and choice of technologies to methodologies and funding.

 

Group projects provided an opportunity for all the participants to interact closely with each other in a multi-disciplinary setting and to overcome language barriers. They also generated in a very short time some very good ideas for projects that were presented on the last day of the event. They addressed a wide range of topics such as factors of success and failure of social innovation, long term participation vs short term engagement, CS project evaluation, and policies for fostering CS.

 

In order to receive useful feedback, the participants produced short reports on what they had learnt, as well as on the outcomes and prospective collaborations. Some interesting and useful suggestions for future training schools emerged from these reports. The reports were very positive.

What they learnt about. Topics included, among the others:

  • Evolution of CS
  • CS terminology
  • Social innovation
  • Levels of engagement
  • Business models
  • Ongoing and successful case studies
  • Presentation skills
  • COST programme framework

What they appreciated:

  • Group work
  • Multidisciplinary approach
  • Confrontation with different cultural background of the participants
  • Good food and nice location
  • Different mentors with diverse profiles and expertise

What they suggested:

  • More practical work
  • More dynamic day schedule
  • More “informal meetings” among participants (e.g. walks, tea breaks)
  • PS the weather did not help (snow, rain)

Future collaboration:

  • Take part in EU project proposal
  • Co-author scientific papers

General evaluation: High: very inspiring, intense and relaxing all at the same time

FINAL REPORT:

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PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Aim and Goals of the Training School

This training school is a five-day event for doctoral students, researchers, policymakers, civic entrepreneurs, designers, and civil servants who are interested in exploring and learning about:

  1. how citizen science can be understood and/or used as a strategic or intentional approach to social innovation;
  2. the intertwinement of social innovation with socio-technical developments, including the impacts of digital transformation;
  3. the relationship between policy framing, participatory research, and social innovation.

The Role of Digital Technologies in Engaging Citizens (not only Citizen Scientists) in Social Innovation

With the widespread availability of cheap, ubiquitous and powerful tools like the internet, the world-wide-web, social media and smartphone apps, new ways of carrying out both citizen science and social innovation have become possible. Often this means that barriers for citizens to engage in both science and social innovation have been lowered in terms of communication, outreach and scaling and thresholds for participation have also been lowered. There is an enormous potential for these technologies to strengthen the role of intermediary civil organizations and communities, and thereby to re-balance the playing field in favour of a broader range of actors - even those who do not use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). ICTs can also help citizen engagement in policy framing by facilitating their involvement throughout the policy cycle, from agenda setting to service design and provision up to policy impact evaluation, creating new roles for stakeholders and enabling new power relations. However, digital technology should also be put in context, as it is often not leading edge but existing off-the-shelf technologies that are used in social innovation. Thus, technology must always be seen in its close intertwinement with the actual world of people, places, and digital skills people may or may not have. (For more details, please see this document)

Outcome(s) of the Training School:

Participants will learn about new forms of collaborative socio-technical development for social innovation, analyze case studies, and apply what they have learned by building a real collaborative socio-technical development for involving citizens and other stakeholders. As a result, participants will learn new skills and, more importantly, they will know new people, peers to collaborate with and/or other professionals who can help their projects.

The program is built upon three main tracks. The first three days will be devoted to introducing participants to these tracks (one track per day). The last two days will be devoted to group work.

  1. Overview of citizen science in research and innovation. This track will explore the following aspects:
    a. Participation of citizens, e.g., RRI and citizen engagement in scientific research.
    b. The relationship between citizen science and social innovation: what is social value, and how do citizens go about creating it? How do we see the role of citizens in the process of social innovation? What are suitable strategies for effective engagement of citizens in social innovation at different administrative levels? Do we need citizen science to foster social innovation?
     
  2. Citizen science, social innovation, and policy-framing. This track will explore the following aspects:
    a. The relationship between citizen science and policy: post-fact world, post-truth politics, and evidence for policy.
    b. Mechanisms to be put in place to move further from knowledge to action.
    c. The policy-framing cycle: differences at administrative levels, geographic scales, informality vs formality.
     
  3. Digital technologies in citizen science and social innovation: opportunities and risks. This track will explore the following aspects:
    a. The relationship between different types of digital technologies and the social innovation outcomes that can be delivered: for example, by examining the focus of the innovation, i.e. is it in the digital technology itself? Is it in how this technology interacts with other activities? Is it in how social needs are being met, etc?
    b. The different combinations of actors, roles and relationships in different types of social innovation, as well as which actors use what types of digital technologies and in which ways.
    c. Inclusiveness: how can we make it possible for a broader cross-section of society to participate? How can we lower the “entry level”?

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More information about the training school