Engaging society in our research and teaching: what's the status at Leiden University?
You may know it by the umbrella term 'citizen science'. You may also use terms such as volunteer mapping, patient co-researcher, or even community engaged learning to describe participatory practices in your research or teaching. No matter what you call it, there’s plenty going on when it comes to this aspect of open science at Leiden University.
On 2 November 2023, over 120 university employees attended the first Academia in Motion Festival. This event was an opportunity to discuss how to make Leiden University a more open workplace, and to find ways of enabling the university to create and share knowledge more freely with society.
Margaret Gold from the Citizen Science Lab set up an interactive live-action research poster. Participants could answer questions related to their knowledge of citizen science, how it relates to open science, and the beneficial relationship between the two.
We asked Margaret to tell us about the poster and the results she collected.
Where did inspiration for the poster come from?
This poster format was created by my SciComNL colleagues, Dieudonnée van de Willige and Frederike Schmitz. They used it as a tool for discussion at the 2022 Dutch National Science Communication Day. I attended that conference and really enjoyed the conversations it brought forward. At the Festival I used the format for a similar conversation about the link between citizen science and open science.
What do the results tell us about citizen science at Leiden University?
The poster and the Festival attracted a mix of colleagues in different roles across the university. The results revealed:
- A need for more flexibility for hybrid roles: many people felt that they wear more than one hat.
- Strong interest in citizen science: just a few colleagues said they were already practicing citizen science. Many more said they’d like to know more about its potential. A few people placed their stickers at the margins between ‘not practicing’ and ‘practicing’ citizen science, due to new project plans already underway.
- Lower certainty about the connection with open science: colleagues indicated a high level of confidence in stating ‘I know what citizen science is’ — but a lower level of confidence in seeing the connection between open science and citizen science.
What is the connection between open science and citizen science?
When people think of open science, practices like Open or FAIR data and Open Access publishing often come to mind. Not everyone is familiar with approaches for opening up science to the participation and engagement of societal actors beyond simple data-collection or crowdsourcing tasks.
The more collaborative or co-creative participatory practices associated with citizen science are very different in nature, but they are crucial to opening up science further. Awareness of these practices is not yet widely spread and it’s not always clear to researchers how all of these pillars fit together. Showcasing examples at Leiden University will definitely help here.
One focus of the Academia in Motion programme is the integration of citizen science and other societal engagement practices across all research and education at the university. A core goal is to raise awareness about the value and impacts of various participatory practices.
Coming back to the poster: nearly 30 people said they themselves, or colleagues, are applying or planning to apply citizen science approaches. This shows that we already have a rich pool of experience to draw on. I look forward to showcasing these practices on our website and in our newly-launched ‘Citizen Science at Leiden University’ Teams community. Let’s learn from each other!
I’m also looking forward to meeting people in the faculties. We are soon going on tour across the university - from faculty to institute to research group - to host dedicated citizen science discussion sessions.
How to get started with citizen science
OSCL hosts workshops, talks, and walk-in-hours on many open science topics, including citizen science. Anyone is welcome to join the OSCL community. Information about upcoming events can be found on the OSCL Teams channel.
The Citizen Science Lab is going on tour: hosting lunch discussions, webinars and talks! Want us to come to you? Get in touch with coordinator Margaret Gold, or join the Citizen Science at Leiden University Teams community, which was launched during the Academia in Motion Festival. There you can find out about upcoming events, ask questions and share experiences with each other. You can also access the growing repository of resources in the Teams Wiki.
It's also possible to reach out to the Academia in Motion programme: firstname.lastname@example.org