In Ibercivis and the University of Zaragoza , we have been working now for 10 years in Citizen Science, trying to push forward the potential of volunteers to enrich the research workflow. In this time and mostly in digital/virtual scenarios, we have reached around 40.000 volunteers who have actively contributed with more than 30 research groups from many areas of knowledge: from particle physics, to human behavior or environmental monitoring. One of the projects we have coordinated is Socientize, which has been highlighted under the #D4Science brochure (thanks for that!). Ibercivis is now leading Socientize which is having relevant impact thanks to projects like the Collective Music Experiment. We also collaborate with the European Digital Art and Science Network with a number of activities to be held in Zaragoza under the FZC , including residencies and exhibitions, around arts, science, tools and participation. And the Open Digital Science study is also analyzing this kind of trends and their uptake.
With this post, I would like to express our support to the idea of having artists and citizens remixed with researchers and scientists. I believe that these interactions can lead to more creative questions when addressing fundamental challenges and to alternative narratives that allow a more efficient and emotional understanding. Of course, it takes effort to bring different perspectives to work together, and there are potential risks of failures and misunderstanding, but we all know many good examples showing the potential of these silo-breaking collaborations. In this field, the upcoming STARTS initiative represents a good opportunity for this strategy. Related to this, we promoted the presentation of STARTS in the Sónar+D festival 2015 where we brought together several examples of synergies between artists, scientists and the general public for an open exhibition and a workshop.
In addition to our past experiences, there is one upcoming project that will be announced in the next few days and it’s going to be really amazing. With the University of Zaragoza and with the support of Ibercivis, we are buying 2M€ of scientific equipment that will be open to the used by the general public, entrepreneurs, creators and so on. It will include a wide range of facilities like: fablab, wet lab, multimedia lab, robotics, cloud… everything open for participation with scientific purposes. Most of these infrastructures will be hosted in the etopia_ Center for Art and Technologies of Zaragoza where we already promoted some years ago CienciaRemix a citizen science lab used for experiments, concerts and participatory events among other things.
Many people wonder why we are going there. Informally, there are amazing conversations around creative questions, the role of decontextualized science, new look-and-feel… Formally, we argue using many of the recommendations from Socientize and it really helps us to achieve a better understanding.
Let me cover now below some extracts from the Green and White papers produced by Socientize.
Physical spaces devoted to Citizen Science and face to face meetings are understood as effective tools to improve community aspects, easing social interaction, media coverage and emergent group dynamics. It is recommended to promote public spaces and events in Europe specifically promoting Citizen Science initiatives and teaming with science festivals and science museums, open laboratories and citizens communities. In this context, it is explicit the importance of involving different stakeholders, even through non-academic means e.g.artistic performance, storytelling or film making. We are all asked to to turn ideas into the actions, and for that an open lab may have a positive multiplier effect in the community. Fostering co-production of knowledge will bring science into new scenarios with an even greater diversity of actors in the field of research to achieve higher creativity. As part of the new channels needed to promote bottom-up approaches, there is a need for the creation and nurturing of communicative spaces that incite people to engage in research in their own terms and through their own means. Therefore, collaborations need to be sought with artistic and culture-related initiatives.
So let’s push things forward, leveraging the power of public engagement for scientific, social and economic impacts. The idea here, again, is to have fun in the process.