Last weekend marked a historic moment for Citizen Sciences in Europe. The first-ever European Union Prize for Citizen Science was awarded on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 at this year's Ars Electronica Festival in Linz. The theme of the event was "Who owns the truth?" - a question that is particularly relevant for Citizen Sciences. We were on-site and would like to tell you in this blog how Citizen Science was addressed at the Ars Electronica Festival 2023 and what components need to be considered in this field in the future!
While the Ars Electronica Festival is renowned for its cutting-edge developments in AI and robotics, this year the topic of Citizen Science had a platform for the first time at this important event! The European Union Prize for Citizen Science aimed to elevate Citizen Sciences as a crucial tool for generating new and valuable insights and driving essential societal changes. The winning projects are particularly innovative examples of Citizen Science in action. They were presented at the Prix Ars Electronica Award Ceremony and had a stage on which to present their ideas, accompanied by impressive art performances.
The jury behind the prize reminded us of a fundamental human trait—the innate curiosity to explore the world, connect with the cosmos, and understand the living entities around us. However, the institutionalized sciences have relegated ordinary citizens to mere listeners, often leaving them out of the scientific conversation. It's evident that there's room for improvement in engaging all members of society.
Citizen Science can build bridges and close gaps exactly here. For this, the observation of Citizen Scientists must be upgraded, even equated. "Who owns the truth?" could remain a groundbreaking statement for the future of Citizen Sciences even and especially after the festival — a statement that questions hierarchies and strengthens common ground. The jury also notes that citizen sciences rightly struggle with the criticism that they merely reproduce knowledge hierarchies and thus promote division.
In the future, efforts will be needed in the way Citizen Scientists are involved in scientific projects. Specifically, this means citizens should be involved at every stage of the process, especially at the beginning of an idea, and the involvement should be more ambitious and creative. It has also been particularly important to the jury to award projects that promote marginalized groups and more diverse approaches. The complex environmental, social, and infrastructural challenges of our time require the capture of diverse perspectives. The jury was looking for projects that provide a high level of community feedback and diverse uses, as well as value citizen input.
We congratulate all the winners! The Citizen Science Prize showed the successes and potentials of modern Citizen Science, and we are honoured and happy that we could contribute to the Award Ceremony with two projects on SPOTTERON platform for interactive Citizen Science Apps!
With these approaches from the jury, we are thrilled to share that two projects we proudly support, both running on the SPOTTERON platform, received recognition at the Award Ceremony, alongside 28 other remarkable projects.
YouCount, a Horizon Europe-funded Social Citizen Science project, focuses on the social inclusion of young people. Inclusion is understood as equal opportunities for them to participate in society, and sheds light on social participation, connectedness, and social belonging. The project received an "Honorary Mention" in the Award Ceremony of the European Union Prize for Citizen Science.
YouCount demonstrates that Citizen Sciences are of real value to the knowledge landscape, even in fields other than the natural sciences, and that research processes emerge from meaningful participation and co-creation by citizens. We at SPOTTERON are pleased to be part of this innovative project with technical support, science communication, and the YouCount Citizen Science App, as well as in the Horizon Europe consortium.
The second project running on the SPOTTERON platform and awarded is Roadkill from the University of Natural Ressources Vienna. Roadkill aims to document road accidents involving vertebrates in Austria and thus create an overview of where and when animals are run over and what reasons might be responsible. With the research and measurement of, for example, certain animal migrations, protective precautions could be taken in the future. The project involves citizens on multiple levels, from data collection to in-app species identification to research questions via the project website.
In addition to developing vibrant apps that focus on interactive communication between citizens and scientists, an online environment, privacy, and data safety are essential points to consider when running an interactive project. Being digital natives ourselves, we apply high standards to the SPOTTERON platform regarding the reliability of the technological solutions, and we also apply advanced ethical standards to further increase the privacy level of the users in your Citizen Science App.
With SPOTTERON's funding approach, by paying for a new App feature by one project and making it accessible and open to all projects on the platform, on the one hand, smaller and diversified projects can benefit and generate true change in society and new knowledge; on the other hand, through adapted developments, all projects can develop their full potential and knowledge can be democratized - to address the great collective challenges of our time.
These challenges, such as the climate crisis and ecological crises, were, along with AI, the topic at the Ars Electronica Festival 2023. In this area, there is a great need for science communication; the sciences are now opening up to an extraordinary degree to art and more creative visualizations in order to finally be able to communicate the findings of these crises more widely. We would like to report on this in an upcoming blog!
Overall, the festival was insanely inspiring and innovative—artistically as well as technologically— and we are grateful to have been part of this transformative experience and eagerly anticipate next year. With SPOTTERON's ever extending set of innovative features for Citizen Science Apps, we hope that projects running on the platform can once more stand on stage at Ars Electronica for the next European Citizen Science Prize.