EDUcating Citizens and organisations in Citizen Science methodologies (EduCS)

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Institute of Educational Technology


We will pilot an approach to developing capacity in citizen science (CS) in two national organisations not normally engaged with CS. In particular, we will work closely with people from the BBC and the Met Office to design, launch and share with the general public a CS investigation about the effects of weather on communities. The focus and specific questions of this investigation will be decided in partnership with citizens from community and civic organisations through two workshops. We view citizens as active and creative agents within CS, capable of producing valuable solutions and taking part in evaluating them. Designing or taking part in CS activities can empower citizens and educate them in thinking scientifically. Two workshops will take place during which (a) we will define and pilot one CS investigation using nQuire - a platform that supports large-scale investigations and which was designed to scaffold learning and participation in all stages of scientific research; (b) we will enhance the functionality on nQuire to support this investigation, for example by visualizing weather related data, and support citizens in analysing and understanding data; and configure google analytics to capture learning and participation on nQuire; (c) we will identify areas for future investigations as informed by the interests of participating citizens and organisations. We will assess the impact of this approach on national organisations, selected citizens from community and civic organisations and the general public by documenting and analysing all workshop activities, interviewing involved participants, and collecting data from the nQuire investigation about what citizens may learn from participation in the investigation. We expect to have direct impact on involved organisations and community citizens by engaging them with hands-on CS activities including the design and piloting of an investigation. We also expect to achieve impact on a large-scale/nationally through reaching the general public via the BBC and other involved organisations.

Technical Summary

EduCS is the pilot of an inclusive programme of work structured upon the unique integration of: (a) Citizen science (CS), (b) technology-enhanced participation, using a learning platform (, and (c ) weather-related sustainability challenges. It capitalizes on citizens and enables them to actively engage and contribute to scientific issues using technology in relation to the effects of weather on communities. It shifts the emphasis of the CS paradigm from the scientists to the citizens by engaging the latter as co-researchers in identifying, setting up and piloting CS investigations and tools (through workshops). It also views CS as an inquiry approach that can bring up learning benefits to the general public, empower and educate citizens in thinking scientifically. EduCS will design, launch and evaluate an educationally sound CS investigation using nQuire, a web-based platform specifically designed to support informal science learning. To reach the general public and achieve impact on a large-scale, EduCS partnered with two national organisations, the BBC and the Met Office in order to develop their capacity and embed CS in their routine practices of how science is done. It builds on existing work with BBC (in designing nQuire and launching the Springwatch series) to develop CS capacity in the organisation through a partnership with the Met Office, the University of Birmingham, and direct engagement with citizens. The proposed project will enable CS capacity building in the BBC and the Met Office and establish a collaborative relationship through which future CS activities could develop for the benefit of organisations, the general public, and science.

Planned Impact

EduCS will bring immediate benefits to (a) national organisations (BBC, Met Office), (b) citizens from civic and community organisations, (c) academics at the Open University and the University of Birmingham, generating new knowledge about how to collaborate and develop CS capacity in organisations as well as how to engage citizens as co designers in CS initiatives. In particular, EduCS will enhance our understanding of 1) how to identify, negotiate, design, and pilot CS investigations of benefit to science, citizens and national organisations, 2) how to develop capacity in designing CS investigations in national organisations, 3) how to enhance the scientific skills of citizens by engaging them in the process of designing a CS investigation, 4) how to achieve learning for public participation in CS activities, and 5) how to design, pilot and refine CS tools that effectively scaffold learning and empower citizens.


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Description (a) Engaged citizens with the process of setting up their own authentic and original research through two workshops with citizens, the BBC, the Met Office, academics;
(b) Two investigations (missions) launched on nQuire engaging participants in research in ways they gained learning benefits;
(c) Development of data visualisation functionality on nQuire, as a new way of engaging participants with research and helping them explore and understand how their data is used and analysed
(d) Capacity building in CS methodologies in two national organisations (BBC and RMets);
(e) enhanced understanding of scientific processes of citizens who participated in the workshops.
(f) self-reported learning benefits from taking part in the two missions
Exploitation Route - Engage citizens with no research background in the process of designing their own authentic scientific research, thus help them understand how science is produced, trust science while also develop skills to undertake or judge research when needed (e.g. addressing community needs)
- Use nQuire to support and promote learning for people taking part in scientific investigations - bring learning benefits to participants and not only the scientists
Sectors Education

Description - nQuire investigation promoted by the TV show BBC breakfast as well as the Royal Meteorological society (RMets), engaging more than 1300 citizens with authentic research.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Education
Impact Types Societal

Description Impact of participation in workshops and in the two nQuire missions
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Workshop participants were engaged with the processs of identifying personally meaningful projects and using nQuire to structure their investigations. There were fruitful discussions that helped bring closer nonacademic and academic organisations. Also, the use of 'citizen inquiry' as a means to engage the public with activities that can support their learning (Climate change and You mission) was shown to work for some of the participants leading to enhanced learning and awareness about climate issues. Information from participants was collected from workshop activity sheets and workshop feedback, three interviews and two questions embedded in the Climate change and You mission. In the workshops, participants learnt through discussions about how to design a scientifically robust mission and how to achieve impact in particular, they discussed issues about: (a) data accuracy: different devices for measuring temperature will have different degrees of error, perceptions of temperature will vary across people and relate to what they wear, where they are etc, making researchers visible can help volunteers resolve any questions they may have, train volunteers on how to collect accurate datasets. (b) recruitment and impact: ask simple questions and use simple language for people to understand and take part in, show volunteers the benefits of sharing their data, and link them up to online resources they can learn more from, show comparative data charts so people can see how they relate to others in their neighbourhood, or country, present findings using simple graphs, narratives or infographics, share findings with policy makers to encourage change. (c) Feedback about nQuire: a) let people know about the provision of immediate feedback at the mission brief, b)present mission findings in a comprehensive and simple way, c) check the platform design for accessibility, d) use the tool to empower the public, to help them produce robust evidence that can be used to bring change in their everyday lifes (e.g., noise map mission in the workplace), e) explain who the researchers or citizens are that are doing the mission, f) add brunching elements to questions and a search buttom, g) let participants know they should take part, h) test the mission with citizens with no scientific background, i) provide more language options, h) explain what the approval process is. Interviews: Three people who have been involved in developing missions on nQuire platform were individually interviewed and shared insights about: a) the role of citizen science in their organisation: Participants said that CS has a role to play in organisations in particular to enable active engagement from an audience that can learn about a topic of interest and become part of a solution. It can have a broad reach, including young people taking part in scientific projects. It can be a bridge between universities and local community organisations.b) The role of citizens: They said that it is useful to involve the citizens in the design of a research project and to also carry out the research and gather data. It is helpful to present to citizens a typology of participation to be able to apply it to their level of organization and adapt it. Organised workshops can involve people in building a mission while visuals can explain themes in an informed manner. c) Challenges in adopting CS: Generate interest in the public - the BBC and other organisations may do that easier than smaller ones that do not have such a broad reach. Putting the appropriate context around it is needed to get richer audiences; use software to scaffold participation and give guidance; get access to general public through campaigns and volunteering organisations; there is a lack of scientific background to some people who want to do scientific projects, so we should facilitate that through transdisciplinary work; manage relationships and hierarchies and initiate contact with the appropriate people to develop projects. d) nQuire: Participants mentoned that nQuire may leverage participation in CS projects by being flexible, intuitive and easy to use. nQuire can help develop capacity building through tutorials on how to create a mission. Proposed ways to develop nQuire further: support data analysis practices, translate content to other languages, pathways to participation from exploring to experimenting and taking part. e) Impact of workshops to build CS capacity: contributes to initiating discussions on the big questions, on the topics that the public wants to research, they are organic because they can bring academia and society together, help translate complex topics in a user-friendly way, a way to help the public generate ideas themselves because mostly academics are those who come up with ideas. Participants who reported learning from taking part in the Climate Change and You mission, they stated: a) awareness of possible links between climate change, well being, and ways of living: "It is bringing to my attention the possible link between personal propensity to worry or feel down, the ability to engage in environmentally significant behaviours, and the ability and drive to think and talk about the issue." b) awareness and recognition of feelings about climate chage, or being anxious in general: "It made me stop and think about the overwhelmingly negative attitudes and feelings I have about climate change - I realised I do not tend to feel inspired, active, or determined - but perhaps these are important feelings to cultivate." c) reflection on one own's lifestyle choices and how willing they are to make changes: "That I am not as green as I like to think I am"; "Become more aware of how my daily activities may relate to climate change and whether I would be willing to make changes to that", d) the importance of working with others to battle climate change, or that others are also concerned about similar issues, e) taking action after completing the survey: "The number of questions about thinking through from different perspectives reinforced my wish to interact with others via Friends of the Earth and Climate Action groups." f) awareness that there is interdisciplinary interest about climate change: "That there is a growing interdisciplinary outlook on climate change and how it impacts our everyday - this is really important and hopefully will empower groups to participate in change".
Title Participatory approach to designing authentic research with citizens 
Description The two workshops conducted with citizens were structured around principles of participatory research as a means to identify the needs and interests of involved citizens and accordingly design with them a set of original questions that could be answered by taking part in an investigation online on nQuire. In particular, participants brainstormed ideas for projects related to temperature and then voted the ones they would like to take forward and design an investigation about. They then elaborated further on the specific questions to ask participants. This approach enabled citizens including those with no previous research experiences to express and negotiate their ideas and receive support from scientists and technology (nQuire) as to how to design their own personally relevant investigations. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The approached enabled workshop participants to take part in the design of authentic/real research. 
Description nQuire Climate change and You Uni of Liverpool 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The nQuire team supported academics to develop the mission Climate change and You on nQuire
Collaborator Contribution Academics designed the survey questions for the mission.
Impact A mission on nQuire
Start Year 2020
Description nQuire Climate change and You Uni of Manchester 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The nQuire team (myself and a freelance consultant) supported academics from these universities to design the mission: "Climate change and You"
Collaborator Contribution Academics from these universities came up with the RQs they would like to answer through this mission and designed associated survey questions and feedback for participants.
Impact Multidisciplinary: psychology, technology, education Outputs: the nQuire mission Climate change and You
Start Year 2020
Description nQuire Heatwaves: Are you coping? BBC Weather 
Organisation British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The BBC weather and head of external partnerships of the BBC gave feedback to the design of a mission about heatwaves and also advertised the mission on BBC break fast and their website.
Collaborator Contribution The BBC weather and head of external partnerships of the BBC gave feedback to the design of a mission about heatwaves and also advertised the mission on BBC break fast and their website inviting people to share their experiences of hot weather in July 2020.
Impact The mission: Heatwaves: Are you coping? hosted on nQuire
Start Year 2020
Description nQuire heatwaves: Are you coping? Royal Meteorological Society 
Organisation Royal Meteorological Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The nQuire team supported the design of a mission on nQuire
Collaborator Contribution Experts from RMets helped design the mission questions, piloting and advertise the mission on their website and social media.
Impact A mission on nQuire Publicity through their website
Start Year 2020
Title Data visualisations on nQuire (Alpha version) 
Description Development of data visualisation functionality on nQuire that can support citizens' learning and communication (Alpha version). 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The technical development has not been applied to a live mission yet to assess its potential impact on learning and engagement. 
Description Citizens taking part in nQuire missions (x2) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Climate change and You: The mission was shared in social media and reached 116 contrubutions and 251 page views.
heatwaves: How are you coping?: The mission was advertise at BBC breakfast, and the BBC, RMETs and OU websites reaching more than 1,100 responses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Heatwaves mission on BBC Breakfast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact "How do you cope in the heat? How ready are you for a warmer world in which the UK sees high temperatures more often?

A major new citizen science experiment has been launched to try to find out. As parts of the UK experience a heatwave, the Open University and the Royal Meteorological Society want you to tell them more about how hot it is and how the heat makes you feel.

BBC Weather's Carol Kirkwood talked to Hannah Mallinson from the Royal Meteorological Society and the Open University's Mike Sharples about this year-long experiment and how the public can join in."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Participatory workshops (x2) to identify personally relevant investigations for nQuire 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop 1: 25 out of 27 registered attendees, attended the first EduCS workshop on the 24th January 2020 coming from: BBC weather, BBC science journalist, Meteorology
office, Royal Meteorological Society, Qualifications
manager in environment, Science museum
London, Digital producer, PhD Student at
Newcastle University, Working at the observatory
at Birmingham University, Open University:
Astronomy department, Institute of Educational
Technology, Centre of science, Knowledge Media
Institute, impact manager.

Workshop 2: 14 out 31 registered attendees, second workshop on the 6th March 2020 (the low attendance rate is more likely explained by the level of spread of Covid-19 in England in March 2020): University of Leeds, University of Birmingham,
school teacher, Imperial College London, PhD
student in earth environment and ecosystems, UCL
journalist part time PhD in Antimicrobial resistance,
University of Buckingham psychology and social
psychology, University of Surrey geological society
in London, Open university open science and public
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Press release by the Open University announcing the Heatwaves project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Announcement about the heatwaves mission by the OU in the public website
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description RMETs press release about Heatwaves mission 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Promotion of the mission in the RMETs website encouraging the general public to take part.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020