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Socientize speech in ECSITE 2014, Den Haag, The Netherlands

Paulo Mota from Socientize partner Museu da Ciencia de Coimbra, joined ECSITE 2014 in the Netherlands panel "Making use of social participation in Science Centre" last saturday june 24th.

Paulo joined the following presenters;convened by Joanna Kalinowska, from Copernicus Science Centre, Warsaw: Natalie Ireland, director of the Science and Industry Museum of Manchester, Giota Makri from Agro Know Technologies in Athens, Erinma Ochu from the Welcome Trust Festival in Manchester, and David Tombolato physicist working ate the MUSE Science Museum of Trento.

Socientize was the most advanced experience on Citizen Science; Manchester had a try last year during the Festival and wanted to do something more substantial around music. So they came to meet a scientist that was interested in exploring the possibility (project: Hooked in music). Actually it will be an experiment where the visitors to the festival will be subjects.

Museum of Trento tried a CS project on carbon footprint. Collected data to engage citizens in public awareness of ecological footprint, but the main drive was not research; but environmental education. Then they came with the data to climatologists and these said the data was not good to be included in the models. So, his conclusion was that CS is not good for real science.

The discussion was quite lively, some criticism was raised in two ways: real CS is when citizens identify a problem and a need and come to the scientists asking them to find a solution for their problem, and CS is not real science because we were using citizens as technicians, as they were just performing a repetitive task with no real scientific participation.

Paulo Mota refused statements: he said it was beautiful when citizens come with a problem and interest for science to provide answers. But that is just a small part of what CS can accomplish (and if we waited for citizens for that, we may well end up like a stone), so that there is much more to CS than that. He replied too that in his scientific work 95% of activity is dull repetition of analysis to have data. There is only 5% of time to think on it. And what citizens do is the same scientists do (at least those non-senior scientists).

Paulo ‘s conclusions are that Citizens do get involved in many activities. Provided we are clear and honest on what is their role and on what they are participating, it is up to them to decide if they want to participate or not.

Another question to Trento Museum people was if they were going to inform citizens that the data was rubbish and was not going to be useful. Here Paulo raised again the question of honesty and trustworthiness: “It is essential in the interactions with the citizens. Otherwise we risk poisoning this relationship we are trying to develop.”