What is citizen science?
Citizen science can be described as the participation of citizens in scientific projects. This participation can include a wide range of research activities, from reporting observations or gathering data to formulating research questions, designing a research project, or analysing, evaluating and publishing results.
Citizen science thus describes the practice of opening scientific research to the general public. In all areas of science – whether in the natural sciences, social sciences or in the humanities – these activities contribute to valuable research results.
Among the expert community, many different definitions of the concept of “citizen science” are discussed (see Eitzel et al., 2017, opens an external URL in a new window; Haklay et al., 2021, opens an external URL in a new window). To ensure an overview despite this diversity and provide a simple point of access, the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) published the guideline "The Ten Principles of Citizen Science, opens an external URL in a new window", which contains the key principles underlying good practice in citizen science. TU Wien Bibliothek uses these principles as basic quality criteria for our projects.
Current projects at TU Wien Bibliothek
The international research project Open Urban Sustainability Hubs, opens an external URL in a new window (OPUSH) aims to make knowledge on sustainable development more visible and accessible to local communities. Project partners from the four cities Barcelona, Delft, Tallinn and Vienna are undertaking research on sustainability in urban spaces together with citizens. Libraries and other local cultural institutions act in an intermediary capacity. TU Wien Bibliothek, as a space of exchange and transfer of knowledge, and the TU Wien future.lab Research Center are conducting a number of research activities in partnership with citizens.
In the next years, Gumpendorfer Straße in the 6th district of Vienna is to be redesigned. To involve citizens in this project from the beginning, the City of Vienna started a participatory project in January 2023 under the motto “Die zukunftsfitte Gumpendorfer Straße - Miteinander gestalten!, opens an external URL in a new window” (Let’s design a Gumpendorfer Straße together that is fit for the future!) The participation process is managed by the technical office PlanSinn, opens an external URL in a new window, and Carla Lo Landschaftsarchitektur will build on the results and develop the design concept. As part of the OPUSH, opens an external URL in a new window project, TU Wien Bibliothek and the TU Wien future.lab Research Center are contributing the perspectives of vulnerable groups to this concept, ensuring an inclusive participatory process. The focus was placed on pupils and single parents, and the results were shared with the district administration and the planning offices.
The needs of young people are often not considered sufficiently in urban planning. Outside of school, youth centres and clubs, young people are often excluded. Three workshops were held with pupils of the secondary schools Amerlinggymnasium and WMS Loquaiplatz, formulating questions to be asked of the design of public spaces in order to make the wishes and perspectives of young people more visible. The results were discussed at a final workshop by the district chairman of the 6th district, Markus Rumelhart, and the project participants from the technical offices PlanSinn, opens an external URL in a new window and Carla Lo Landschaftsarchitektur.
Single parents often depend more than others on good infrastructure in their living environments. However, lack of time and child-care opportunities make it difficult for them to take part in participatory projects. In two workshops at the Mariahilf public library, wishes of single parents and suggestions how their everyday life could be made easier are formulated. These suggestions will contribute to the Gumpendorfer Straße planning process of the district administration and the planning offices PlanSinn and Carla Lo Landschaftsarchitektur.
Older people are considered particularly vulnerable on hot days. The aim of the research project is to collect personal heat experiences of senior citizens in the neighbourhood around Quellenplatz (10th district Favoriten, Vienna). In workshops, everyday routes and places are categorised according to the senior citizens’ personal perception of temperature. Mobile sensors are then used to measure the actual temperatures at these locations. The collected data are then reflected on and interpreted. This is how short heat stories are created. They serve as the basis for a chatbot. The chatbot is intended to contribute to a systematic survey of the social dimensions of urban heat by enabling it to be used by as broad a population group as possible. In this way, the needs of vulnerable groups in particular are to be taken into account in urban planning.
Citizen science projects at TU Wien
The project “Werkstatt Neu Leopoldau“ accompanies the settlement process of the IBA quarter in Vienna’s 21st district in the form of applied social research. The phase of residents' and users' arrival in the neighbourhood is viewed as a phase with potential for social sustainability in Viennese housing, and as such is to be explored and shaped.
We enjoy some urban spaces, and dislike others, but it is often hard to recognize the reasos for these feelings. To analyse these subjective experiences, the project „City Layers“ provides an innovative app that allows citizens to record and evaluate their urban surroundings in detail. The data collected by the citizen scientists using this mappig tool are made available to urban planners to serve as a basis for redesigning urban spaces.
The project „Recycling Heroes“ aims to increase awareness of electronic waste in pupils, as well as the general public. To this end, the principles of a circular economy are combined with citizen science methods.
More about citizen science
In April 2023, TU Wien joined the Citizen Science Network Austria. The network was founded in 2017 and is coordinated by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), comprising institutions from the fields of science, research, education and practice with the following common goals:
- To further establish citizen science in Austria
- To promote the quality of citizen science in Austria
- To strengthen the profile of citizen science in Austria
The European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) was set up in 2014 to increase the democratisation of science, encourage the growth of citizen science in Europe and support the participation of the general public in science and research.
EU-Citizen.Science is an online platform for sharing knowledge, tools, training and resources concerning citizen science.
SciStarter is a comprehensive global online platform for citizen science. It serves researchers, citizens and organizations, offering an extensive project database as well as trainings and resources for citizen science.
“Bürger schaffen Wissen” (Citizens create knowledge) has been supporting citizen science projects since 2013. The organisation follows the purpose of developing the citizen science network in Germany, increasing its visibility and providing information on projects citizens can participate in on its own platform.
“Geschäftsstelle Citizen Science Schweiz” supports the Swiss citizen science network and manages the platform “Schweiz forscht”. It aims to increase the recognition and visibility of citizen science in Switzerland.