The second event in our 2017 Thought Leadership Programme was held on April 6-7th, at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, and explored the opportunities for citizen science and how digital technology can support stronger citizen engagement in research activities.  

Working with our partners, Rand Europe, and attended by senior leaders from the UK, Europe and internationally, representing Academia, Business, Government and Non-Government organisations, our discussions focused on how citizen science has the potential to transform both the process of research and also the impact that research findings can have.

During the 24 hours that we were together we considered some critical questions on the role and purpose of citizen science, including:

  • What do we mean by the term ‘citizen science’, and what activities should we include within this definition?
  • Are we clear about the benefits and opportunities of involving citizens more centrally in the research process, and conversely what concerns and challenges are restricting greater involvement of citizens?
  • Does digital technology have a role to play in accelerating the growth of citizen involvement in research?
  • What should a forward thinking and aspirational vision for citizen science contain and who can help us realise the true potential of citizen engagement in research?

Some of the key conclusions we agreed included:

  • The term ‘Citizen Science’ has different meanings to different individuals and organisations;
  • Citizen engagement in research has been growing in importance and has the potential to transform research activities at scale and with speed;
  • When citizens are engaged in defining the research scope and brief, it supports stronger engagement because the research is focused on issues which matter most to the people supporting it;
  • Citizens need to develop good ‘research skills’ and this requires clear accessible advice and guidance as well as training;
  • Barriers to engagement and inequalities remain key challenges to be addressed;
  • Some academic researchers appear hesitant to recognise research led by citizens, and data collected by them as being a valid and value adding activity; and
  • Digital technology has the potential to amplify both the opportunities and also some of the challenges faced.

These are just some of the initial conclusions emerging from our discussions and more will follow in the conference proceedings currently being drafted, which will then be available from the Thought Leadership pages of our website.

At the end of our discussions and in keeping with our theme of scientific research, we were honoured to have a private demonstration of the Gömböc - the world’s first self–righting object, which was invented by Professor Domokos and Mr Péter Várkonyi.  To mark the presentation of the Gömböc to St George’s House and in advance of a lecture on natural numbers and shapes we were able to see the object in action.  More information The Gömböc and how the mathematics behind it were proved can be found on this link.

The Corsham Institute  2017 Thought Leadership Programme continues with our next event in May, which will focus on the role of currency and how this is being redefined, as we transact in a more connected world.

To follow comments from the events on Twitter as they happen please search for the hashtag: #digitalsociety, or if you’d like any more information please email: collaborate@corshaminstitute.org.