Citizen science is the practice of involving members of the public in collecting data and participating in data monitoring programs, generally in collaboration with professional scientists and researchers, but also with community-based organizations1. There have been numerous calls for the collection of disaggregated data along multiple axes of identity, many of which have been amplified by the current COVID-19 pandemic. This includes calls to collect race-based data2; sex-disaggregated data3; data including Indigenous communities4; those who are differently-abled5; and those in the LGBTQI/2S community6; among others. Less well understood or addressed are the ways in which this kind of data collection fails to incorporate the social construction of race as a category7; the politics of collecting identity-disaggregated data8; the ways in which context can be stripped from datasets9; the effects of surveillance on populations and communities10; and how public citizens might be called into these activities on a voluntary basis11. Some of these latter concepts might be held under a “data justice” conceptual umbrella in which “…fairness in the way people are made visible, represented and treated as a result of their production of digital data is necessary to determine ethical paths through a datafying world”12.
The calls to action around intersectional, community-based data collection seek to serve various communities, to ensure services and funding reach them, that their voices and opinions are meaningfully involved in research and data collection, that barriers to necessary services are addressed and lowered, and to understand and mitigate inequities exacerbated by a research paradigm not always suited to community concerns and needs. With this in mind, how might the principles of data justice within citizen science operate in this space?13 How might community organizations center data justice in their citizen science projects?
It is to explore the many follow-up questions flowing from those above that the Gender+ in Research Collective(UBC ORICE) launched a Research Engagementship in which multiple cohorts will begin and build on each others’ work addressing these questions, learning about data justice and citizen science, and how community organizations might engage with these concepts. The first cohort conducted their work in the Summer of 2020. After attending teach-ins, workshops, and conducting their own research on how the concepts of intersectionality, including the social constructions of race, gender, and ability, are engaged in citizen science, this cohort generated an academic brief and a community ‘guide’ for community organizations wishing to mobilize citizen science in their work. The second cohort, for which we are now in active recruitment, will aim to advance the work of the previous group through addressing the research questions below.
(Note: further involvement with these questions will require extensive engagement with the work of Cohort #1 students in this project, details of which will be provided.)
- How might we understand the differences between citizen science, community-based participatory research (CBPR), and principles of data justice? How might we think about embedding principles of data justice into citizen science projects done by community organizations?
- What might a ‘starting guide’ look like for community organizations interested in citizen science? How might we ensure accessibility for community organizations through the use of plain language and translation of academic jargon? How might we incorporate concepts of power, inequity and intersectionality into this space? And how might we be critical about what citizen science promises, and what it might lack?
Building on the work of Cohort #1, this project will begin by developing a basic understanding of citizen science, data justice, community-based participatory research and their engagement with intersectional frameworks.
Over 8 weeks from October 5th to November 27th, a team of 5-6 students will spend 2-4 hours each week to critically analyze work already conducted by the first cohort of this project. Cohort 1 students have defined citizen science and begun the process of outlining data justice principles and concepts engaged in what academics know as community-based participatory research (CBPR). Students in this second cohort will be tasked with advancing the ‘guide’ for community organizations seeking to mobilize citizen science in their work. To conduct this work, students will be asked to engage in various activities, including but not limited to, participating in weekly scheduled calls, webinars and teach-ins, surveying academic, organizational, and government grey literature, and leading their own research and user testing with community organizations.
It is important to note that this is Cohort #2 of a project which will likely involve 5 phases. Students, therefore, should not expect to implement a project with community organizations at this stage of the process. Nor are they expected to entirely complete the guide. Rather, a key outcome is to ensure clarity of the guide for a non-academic audience.
At the end of the 8-week period, students will be asked to give a short 20-30 minute presentation to the Gender+ in Research Collective on their findings and how they relate to the defined research questions. Additionally, students will be asked to research and produce principles as to what a community guide should look like and how the current guide on citizen science has been adapted through their community consultations and recommendations for further adaptations. As mentioned above, this is Cohort #2 of a five-part project: students are not expected to entirely complete the community guide, but to critically engage with the work of Cohort #1 and to move the project forward in an incremental and meaningful way. While the program’s facilitators will create a program structure for the first half of the project, students will be given the flexibility to co-design and modify their final outcomes as they deem relevant and in coordination with ORICE project managers.
Please note this is a not-for-credit unpaid research opportunity. If you are interested in making this a student-directed study course, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the process to explore this option.
Anti-Racism and Ethics of Engagement:
The Gender+ in Research Collective and the Office for Regional and International Community Engagement (UBC ORICE) are committed to embedding anti-racism in our daily work and ongoing projects. Students are encouraged and expected to consider how they can take an anti-racist lens to the work they produce around citizen science, data collection and use, and connections between community-based organizations, academics, and government. This might include, but is not limited to, ensuring the incorporation of the ongoing and often unrecognized work of organizations advocating for justice for minorities, particularly during the pandemic; or engaging with the politics of citation in including and citing the work of non-white scholars and other researchers.
- Be an undergraduate or graduate student (domestic or international) at the University of British Columbia with 60 or more completed credits as of September 1st, 2020. (Recent grads are welcome to apply but priority will be given to current undergraduate students);
- Have access to a reliable internet connection and computer to collaborate with peers and attend all meetings remotely;
- Demonstrate ability to think critically and creatively
- Prior knowledge about or interest in citizen science, data justice, gender intersectionality, and community-based data collection initiatives an asset, but not necessary
How to apply
Thank you for your interest. We are no longer accepting applications.
Deadline: September 20, 2020 @ 11.59pm PST
Successful candidates contacted by: September 23rd, 2020
Short interviews by: September 29th, 2020
Project dates: October 5th, 2020 – November 27th, 2020
Please reach out to us at email@example.com if you have any questions.
About the Gender+ in Research Collective:
The Gender+ in Research Collective works to promote a community for rich dialogue in which gender and other intersections, including race, Indigeneity, class, sexuality and ability (among other intersections of identity), are considered when conducting community-based research. The Collective focuses on capacity building and providing the tools researchers need to utilize a gender+ lens. The Collective is housed within and supported by the UBC Office for Regional and International Community Engagement (UBC ORICE).
1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_science; https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/citizen-science/; https://www.citizenscience.org/about-3/values/
3 https://globalhealth5050.org/covid19/; https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-without-gender-data-we-leave-critical-covid-19-clues-on-the-table-97110; https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-19-gender-data-resources-sarah-boyd/
5 https://www.casda.ca/covid-19-data-coordination-response/; https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/research-disabilities
6 https://www.hrc.org/blog/hrc-and-psb-research-release-data-on-economic-impact-of-covid-19-on-lgbtq; https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/researchers-scramble-to-inform-doctors-of-barriers-lgbtq-people-face-in-getting-covid-19-care-1.4913848; https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/lawmakers-urge-trump-administration-collect-data-lgbtq-covid-19-patients-n1211641
8 https://www.citylab.com/equity/2015/02/the-tragedy-of-canadas-census/385846/; https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/october-2018/the-role-of-statistics-canada-in-a-post-truth-world/
9 https://civicsoftwarefoundation.org/posts/structured-context-data-feminism; http://datafeminism.io
12 Taylor, L. (2017). What is data justice? The case for connecting digital rights and freedoms globally. Big Data & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/2053951717736335
The Gender+ in Research Collective acknowledges that we organize, research, and learn on unceded traditional xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) territory. We understand that both gender and research have been used as tools of colonization on these lands, and commit to working towards disentangling gender+ research from colonialism and Indigenous genocide.