Citizen science approach in YouCount
YouCount 's design is based on the framework of RRI and OSc that aims to align the social sciences with the values, needs and expectations of society.10 Moreover, the project will adopt the basic normative principles for the RRI by aiming to conduct scientific practices that are diverse, inclusive, flexible and reflexive.11 We will do this by envisioning and reflecting on the underlying assumptions, values and purposes to better understand the implications and impact of the R&I undertaken. Further, by being open and transparent by communicating research in meaningful and accessible ways that enable public scrutiny and dialogue and that are responsive to change by modifying our methods in response to changing circumstances, knowledge and perspectives. This approach is particularly important when working with vulnerable youth. In line with RRI, the project will integrate a gender analysis into all parts, ensuring that gender norms and stereotypes are questioned to avoid (unconscious) bias and discrimination. Moreover, the project will develop knowledge of gender-specific needs and challenges among youths to create equal opportunities for social inclusion, incorporating this analysis within the proposals for social innovation and new policy (see WPs2, 3 & 4).
Aligning to the RRI framework, the project will seek to increase public engagement (PE) in social science R&I throughout the project period defined as ‘the different ways that researchers meaningfully interact with various stakeholders over any or all stages of a research process, from issue formulation, the production or co-creation of new knowledge, to knowledge evaluation and dissemination’.12 YouCount will put forward a novel approach to science communication and public engagement in science through ‘responsible research communication’ (RRC). The use of the RRC framework will support the exploitation strategies and impact of YouCount as described in 2.2 by building science communication strategies that are not only coherent with the dialogical principles of action research and other participatory research approaches13, but that also enhance the actionability of the new knowledge generated in the project in other social contexts.14 Moreover, YouCount will align to the principles of OSc, which include open data, open-source, open methodology, open peer review, open access and open education.15 In the YouCount context, OSc also represents the common goal of democratising science through the accessibility of research results and processes and the participation of citizens in research. Cocreative citizen social science The conceptual and methodological framework for co-creative CSS in YouCount will draw on the main traditions of CS that have developed since the mid-1990s in the natural sciences and later in the social sciences.16 Further, it will also use related knowledge from other CS fields, such as public health, urban studies and environmental studies (see 1.3.5).
YouCount's approach to CS aligns with the commonly used definition of CS as the inclusion of public members in some aspect of scientific research, linking them with outreach activities, science education and various forms of public engagement with science. Currently, there is no universally accepted definition of CS, and a wide variety of definitions are in use.17 In line with the policy brief from Sis.net, YouCount will adopt a broad understanding of CS that is similar to the definition from Holdren (2015), where CS is understood as the public voluntarily participation in the scientific process, addressing real-world problems from formulating research questions to collecting and analysing data, interpreting results, developing technologies and applications and solving complex problems.18 Citizen participation involves different levels, for example, the stakeholders serving as scientific mediators at the meso-level, contributing to a community framework and multiplying the impact effect.19 Yet, the project will use the term ‘citizen scientists’ to describe individual young people who voluntarily contribute their time, effort and resources to scientific research in collaboration with professional scientists or alone. CS involves different levels of citizen participation, and appropriate levels of participation should be adjusted according to the research topic, type of data and/or skills needed.20 In line with these arguments, YouCount will include different levels of participation of Y-CSS and other stakeholders in the project design. Overall, YouCount will seek a high level of co-creative Y-CSS defined as the following: a form of participatory social research that involves youths as citizens working together with social scientists creating and communicating new knowledge. Centrally, it means striving for youth participation and involvement in all aspects of the research design, data collection, data analysis, writing up and scientific communication. In addition, lower levels of participation activities in terms of recording data on the online platform and participating in dialogue forums in the community will be used.
The framework for Y-CSS is inspired by Irwin’s perspective on CS as a way of democratising social science to increase relevance and build trust and interest in science.21 Further, YouCount adheres to an understanding of CSS as transformative and emancipatory, enabling society to address complex problems while increasing capacity.22 Epistemologically, ‘action research’ frames the creation of knowledge where reflection is linked to action and can be defined as research that contributes to social mobilisation and empowerment.23 Similarly, the ontological starting point for cocreative CSS is the idea that societal structures and relationships can be changed. Consequently, social groups, such as vulnerable youths, can be empowered and supported to influence their social conditions through 8 cocreative R&I. YouCount will also build on the strands of community-based CS, which are defined as activities or programmes in which members of the public collaborate with professional scientists on scientific research and monitoring. Moreover, it will build upon the strand of youth CS previously defined as activities by youths that produce data or results disseminated to and useable by professional scientists, agencies and/or managers.24 The initial conceptual framework of CSS in YouCount also draws on the interdisciplinary subfields of community participatory (action) research (C-PAR) and participatory research with youths (Y-PAR) combined with the consortium partners expertise in socio-cultural place analysis in human geography, transformative social anthropology and community psychology (UNINA) (see partner descriptions). These approaches show positive results concerning youth participation and can thus contribute to developing a successful framework for Y-CSS.