Setting up Youth Citizen Social Science in practice: Lessons learnt from our consortium meeting in Copenhagen

In the beginning of June, the YouCount team gathered at Aalborg University (Copenhagen) for the first consortium meeting of the year. After such a long time working online, it was great to get together in person with colleagues from Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom and finally meet some of the young citizen scientists who have joined the project over the past year.

The meeting started with a session in which partners were asked to present their case in a poster format. In the Norwegian case, youth citizen sciences themselves presented their case and answered questions from other researchers on how they were experiencing their participation in the project. This allowed us to share and discuss our experiences setting up youth citizen social science (Y-CSS) in practice. We talked about the main challenges and concerns regarding social participation, social belonging, and citizenship and shared ideas on possible solutions. Scroll to the end of the post to find a gallery with all the posters presented at the session. If reading them inspires any thoughts, do share them in the comments section below this post. And do come back to continue reading about our other activities in Copenhagen!

After the poster session we walked along the area of South Harbour Copenhagen, an old industrial district that has become one of Copenhagen's vulnerable areas. The walk along methodology was chaired by Ingar Brattbakk and the Oslo team. The objective was to test the YouCount App, which has been designed to capture how young citizen scientists experience situations of inclusion and exclusion in their daily lives. The exercise served to provide feedback for the App.

We then headed back to Aalborg University to discuss preliminary findings around social inclusion and social innovation. The session was chaired by Fortuna Procentese and Flora Gatti from UNINA (Italy) and Barbara Mihok and Alex Czeglédi from ESSRG (Hungary) Threesets of barriers to social inclusion emerge from the development of the local cases as experienced by young citizen scientists so far: physical barriers such as lack of safety and places for youths to meet; social barriers like prejudices and stereotypes; and individual barriers linked to language or communication in general.

The first day of our meeting ended with a presentation by Egle Butkeviciene, Raminta Pučėtaitė and Jolanta Vaiciuniene from Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania) on the main results of an upcoming deliverable: A policy brief on social inclusion. The policy brief includes a description of co-creative Y-CSS and considerations of the potential of citizen science for social inclusion of youth. We all joined in a shared reflection of what we want to communicate to policy makers regarding social inclusion of youth.

On the second day of our meeting we focused on science communication and what it means in Y-CSS. The session was chaired by Patricia Canto from Orkestra-University of Deusto (Spain) and included presentations by Isabelle Freiling (UNIVIE, Austria), Martin Bergman (V&A, Sweden), Usue Lorenz and Nagore Valle (Orkestra, Spain), and Sara Plassnig (Oslomet). In order to spur the discussion, partners were asked to reflect on how they were developing their science communication activities. The session unveiled a plurality of science communication strategies being developed in the different case studies by researchers and young co-researchers, illustrating the importance of context and the need to develop place-based approaches. Moreover, we agreed that science communication in Y-CSS is a continuous and dynamic process, never an end and that it is important to identify opinion leaders and other agents who can help to amplify our key messages at the local level. One of the main challenges identified at this early stage of the project is the importance of maintaining the strong critical dimension inherent in our research when we communicate with policy makers.

We then turned to Evaluation and hands-on Y-CSS. In the first session on evaluation, chaired by Jörg Matthes, Isabelle Freiling and Melanie Saumer from UNIVIE (Austria) we learned about the preliminary results of the ongoing evaluation process, with a focus on lessons learned and main challenges. In the second part, chaired by Julie Ridley and Gillian Holt from UCLan (UK), partners were asked to reflect and share the main lessons learnt so far in order to discuss recommendations and advise for the handbook and educational materials that YouCount is preparing on Y-CSS. Some highlights on this are the following:

  • Strong relations need to be built with youth groups and institutions that can build bridges and create networks when it comes to recruitment and engagement.
  • Youth involvement in the design of the project and the planning of the different tasks is very valuable when it comes to training and guidance
  • The process of obtaining ethical approval should be completed as early as possible. It is easier to make amendments to something already approved rather than waiting for approval later in the process
  • Science communication has to be co-created with youth and understood as an evolving process that involves them from start to finish.

It was very inspiring and enriching to be able to talk in person with other researchers and colleagues coming from different countries about how their case studies are evolving and to learn from their experiences. Most of all we were very all impressed by the young citizen scientists who were able to join the meeting and extremely grateful for their insights, which are core to our shared project. So a special thanks to Elias and Elias from Norway, Hasibe and Aamani from Sweeden, Dominykas from Lithuania, and Emilie and Ninna from Denmark. We are looking forward to meeting again soon!

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Monday, 17 June 2024

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