Meanwhile more than two weeks have passed since the Austrian Citizen Science Conference in Obergurgl - high time to draw a conclusion. Three of us from the Center for Citizen Science were on site and experienced three intensive days filled with conversations, lectures, sessions, old acquaintances and new faces. Although almost 2000 meters had to be "climbed", about 130 Citizen Science enthusiasts, mainly from Austria, Germany and Switzerland, met in the mountains. Together we sounded out the conference motto "Boundaries and Transitions" and discovered in exchange what connects or separates us.
Day 1: New Citizen Science working group on schools, institutional incentives and a speed poster session
For us as staff members of the centre, the first day started early in the morning: Österreich forscht invited to the annual platform meeting at 8.00 a.m. - even before the official start of the conference. What had happened in the last few months about the platform and its members? What should happen next? During this meeting we founded the working group "Citizen science at/with schools". Among other things, it should collect recommendations from researchers and teachers for successful cooperation and prepare them for further interested parties. At the first meeting numerous suggestions and ideas already came up. If you are interested in the working group, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the early afternoon Susanne Hecker, who researches the influence of citizen science at the interface between science, society and politics and the role of communication in participative research projects, opened the 5th Austrian Citizen Science Conference with a keynote speech. The following break was a short one. We had to prepare the room for the next session on "About (missing) Citizen Science-Incentives & Recognition - What motivates & what hinders researchers?”. Here we presented international incentives at institutional level and discussed with the participants the "added value of citizen science for researchers", "appreciation and recognition" and the "use of existing structures at institutional level". Topics that are important, but still require a lot of rethinking, especially in the science system. Immediately afterwards, all conference participants rushed to the speed poster presentations. The time limit of one minute was already "close to the limit" for some speakers.
Day 2: From New Zealand to Austria to the first Citizen Science Slam in the mountains
The second day began with a keynote speech by Monica Peters, who had probably travelled the furthest of all. With numerous citizen science project examples on flora and fauna she gave an insight into the citizen science landscape of her home country New Zealand. She noted that citizen science is not driven by research institutions as in Europe, but by citizens who are particularly committed to the unique nature of the island. In the following lecture session, the "D-Noses" project, which stands for "Distributed Network for Odour Sensing, Empowerment and Sustainability", made a lasting impression. The EU project manages to bring together diverse stakeholders, namely citizens with stakeholders from industries, local authorities, NGOs and universities.
For us, this was followed by a closed session organized by us, the Center for Citizen Science, for the Young Science and Citizen Science contact persons from universities of applied sciences, university colleges of teacher education, universities and non-university research institutions such as museums. Here we focused on the motivation of researchers, but in particular also of citizen scientists. Where would citizen science be without them? After the well-deserved dinner, we still had the Citizen Science Slam ahead of us. The imaginative slammers used balloons to recreate ozone molecules, climbed mountains with ladders and had a poetry conversation between a slug and a gardener about life or death. Pure creativity!
Day 3: Expectations of researchers vs. possibilities of funding bodies
On the last day of the conference, the Center for Citizen Science started the first session "Citizen science funding: Expectations of researchers vs. possibilities of funding organisations" with the Austrian Science Fund and the FFG. With the help of about 20 participants we looked for answers to the questions: "What could citizen science project funding look like?" and "What kind of non-financial support would scientists need in order to carry out citizen science projects successfully? The results of the session gave us some input that we will take into account in the future planning of the organisations.
All in all, it was a very exciting conference. As co-organizers and supporters of the Austrian Citizen Science Conference, we are very happy about this year's success and are looking forward to the next one at the University of Vienna from 5-8 May 2020.