Empowering citizens through science
An EU-funded project is organising a multitude of events across Europe to actively involve citizens in science. The aim is to motivate people from all walks of life to explore and create solutions for a more sustainable future.
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Can I really make a difference? When confronted with the worlds problems, the answer for many people is a resounding no.
The EU-funded DITOS project is aiming to change that mindset. Universities and research institutions are working together with science galleries, museums and art institutions to engage Europeans through so-called citizen science. More than 500 DITOS events will take place in nine countries during the three-year project which is due to end in May 2019. Their focus is biodesign, or the use of living things such as bacteria or plants in designing products or art, and environmental sustainability.
Everyone can get involved, from beginners to experts, no matter their age or background. Many have already joined in. For example, millions of Europeans are involved in gathering data carrying out surveys of their local environment, counting wildlife and monitoring litter on beaches.
People can carry out experiments and build scientific instruments at workshops or collaborate on designs through open source projects. Meanwhile, competitions and hack events bring together individuals with different skills and perspectives to brainstorm and develop new ideas.
DITOS believes a more open, inclusive approach can help build trust in science and improve the scientific process. It also hopes to interest young people through fun and interactive activities, motivating them to pursue scientific studies and encouraging public participation.
One such initiative was the science bus, developed within DITOs and funded under the Horizon 2020 programme Science with and for society. Mark Langtry shared his experiences of travelling across nine European countries in the science bus which bought do-it-yourself (DIY) workshops to local communities.
From a nine-year-old girl constructing a bike-powered phone charger, to a 40-year-old handyman learning to make soap, people of all ages, genders and scientific capabilities were encouraged to get involved with science. There were no boundaries in the workshops, and the activities were met with great enthusiasm as the public discovered how accessible science really is.
DITOS supports and builds upon DIY, citizen science and other initiatives that encourage a deeper collaboration between the public and professional scientists. By communicating the results of its grass-roots efforts, the project also aims to influence research policy.
The project team has already run several events and published policy papers with practical recommendations for decision-makers.