#NEWSERA Kickoff meeting newsera prOJECT BARCELONA FEB'20

NEWSERA will analyse and evaluate the complex and multidirectional science communication strategies, including digital and non-digital ones, addressed to quadruple helix stakeholders in citizen science projects across Europe as the new paradigm for science communication.

The overall aim of NEWSERA is to demonstrate the virtues of citizen science as an inclusive, broad and powerful science communication mechanism that can allow to increase trust in science communication and, in turn, in science at large, while opening up science and innovation to society, raising awareness and educating in science, and reducing the chances of incurring in fake news by promoting critical thinking.

NEWSERA project is focused on four target audiences, which correspond to the stakeholders represented by the quadruple helix model1 - civil society, industry and SMEs, the scientific community, and the policy makers. NEWSERA is taking specially into account the citizen science practitioners and data journalists according to the aim of implementation of concepts Citizen Science Communication and Journalism.

The #CitSciComm Labs

Events are a crucial component of the NEWSERA project, specially regarding the #CitSciComm Labs to be launched. They will be conceived as co-creation spaces to understand how science is being communicated in citizen science projects, identify opportunities and challenges, and co-design innovative communication strategies with several expert communities.

Following this co-creation spirit, the NEWSERA kickoff meeting (Barcelona, 4-6 February 2020) blended a consortium formal meeting to launch the project with the consortium partners and our Project Officer, together with two days of participatory workshops that simulate the functioning of the future NEWSERA #CitSciComm Labs. For the co-creation sessions, local experts, including citizen science practitioners, science communicators and data journalists, were invited in order to look together for better and effective communication strategies addressed to quadruple helix stakeholders.

The aim of the co-creation sessions was to define common communication challenges in citizen science projects, to identify appropriate communication strategies for each stakeholder group, and to define the general lines of the #CitSciComm Labs envisaged by NEWSERA. For the first time, the two communities started a common dialogue that helped identify common opportunities and challenges.

Formal Kick-off meeting

The consortium held its kick-off meeting on February 4-6, 2020 at CosmoCaixa Science Museum in Barcelona. It included a first day for the formal meeting between partners and two days devoted to co-creation workshops with external guests to simulate the functioning of the NEWSERA #CitSciComm Labs. All partners were present, a total of 16 people.

The Project Officer from the Research Executive Agency, Ms. Raluca Iagher, gave insights on the management of H2020 projects. The Science with and for Society specific call of Horizon 2020 in particular was presented, its strategic lines, sister projects, and the results of the interim evaluation. Some anticipations were also given on the new research program Horizon Europe (2021-2027).

Aleksandra Hebda, from the Open Science Unit, DG Research & Innovation of the European Commission, attended remotely and presented the policy perspective.

Whole NEWSERA Consortium listening to the Aleksandra Hebda online presentation about Policy Perspective.

Then the meeting proceeded with presentations of the partners and their work packages activities. The activity of the first months was planned and some decisions were taken regarding visual identity and social strategy, as well as the research to be initiated within WP2. Collaboration and joint actions to be undertaken with other similar research projects (sister SwafS-19 projects) were also addressed.

Here are some pictures of the discussions held during the formal kick-off meeting.

Rosa Arias and Oriol Agulló, Science for Change, making the introduction to the Kick-off meeting to Consortium members

Through all day it was time for each WP leader to explain its work plan

Francisco Sanz, Ibercivis, explaining the Kampal tool, to be used to evaluate the impact of communication strategies in WP5
Elisabetta Tola, from Formicablu, introducing the discussion about communication strategies in order to explain WP6

The main decisions that were made during the formal KoM are:

  • Request for a common meeting with the sister projects funded by SwafS-19 to establish common communication strategies, allow for mutual learning, and perhaps organize common actions and events.
  • Move the next consortium meeting, in Padova, from November to the second week of December because of the partners availability.
  • Keep the online monthly meetings of the Executive Board every first Thursday each month timing 11.30h CET, to be held through BlueJeans.
  • Create two working groups to decide the strategy to collect information from citizen science projects, in the framework of WP2.
  • Organize a virtual call to determine and set the optimum #CitSciComm Labs composition, to allow for having more science communicators and data journalists to support the citizen science practitioners, as well as potentially having more than onecitizen science project participating per lab, as was originally foreseen.
  • We decided on a logo proposal and discussed the best communication strategy (less NEWSERA channels, but greater use of the hashtag #NEWSERA through the social network and existing channels of the partners, thus getting to wider and already established audiences, so as to increase the outreach and the project impact).

Co-creation Lab testing in Barcelona

The NEWSERA Kick-off meeting included two co-creation sessions with external stakeholders, which took place on February 5 and 6 2020, at the same venue. The second and third days were conceived as a testing experience, simulating the setting up and working of the #CitSciComm Labs, which will be realized during the project.

  • Day 1. #CitSciComm Labs addressed to quadruple helix stakeholders
  • Day 2. Cross-cutting #CitSciComm Lab addressed to science communicators and data journalists to establish dialogues and support the CS community

External guests, being local representatives of citizen science projects, science communicators and data journalists, were invited. A total of 17 people attended in total.

Simulation of #CitSciComm Labs addressed to quadruple helix stakeholders

First each NEWSERA consortium member presented itself explaining the expertise and role in the project. Afterwards the external participants also introduced themselves. This was followed by presentations from each external participant, mainly representing citizen science projects currently under execution in the Barcelona area, including:

Co-creation methodology: the 35 game

The first group dynamics was to identify the main challenges faced in the communication of citizen science projects with different stakeholder groups. To do this, we played a dynamic named 35 game. Participants had to choose individually what main challenges they are facing in the communication of citizen science projects and share them with another participant, so as to distribute 7 evaluation points between the 2 challenges identified. The exercise was repeated 5 times and then the main challenges were ranked according to the agreed votes.

The resulting common challenges identified were:

  1. Sustained engagement: How to make participants in CS projects feel valuable and useful after contributing the first time and motivate them enough to keep contributing? How to be inclusive?
  2. Reliability of citizen generated data: How to increase the trust of traditional scientists in citizen generated data? How to demonstrate the impact? How can CS achieve recognition as a methodology from the scientific community?
  3. Engaging the “non-usual suspects”: How can CS projects reach non usual audiences and underrepresented groups? How can we involve more people? How do we find their motivation for engagement?
  4. Simplifying the scientific message to reach the communities: How can we keep the level of excellence and complexity and communicate the message to society? How can we find the balance while making the message accessible?
  5. Other challenges: Don’t scare citizens! Awareness raising. Address ethical issues with data collection. Facilitate data collection. Think of incentive mechanisms. Funding. Demonstrate the potential of CS projects to inform policies.

Co-creation methodology: Find your pilot!

Per each challenge identified, participants were divided by groups to think how a certain stakeholder group could help overcoming the challenge. In addition, citizen science practitioners selected the challenges faced by their projects.

Biggest challenge in communication (in citizen science projects)?

How can this stakeholder group help you?

Civil Society: showing their needs through platforms, civil organizations, focus groups and asking for improvements; participating and connecting with other knowledge groups

Policy makers:making needed investments and adding in their agendas citizen concernings

Industry & SMEs:citizens concernings must be a priority to include in their corporate social responsibility strategy

Potencial CS Projects facing this challenge: Floodup, D-NOSES, NightUp, Cities-Health, Biodiversity4all, Invasoras.pt

How can this stakeholder group help you?

Policy Makers: a real application of CS projects in policy making can convince the main scientific community

Industry & SMEs: industry examples of “Beta testers” with CS

Career Scientist:define “standards” to “certify” each CS project. Use examples of old “citizen science” (e.g. meteorological volunteers)

Potencial CS Projects facing this challenge: Riunet, Bioblitz, Lichens of Bcn, Biodiversity4all

How can this stakeholder group help you?

Civil Society: Jounalists, youtubers, influencers, citizen networks

Policy Makers: Local authorities endorsment

Industry & SMEs: Netflix series

Career Scientist: Show how science impacts daily life. Reveal the secrets behind common things

Potencial CS Projects facing this challenge: FloodUp, Biodiversity4all, NightUp, D-NOSES, Invasion.pt, Cities-Health

How can this stakeholder group help you?

Civil Society: identify the real value to society and give feedback. Train citizen scientists how to do that

Policy Makers:funding, social communication, make the project relevant and visible

Industry & SMEs:explain the complexity of the subjects. Collaborate with outcomes

Career Scientist: social scientists. Methodology: pre-tests, feedback, etc.

Potencial CS Projects facing this challenge: Cities-Health, Inputmain, Vigilantes del aire

How can this stakeholder group help you?

Civil Society: Partner with hackers ask people what is scary for them

Policy Makers: Funding. More info to citizens. Sell the project benefits to policy makers. Align agendas

Industry & SMEs: Better communication and less marketing. Open up data

Career Scientist: share results

Potencial CS Projects facing this challenge: Riunet, Bioblitz, Lichens of Bcn, D-NOSES, European datajournalism EU

Once the results were shared by the different groups, a voting round was made in order to select the citizen science projects within the room that will act as “pilots” to work in an innovative communication strategy addressed to a specific stakeholder group in the next cocreation sessions. The project selected were:

  • #CitSciComm Lab addressed to civil society: NightUp
  • #CitSciComm Lab addressed to policy makers: D-NOSES
  • #CitSciComm Lab addressed to industry & SMEs: RiuNet
  • #CitSciComm Lab addressed to career scientists: Vigilantes del Aire

Co-creation methodology: Empathy map

In groups, and for the different Citizen Science projects selected and the corresponding stakeholder group, empathy maps were built to put ourselves in the shoes of the stakeholder and understand their communication needs.

Civil Society (NightUp project)

Think and feel: Light is necessary. Why should we change it? I didn’t know it was such an important issue. I didn’t know light pollution affects living beings.

Hear: It affects animals. I will hear less insects? More light = more noise… will be this project useful for decrease the noise. Darkness correlates with crime. I will hear that light pollution is not that important as urban security. Led are better than conventional lamps

See: I see colours of lights. I can’t see the stars. Lack of street lights

Say and do: Have you ever been aware of the light’s colour. Take photos at right!

Pain: Will it work with my device. Use of data connection. Sharing Position. Should I consider myself as responsible for loss of biodiversity just because of lights in my garden?

Gain: efficiency of lightbulbs. What is the benefit for my health? Less light pollution... less cars?

Policy Makers (D-NOSES project)

Think and feel: to reveal that there's an odor problem in my city. These people are going to do the project anyway, so I'm going to be proactive. Why I need to do something about odour pollution? What is this tale about citizen science?

Hear: Press media, citizens complaints. I've got the Airenet people complaining, I could use the opportunity...

See: This has been a problem for years… I know. No one has complained, I can ignore the problem. Industry is aware of the project but not willing to do anything about it

Say and do: I can make a pilot project

Pain: Complaints = less votes. Image of city. It's gonna get me in trouble with the industry

Gain: I must defend the welfare of the people. If I show myself as a leader, I win over the citizens. I can be a success story and improve my political standing (position as pioneer)

Industry & SMEs (RiuNet project)

Think and feel: I will improve my image and relationship with the community (CSR). I will publicly show my own impact. It's a new and strange subject, it will have an impact. Danger of finding unpleasant results for which I will be responsible

Hear: the environmentalists are going to criticize me. Industry pollutes. The other companies already do

See: I'm going to lose production time. How much money it's going to cost me

Say and do: I'm going to take the environmental responsibility label. It is an opportunity to make production processes more efficient and educate employees

Pain: rising production costs

Gain: generate environmental culture within companies. Improve the environment, enhancing the company's image and increasing its value

Career Scientist (Vigilantes del aire project)

Think and feel: It could be or not scientifically valid but probably the effort is worth (and no too money is necessary). Call science this type of things (not everything is science). Another one of those things of relations with society. Waste of time

Hear: A science community where they are distributing strawberries. It’s a project already carried out without citizen participation so the scientific methodology already exists

See: They see strawberries being distributed. Potential of society engagement. The project is replicable and escalable. There is a good citizen response. Many people involved

Say and do: Here they are again wasting money on useless things. Buying strawberries?

Pain: They are worried about the validity of data because maybe citizens don’t take care enough. Data reliability. Time spent

Gain: They are going to gain number of data. Maybe would be useful for enhancing students inscriptions to scientific facilities. Usefull for research. People know how research works. Visibility of the research groups

Co-creation methodology: Elevator pitch

The last dynamic of the first day was an elevator pitch of the innovative communication strategy defined for the pilot projects and the corresponding stakeholder group. This dynamic consisted in prototyping a science communication strategy in a collaborative way with the members of each group. To do so, each person thought of a strategy, without saying anything, shared it with another member of the group who added comments, and at the end of the round, all the strategies were read and the most appropriate one was decided. Then, the winner of the group pitched the idea to the rest of the groups, with an outcome of four innovative communication strategies addressed to a specific stakeholder group for the citizen science projects selected as pilots.

Results of the co-creation sessions during Day 1

The aim of the co-creation sessions during Day 1 was to simulate the future work that can be done in the NEWSERA #CitSciComm Labs addressed to quadruple helix stakeholders, where science communication experts and data journalists will be helping citizen science practitioners to communicate more and better with their selected audiences, thus increasing their project outreach. The co-creation exercises were conceived as a whole, first to identify common communication challenges in citizen science projects, to later select some of the projects as examples and work on communication strategies to talk with a specific stakeholder group.

In relation to the methodology used, some general considerations to take into account when running co-creation workshops are:

  • It is important to generate spaces of individual proposal and exchange of opinions, so as to generate an active attitude amongst the participants
  • Promoting prioritization and consensus helps feeling part of the same process
  • Going from the most general to the most concrete helps connecting participants with practical issues and generates debate
  • Thinking empathetically on the impact of the actions helps validating the proposed actions and their potential interest
  • Ending by generating a proposal helps to validate the collective process

The experience was highly satisfactory to all participants, who, as a result, wanted to get involved in the NEWSERA #CitSciComm Labs, since they saw the value of the exercise. The Consortium was also really satisfied as these are very good news for NEWSERA future work!

Groups from elevator pitch methodology discussing their science communication strategies.

Simulation of #CitSciComm Labs addressed to science communicators and data journalists

The aim of the second day was to simulate the functioning of the #CitSciComm Lab addressed to science communicators and data journalists to put them in contact with citizen science practitioners and identify common opportunities and challenges.

Work Group 1: the challenges!

We made two working groups, the first one with data journalists and science communicators and the second one with citizen science practitioners. We asked them about:

Challenges: Origin & Validation of data, Mistakes, Time, Visual skills, Data overload, Politics agenda, Independence of journalist. Voice, is a story?, Bias, Representativeness, Design of data collection, Activism institutional, Lack of trust & feedback in media, Need to understand media process, continuity & use of data

Ideas: enough time acquaintance to build trust, to have a public “agreement” on methodology & ethical frame, Detail feedback & Explicit methodology, Build knowledge on journalists needs, Third independent party to check data reliability, Choose right project, Citizens are “sources” and subjects as much as other players, + citizen journalism - missinformation

Challenges: Transmission of a wrong message, How to make it media-friendly? How to get a network of journalists? How do we get our press release published? How to get on the political agenda? Communications training. Send correct message, avoid hype but not boring. How to communicate when there is still no data?

Ideas: Using policy makers as communicators, Take into account the visual aspects (video, devices, people doing things...), Build and work on the story from the beginning: what the project brings, how it is innovative, what impact it has... To take advantage of current events or key moments to disseminate our project and not to do so when there is an information collapse. Connect with other projects. Spend time with certain journalists to establish a relationship. Mapping journalists and influencers of certain issues

Work Group 2: mixed groups

With the several issues and discussions between the two groups we try to find the common ground. With an open discussion with all the attendees, and taking advantage of the outcomes of the day before, we collected three common challenges and ideas about communication and citizen science projects as conclusions.


  1. Journalists and activist are not paid throughout the entire process.
  2. Data validation (for scientists and journalists)
  3. Open data: how was collected, away sets, methodology, etc.


  1. Build together a strong collaboration, get to know each other, set up a concrete.
  2. Collaboration agreement both at individual (project) level or collective level (e.g. through your CS Network).
  3. Training needs for journalists to better understand CS and for CS practitioners to understand journalism

Summary of methodology contributions during co-creation sessions

Again, the second day was highly successful and participants were satisfied with the outcomes since it managed to generate a dialogue between two communities (citizen science practitioners and science communicators and journalists) that usually do not talk directly to each other. So this was a result in itself. The common challenges and ideas identified were relevant for both communities and an excellent starting point to initiate the work to be done in NEWSERA.

Regarding the methodologies used, the conclusions were as follows:

  • Group discussion to detect needs and opportunities for the same type of stakeholder is enriching
  • Not all stakeholders have the same scope and tools and it is necessary to take into account their day-to-day life work in order to get them involved
  • An open debate looking for points of consensus is a good exercise to reach a common ground and conclusions
Group photo with partners and some participants in the co-creation sessions.