Science Transformation in EuroPe through Citizens involvement in HeAlth, coNservation and enerGy rEsearch (STEP CHANGE)

Project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme
Grant Agreement n. 101006386

Duration: 36 months
Start date: 01/03/2021

Citizen science is one of the many participatory approaches that have developed in recent years in the broader field of public engagement in science and innovation. However, it is the approach that more directly puts the very practice of science in the spotlight. For such a reason, citizen science can play an even broader societal and scientific role than is generally acknowledged, particularly in those critical fields of research – such as energy, health and environment – where human and non-human factors are deeply entangled. In this sense, citizen science can play a pivotal role by making science more socially robust, inclusive and democratic while strengthening the capacity of scientific investigation over emerging phenomena that cannot be easily caught within narrow disciplinary boundaries.

STEP CHANGE is precisely aimed at exploring and exploiting the potential of citizen science in terms of knowledge and innovation advancement and science and society alignment, through the development and evaluation of 5 hands-on Citizen Science initiatives in three different areas (Energy, Health and Environment). The five initiatives will be respectively conducted in Slovenia (on wildlife conservation), United Kingdom (on non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases), Germany (on energy communities), Italy (on infectious disease outbreak preparedness) and Uganda (on off-grid renewable energy in agriculture). Based on the experience emerging from the five Citizen Science initiatives and their results, a set of recommendations will be formulated and some tools will be developed to a better anchoring of citizen science in scientific institutions.

The project includes three different stages. The first stage will be devoted to preparing the ground for the Citizen Science initiatives, especially for what concerns the recruitment of citizen scientists and the involvement of stakeholders (WP1). The second stage will focus on the development of the Citizen Science initiatives by the different teams (WP2 to WP6). The initiatives will be supported through training and mutual learning activities (WP7) and a participatory monitoring and evaluation system (WP8). Finally, the stocktaking stage (WP9) is planned to support the sustainability of the Citizen Science initiatives and to take stock of the project outcomes. STEP CHANGE also includes two cross-cutting work packages respectively devoted to communication and dissemination activities (WP10) and the management of the project (WP11).

Overall, the project consortium includes 11 partners led by the University of Primorska (Slovenia).


The STEP CHANGE Project started up
The Kick-off Meeting of the STEP CHANGE Project has been held online on March 15th and 16th, 2021. The first day, after some introductory words by Klavdija Kutnar, Rector of the University of Primorska (the institution leading the project), Yiannis Vacondios, Project Officer of the EC Research Executive Agency, provided a set of information related to the management of the project while Linden Farrer, EC Policy Officer, dwelled upon the policy context and the future perspective of RRI in the new Horizon Europe Framework Programme. Subsequently, Elena Bužan (from the University of Primoska and project coordinator) offered an overview of the project, followed by the presentations of the 5 Citizen Science Initiatives (CSIs) to be implemented during STEP CHANGE, respectively promoted by the University of Primoska, the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Women Engage for a Common Future, the University of Rome Tor Vergata, and Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment. In the afternoon, Rosa Arias and Nora Salas Seoane (Science for Change) presented the Work Package (WP) 1, aimed at activating the co-design process of the CSIs in the first phase of the project. In the second day, Rosa Arias brought to the attention some key theoretical and methodological issues related to the development of Citizen Science. Then, the focus shifted on the other WPs of the project, i.e., WP7 (Mutual Learning and training), led by ZSI; WP8 (Participatory evaluation), led by K&I; WP9 (Stocktaking process), led by ECSA; WP10 (Communication and dissemination), led by EUSEA; and WP11 (Management), led by the University of Primorska.