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Collaborative Engagement on Societal Issues

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COESO (Collaborative Engagement on Societal Issues)

Berichtszeitraum: 2021-01-01 bis 2022-06-30

COESO (Collaborative Engagement on Societal Issues) is a 3-year project, funded by Horizon 2020, that aims to develop and sustain citizen science research in the social sciences and the humanities (SSH) fields. It does this through several types of actions:

Support 10 pilot projects: COESO supports 10 citizen science pilot projects, which represent a variety of SSH disciplines, by providing them with grants to fund their participatory research (research conducted in collaboration with relevant societal actors), and working together with them to develop a "collaboratory” called VERA (Virtual Ecosystem for Research Activation).

Build a “collaboratory”: VERA is an online platform that connects researchers and key society stakeholders and their communities. Through VERA they can find each other and co-create research projects that contribute to relevant new knowledge and solutions. On VERA, users can create individual profiles and project profiles; they can find tools and resources for creating and implementing their projects; set up the project teams by inviting collaborators; and they can search for available funding opportunities. The beta version of VERA will be released in December 2022 while the final version will be released at the end of the project in December 2023.

Create “Cooperation Analytics”: COESO is also developing a novel tool called “cooperation analytics” that measures the quality of collaboration between project members. Through the indicators it provides, project members can self-assess and adjust their collaboration practices.

Advocate for funding: An additional aspect of the COESO project is its funding advocacy work. It aims to enhance financial support for social sciences and the humanities (SSH) Citizen Science projects by engaging with key research funders, research organisations and policy makers to learn about their current practices and to suggest practices that support and are well aligned with SSH citizen science project needs. Moreover, a funding tool will be integrated into VERA to connect the SSH citizen science community to funding opportunities.

Engagement with the public: Through exploring new ways to tell the research stories and share the research results of our pilots, the COESO project is experimenting with new strategies to engage with the citizens who benefit from the research.
In the first half of the project, COESO made significant progress on each of the 5 areas of work mentioned above. The project began with 5 built-in pilot projects, each addressing different societal issues through collaborative research (researchers with societal actors). The second group of 5 pilot projects were recruited through an Open Call process, which received a high number of applications, indicating the current need for funding and interest in participatory research practices. Individually, each of the first 5 pilots produced and shared (or are in the process of finishing) their results in open access formats. The second 5 pilot projects are in the beginning stages of their research. Collectively, through a variety of mutual learning exercises and workshops, the pilot projects contributed their input to guide the development of the VERA collaboratory alpha version and the frameworks for the Cooperation Analytics tool. Additionally, the COESO consortium successfully engaged with funders and the citizen science community to carry out a number of funding advocacy activities, including: 1) the publication of a guide for funders and fundees (“Funding Advocacy Action Plan”), 2) four workshops with funders at national levels, and 3) the publication of our first policy brief (“Fostering funding for citizen science in the social sciences and humanities”)
COESO is now focusing on the final developments of VERA and the Cooperation Analytics tool, as well as continuing our SSH citizen science funding advocacy work and integrating a funding tool within VERA (to connect the SSH citizen science community with relevant funding opportunities). The pilots play a pivotal part in our implementation of these tasks through their elicited feedback (through individual and group meetings and workshops) on key design and technical elements and engaging them in funding advocacy actions. Meanwhile, they also independently carry out their research activities that address specific societal challenges. Additionally, all COESO consortium partners will be mobilized to spread information about COESO’s outputs through their diverse professional networks and communication channels. The project will culminate in a final conference to celebrate and build upon the work that COESO has accomplished.
The impact of COESO will be a more sustainable practice of Citizen Science within the Social Sciences and Humanities. This will be accomplished through four measurable objectives: 1) the VERA platform, the novel “Cooperation Analytics” and other tools, will remain open to the engaged stakeholders involved in participatory research, as part of the OPERAS research infrastructure services, to support collaborative practices; 2) the possibility to find funding for participatory research will be enhanced through COESO’s advocacy work and the integration of a funding search tool into VERA; 3) the experimentation with different formats to engage and communicate with the public, by the 10 pilot projects, will pave the way for other researchers to expand their engagement and dissemination practices; and finally, 4) the visibility of citizen science methodologies will be increased for diverse stakeholders, thus empowering different societal actors to initiate research projects.