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Electronic Maps to Assist Public Science

Final Report Summary - EMAPS (Electronic Maps to Assist Public Science)

Executive Summary:
Climaps by EMAPS - A summary for policy makers and busy people

T. Venturini, A. Meunier, A. Munk (Sciences Po médialab); R. Rogers, E. Borra, B. Rieder, L. Bounegru, N. Sanchez-Querubin (University of Amsterdam DMI); P. Ciuccarelli, M. Mauri, M. Azzi, D. Ciminieri, G. Uboldi (Politecnico di Milano, Density Design); P. Gerry, H. Kitcher, R. Schon (The Young Foundation); A. Kaltenbrunner, D. Laniado (Barcellona Media); M. Fleischhauer (TU Dortmund University). is an online atlas providing data, visualizations and commentaries about climate adaptation debate. It contains 33 issue-maps. Each of the maps focuses on one issue in the adaptation debate and provides:
- an interactive visualization;
- a discussion of the map and the findings that it discloses;
- a description of the protocol through which the map has been created;
- the raw and the cleaned data on which the map is based and the code employed to treat them. also contains 5 issue-stories guiding the users in the combined reading of several maps.

The atlas is addressed to climate experts (negotiators, NGOs and companies concerned by global warming, journalists…) and to citizens willing to engage with the issues of climate adaptation. It employs advanced digital methods to deploy the complexity of the issues related to climate adaptation and information design to make this complexity legible.

Controversy mapping and the ‘sprint’ workshops has been produced by the EU-funded project EMAPS ( as largest experiment tempted so far with the method of ‘controversy mapping’. Controversy mapping is a research technique developed in the field of the Sciences and Technology Studies (STS) to deal with the growing intricacy of socio-technical debates. Instead of mourning such complexity, it aims to equip engaged citizens with tools to navigate through expert disagreement. Instead of lamenting the fragmentation of society, it aims to facilitate the emergence of more heterogeneous discussion forums (cfr:

Such objectives are pursued
- by collaborating with experts from different camps in the debate,
- by exploiting digital data and computation to follow the weaving of techno-scientific discourses,
- and by using design to make such complexity readable for a larger public.

Because of the necessity to organize a trans-disciplinary collaboration between controversy mappers, issue-experts, data scientists and designers, EMAPS invented a new format research format: the ‘sprint’. Inspired by open-source hackathons and digital humanities barcamps, sprints are hybrid forums where 30-40 people with different backgrounds gather to work intensively for a full week to map a given socio-technical issue. Unlike its antecedents, sprints are extensively prepared in advanced (by defining the research questions, collecting and cleaning the data, forming the groups) so that the workshops can succeed in delivering usable results in one-week time (cfr:

Findings and issue-stories

Adaptation and mitigation in the UNFCCC
Analyzing the Earth Negotiation Bulletin, we identified the main discussion in the UN Convention on Climate Change, traced their visibility over time and the countries engaged with them. Adaptation and mitigation have different places in the UNFCCC. Mitigation constitutes the main object of the convention, is present everywhere in its conversation and structures the articulation of the debate. Adaptation, on the contrary, appears as a group of specific discussions and has a limited though central place in the negotiations. Although, adaptation is present from the beginning in UN conferences (in particular the question of its funding), an ‘adaptation turn’ is visible from 2004 with the rise of the questions of vulnerability and of climate change impacts.

The geopolitics of adaptation expenditure
Using RioMarkers coding we extracted from the OECD Official Development Assistance the bilateral adaptation funding and visualized in a way that allows comparing how the distribution of aid varies between these countries. We compared not only the amounts committed by donor countries, but also their preferred policy areas, the concentration of their aid, their favored recipient countries and closest UNFCCC recipient groupings, the distribution of the aid according to the development level of the recipient country. Some donor countries appear to specialize in particular policy areas: for example, Japan is best at funding disaster reduction; France water management; Spain government and civil society; UK biodiversity and Germany agriculture. Some countries concentrate their aid more among policy areas and recipient countries (EU, Denmark) than others (Spain, Italy, Ireland), which could suggest a more planned approach to adaptation aid.

Who deserve to be funded
We have compared the priorities of bi-lateral and multi-lateral adaptation funders with different ways of assessing vulnerability. Using Germanwatch, DARA and Gain vulnerability indices, as well as the Human Development index, we explored possible correlations between the amount of money allocated to a country and the degree to which it could be said to be climate vulnerable. We found both positive and negative correlations indicating that some funds and some countries prioritize in close alignment with the ways in which some indices assess vulnerability, while others do not. In general, development oriented indices correlate more with climate adaptation funding, providing evidence that adaptation and development are closely connected questions.
We have also tried to find out, where vulnerability indices are mentioned in climate related contexts. In general we found that climate specific vulnerability indices are rarely used by actors in the UNFCCC process, but widely cited in the new media.

Reading The State Of Climate Change From Digital Media
Using a variety of digital methods, we monitored the state of online discussion about climate. In particular, we investigate how users share ideas (Twitter), search for information (Google) and buy books related to climate issues (Amazon). In Twitter adaptation is more visible than mitigation, with human and animal victims capturing user’s attention and NGOs most effectively using the platform for their messages. Querying Google’s for “climate change” OR “global warming” adaptation-related results are more abundant (then mitigation or skepticism) and more visible in institutional sources. NGOs websites put food, water and extreme weather events at the top of their agendas. Looking at Amazon different ‘selling points’ of the climate change debate are noted. New terminologies appear to brand the climate conflicts (i.e. ‘cold wars’ for conflicts over the melting Arctic), while skepticism appears to be overtaken, as best-selling topic.

Project Context and Objectives:
As the advent of online communication blurs the borders between the inside and outside of science, consumers and producers of scientific information are proliferating. The processes of constructing scientific facts become more transparent while the controversies generated by the developments in science and technology tend to be more visible.

EMAPS (Electronic Maps to Assist Public Science), a 3-year research funded by the EU, advances an innovative method called 'controversy mapping' to visualise the main actors and controversies around two major scientific debates: an ageing population and climate change adaptation.
The EMAPS project is designed to assess the opportunities and risks in the use of the web and the social media as a meaningful tool to foster participatory communication between scientists and the different publics of science and technology. It draws on a set of theories and scientific practices ranging from digital methods to climate science.

What difference does it makes to be equipped with tools for mapping technoscientific issues? Can such equipment change (and potentially improve) the way we publicly discuss science and technology? These are the basic research questions of this project, which is built around four simple objectives:
- exploring the existing experiences of online technoscientific debate
- focusing on the analysis of two specific scientific issues
- develop an online platform for mapping technoscientific controversies
- using the platform to promote and facilitate the debate among the concerned actors.

The project is coordinated by Sciences Po Paris. Its partners are the University of Amsterdam, Barcelona Media, Politecnico di Milano, the Young Foundation, and the Dortmund Technische Universität.

Project Results:
The methodological foundations of the project were laid out through the mapping of the ageing population debate. A background analysis of the debate was prepared for an in vivo test of the debate mapping tools.

EMAPS observed and documented the interactions of 30 alpha-users with an atlas of 25 visualisations during three meetings, where the users were confronted with the maps and asked to make use of them. The project used novel design solutions to represent large quantities of data in a legible form while the group of alpha-users was selected to include representatives of all the groups concerned by the ageing controversies, and in particular, representatives from academia, business and civil society organisations. At end of each meeting, the feedback and the comments made by the users' group were used to enrich and re-design the map in a series of iterations. Users were also invited to explore the use of the maps for professional purposes such as networking, fund raising, communication, and strategic planning.

For the second case study on climate change adaptation, EMAPS interviewed experts in the field to identify a series of sub-issues, research questions and datasets to support the analysis. A list of the existing online debate spaces and a critical review of these spaces were made.

More than thirty datasets have been collected by the EMAPS teams on sub-issues such as the rise of climate change adaptation in the international negotiations, the characterization of the concept, the actors of the debate, the funding and the costs of projects to increase adaptive capabilities, the nature and the implementation of such project, the indicators of impact and vulnerability and their uses, the shaping of the adaptation issue in online spaces like Twitter or Wikipedia.

The second half of the project was dedicated towards the production of a platform that visualises the sub-issues. Not only are the end results of the projects interesting and valuable from the point of view of social research but also the innovative method by which we achieved these results. They used datasets from online and offline sources, to produce more than 120 visualisations of which 33 are showcased on the platform, collated into 5 issue stories to navigate that rich datascape and make the debate on climate adaptation readable for a larger public.

The final outputs of the work carried out include:

• Successful online initiatives to encourage the debate were analysed. The analysis concluded that they must be developed with their potential users, taking into account their computer skills and digital literacy as well as their concrete objectives and practice of participation.

• Awareness was raised on the potential of maps and data visualisation techniques to encourage the debate, providing both a common visual language and highlighting the points of disagreement. The creativity of design was called upon to invent ways of mobilizing new data in the public sphere, collected together in the form of a digital atlas, comprising geographical maps, timelines, diagrams, networks, scatterplots.

• Theoretical recommendations were drawn on how to use controversy mapping, and more generally science and technologies studies, to promote the public engagement with techno-science.

• a global digital atlas of climate change adaptation, was launched. This online platform collects and integrates several visual representations of different adaptation issues, therefore helps different social groups to participate in climate change adaptation debates. It was produced through a series of workshops and iterations taking into account the comments and feedback of its potential users.

• A well-documented and well-tested protocol for mapping complex issues was elaborated. This innovative methodology is based on the creation of a qualitative relationship with a few actors in the debate (alpha-users) and the organisation of data sprints, five day hackathon like events, in which experts come together with programmers and designers to produce digital maps and data visualizations as tools for actors engaged in a controversial issue. This methodology is inspired by practices originating from three different theoretical fields: hackathons/bar camps in the computer programming field, participative design in public policy contexts, and hybrid forums from science and technology studies.

• A report on the testing process and the lessons learnt from using digital methods to map debates on ageing population is available on the project website (

Potential Impact:
The participation of the public in debates on science and technology is limited by the high cost of learning the experts’ knowledge beforehand in order to understand the issues at stake. Alternatively, EMAPS implements an approach to public engagement based on the understanding of the full extent of disagreement between the experts. Equipped with visual and digital tools to deal with scientific uncertainties and experts’ divergences, the public can learn to take part more productively in the scientific debate. The power of the maps to shift the understanding of the adaptation issue was used to produce five issue stories that combine findings with interpretations of social scientists.

The methodology developed in the EMAPS project supports the establishment of a qualitative relationship among the actors of a techno-scientific debate and foster discussion among them. The method could be a breakthrough in the quality of the dialogue that can be established between the different stakeholders. It could be used to encourage the development of a particular political attitude towards science and technology and towards the web as a public space. The first users of the platform have recognized its importance in modifying the relationship between scientists and policy makers, which is too often based on a misunderstanding of the role that facts can play in political debates. The project attracted the interest of four different communities: adaptation scholars, practitioners and policy makers, whether from the public sector or the civil society; the data visualization & digital methods community; promoters of public engagement in science & technology; other policy makers who would like to adapt the sprint methodology for issues they are concerned with.

As a research project under the science-in-society programme , EMAPS has not only been innovative on the content of the research it carried out (social research on technoscientific issues), on the methodology it developed (the data sprints) but also on dissemination activities of its results. Activities of engagement with the public have been central to its research protocol since the beginning, and the participatory nature of the project goes beyond what is traditionally viewed as dissemination. To ensure the engagement of relevant publics with the outcomes of an issue mapping project, a strategy was devised whereby issue experts holding extensive domain expertise on the topics explored during issue mapping projects, be they climate change or ageing, are being actively involved in such projects. Issue experts play a central role in all the stages of an issue mapping project. In the preparatory stages of a data sprint experts are participating in the formulation of research questions by presenting the state-of-the-art in their field and their analytical needs. During the data sprint consultation sessions are being set up to enable participants to get feedback on their mappings from these experts. Experts are listed as co-authors of such mapping projects in order to encourage them to take ownership of the mappings and use them in their work. This strategy was employed successfully in the climate change adaptation sprints. For example, the involvement of an adaptation expert from the UNDP resulted in the extensive circulation of the Climaps platform in various UN agencies working on climate change, from the United Nations Environment Programme, to the UNFCCC and the UN Library.

Throughout the duration of the project, the consortium has engaged in community building activities directed towards a variety of actors in the ageing & climate change adaptation communities as participants of the issue mapping process.

Concerning the ageing case study, EMAPS worked with: Age Concern Kingston, Leeds Older People's Forum, TorrAGE, Metropolitan Support Trust, Clod Ensemble, DEMOS, Picker Institute (Europe), King's College London, Independent, Lewisham Council, Tower Hamlets, thumbprint city, Magic ME, NHS Institute, Eminence Grise.

Concerning the Climate Change adaptation case study, EMAPS worked with: ONERC (French National Observatory on the Effects of Climate Change), ODI (Overseas Development Institute), SEI (Stockholm Environment Institute), UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), IDDRI (Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations), IPCC secretariat, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), French Ministry of Finances, Chatham House, United Nations University, Réseau Action Climat, European Environment Agency, Germanwatch, University of Exeter, the MET office, the School of Geography of the University of Oxford, KomPass (German Centre of Competence on Climate impacts and adaptation), the German research project “Network Vulnerability”, the European project CHANGES (Changing Hydro-meteorological Risks as Analyzed by a New Generation of European Scientists), French research projects COCORISCO (Knowledge, Comprehension and Management of Coastal Risks) and ADAPT’EAU (Adaptation to Hydrological Changes in the Garonne-Gironde environment), Stanford Literary Lab, The Guardian (datablog), the LSCE (Laboratory of Climate and Environment Studies), and of course with EMAPS’ sister project at the m”dialab called MEDEA which deals with climate change adaptation at the French national level.

EMAPS partners of course also engaged in traditional dissemination activites, through articles published in peer-reviewed journals, presentation in scientific conferences, and articles in the general press, such as that of Wired Italy :

Now we want to continue to disseminate and promote the platform towards a larger quantity of people, and also study the effects of issue mapping on the practices of professionals.

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