This year will see the start of not one but two citizen science projects in Leiden and The Hague. This is the outcome of a large survey among residents and researchers in both university cities. The Citizen Science Lab will help the winners implement their ideas, with support from the University and the municipality of Leiden.
Promoting citizen science is one of the elements of Leiden University’s 444 celebrations. In the ‘plastic in the Leiden canals’ project, researchers and residents are looking at where the plastic waste in the Leiden canals eventually ends up. In the other project, city residents can take part in cognitive-scientific research and do tests in a ‘psychology lab on wheels.’ A further 50 projects were put forward besides these winning projects.
The two project leaders are very happy with the outcome. Mariska Kret submitted the idea for the psychology lab on wheels. She says, ‘This is a great opportunity to show that people outside the University can also contribute to scientific research.’ Resident Jeffrey van Gelder led the proposal for the plastics research: ‘I’ve worked really hard with friends setting up the plastics project. It had a real snowball effect with more and more people thinking about it, so I’m very happy our project was chosen.’
A jury with representatives from the municipality, the University, LUMC, the Hogeschool Leiden and a citizen science researcher assessed ten of the proposals. The jury was very enthusiastic about the questions and the proposals submitted. The plastics project relates to a contemporary theme, it is relevant to the local environment because of the Leiden canals and it appeals to a broad group of residents because it is about the quality of the living environment. It is also a good match for the scientific research conducted at the University.
The members of the jury were also very enthusiastic about the second project because it increases the visibility of psychology research in the city. Science really will come to citizens, at the fruit and veg stall at the market or among the food trucks at a festival. At the moment, very little citizen science research is being done in the area of psychology, which makes this project both innovative and challenging. With citizen science, the residents of the city are not only test subjects, but also fellow researchers.
The Citizen Science Lab received over 50 questions in response to the call for research questions. They developed a number of the questions further with the people who submitted them to come up with the ten project proposals that the jury assessed. Some questions fell by the wayside because they were too complex or because research had already been done on the subject. There were also some questions that the Lab was unable to link with a Leiden researcher. Several people also submitted the same question, or the same kind of question, such as about noise pollution, water quality and energy transition.
Over the coming period, the Citizen Science Lab will be trying to find answers to, or ways of investigating, these remaining questions. They will approach researchers and will link the contributors with initiatives at the University of Applied Sciences and at Leiden University in which students explore questions from the local community.