Citizen Data Science for Public Good

Project Details

Lead Supervisor: Reka Solymosi
Other Supervisors: Caroline Jay
Contact Email: reka.solymosi@manchester.ac.uk
Partners: University of Manchester
External Partners: Open Data Manchester CIC

Start Date: September 2019

Citizen science encompasses a range of scientific activities in which non-professional scientists voluntarily participate in data collection, analysis and dissemination of a scientific project. People whose skills and passions in scientific domains are not stimulated by their everyday jobs spend their spare time contributing to such projects, for example through classifying galaxies, monitoring biodiversity, or measuring air quality.

At the same time, people are also becoming actively engaged with their local governments, facilitated through the proliferation of civic technologies. These are digital tools and platforms designed for enabling citizens to hold governments to account. Examples include fix my street (www.fixmystreet.com) and write to them (www.writetothem.com), both of which help people engage with their local areas and governance.

The focus of this project is to investigate participation in, and potentials for, citizen data science enabled by civic technologies, in particular for projects that work towards some public good outcome, specifically through wrangling and analysis of data resulting from such activities.

The project will entail secondary analysis of data from civic technology platforms, with the potential to collect further data for deductive, exploratory analysis, which will focus on mapping out existing citizen data science projects, exploring people’s motivation for participation, and designing and feasibility testing of possible technology platforms that aid and encourage such citizen data science practices. The student will work with complex new forms of data, acquired though approaches such as web scraping, and consider data linkages between disparate data sets. These datasets can be large, messy, and unconnected, requiring creativity as well as technical skill to interpret and analyse.

There is no specific steer – we are interested to hear from prospective students who can use data from civic tech platforms or other sources to address societal challenges and to advance knowledge. However, some potential research questions are:

  • What platforms currently exist to support citizen participation in local governance?
    • How can their effectiveness be measured using the data that they generate?
    • Are they effective, and how could they be improved?
  • (How) do civic technologies enable participation in citizen data science projects?
  • How can we measure the impact that participation in citizen data science has on local communities?
    • How great is that impact?
  • What is the relationship between citizen data scientists and public service organisations?
    • How might citizen data science be used to improve the delivery of services?

Deadline 7th April 2019

Reference number MN34

Apply online here

Get in touch with the supervisor

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