X Close

Events

Home

UCL events news and reviews

Menu

Radically changing food habits with new undergraduate course

GuestBlogger10 June 2017

­Written by Francis Lecomber, student on UCL BASc2096

csfoodHow can we change our relationship to food? That’s been the central question for the new UCL Arts and Sciences BASc course “Citizen Science for Radical Change: Co-design, Art and Community” (BASC2096), which ran for the first-time last term. At a pop-up exhibition this week, selected students from the course showcased final projects exploring the factors that affect our decisions over what to eat.

The course brought together multiple disciplines to explore food, based on an open source interdisciplinary method developed by our lecturer Kat Austen for her project Vital. Incorporating elements of chemistry, citizen science, community co-design and philosophy, the course encouraged students to think both analytically and creatively in their approach to learning, whilst embracing the overarching theme of food as a unifier of different peoples. The learning process itself is studied throughout the course, as we were encouraged to investigate the many different forms of knowledge and the hierarchical structure in which they exist – a structure that often places quantified data far above sensory perception in terms of value. This overarching theme continuously shaped and changed our approach to knowledge acquisition.

Throughout the course, we worked with students from Newham’s NewVIc Sixth Form College, where we ran workshops and scientific experiments. At the end of the term, we co-designed exhibits and performances with the NewVIc pupils, which helped inform our personal designs for our final projects.

In these final projects, the diverse threads of the course are woven into a major design piece. These designs were exhibited here, at the UCL Art Museum, on Monday 5th June as a part of the university’s theme of Transformative Technologies. In their diversity, they capture the multiple meanings food has to us, and the effect of engaging with it in an interdisciplinary way.

(more…)

Launching a citizen science paper at the League of European Research Universities

GuestBlogger7 December 2016

pencil-icon

Written by Alice Sheppard – Community Manager, UCL ExCiteS

A little over a year ago, many academics and I – not, then, an academic, but a long-time citizen science volunteer – gathered in Zurich for a day of presentations and panels to discuss the idea of creating a set of standards and recommendations for citizen science across and beyond Europe.

Should citizen science have policies and guidelines, or would this be too prescriptive or restrictive? What would ensure that everyone, and science itself, benefitted?

The conference organisers spent the next several months writing a paper of guidelines for researchers and policies for universities wishing to engage in citizen science, which they launched this year’s event in Brussels. I have since started working at UCL, and I was asked to introduce citizen science as a concept, from the perspective of both a volunteer and an academic.

Katrien Maes and Daniel Wyler presented the paper, ‘Citizen science at universities’. Citizen science, an activity where a person not in an academic institution contributes their time to scientific activities, is not new.

Renaissance science was mostly practised by wealthy “gentlemen scientists” (whose wives and other nearby women were often unacknowledged contributors!), and Charles Darwin corresponded with thousands of citizens who recorded aspects of nature around them.

mulitple citizen science projects slide

But in the digital age citizen science is undergoing a revival. There is huge new potential for communication between scientists and the public and for data collection and analysis.

Therefore, the paper states, it is important to do three things: citizen science practitioners should collaborate and share best practices; we should create platforms that support a wide variety of citizen science projects, so as to create more public awareness and increase opportunities; and we should not treat citizen scientists simply as agents to get the simple but lengthy tasks done, but to involve them at all stages of the research process, from beginnings to publication.

I was pleased to see advice to use open science and to plan properly for substantial community management. This means not treating citizen scientists as colleagues, taking into account adequate communication with them, tracking not only what they are doing but also their diversity and numbers, and of course properly acknowledging their work.

(more…)