In Conversation with… a Citizen Scientist

Creative Wick’s Living Lab investigates the obstacles and seeks the solutions to creating inclusive, and sustainable regeneration. Importantly it’s a collaborative endeavour partnering with local organisations and working with residents to conduct its research. Footwork Trust provided this really important initiative with seed funding

We sat down with Abbie, to talk about her experience as a Citizen Scientist for the research project, ‘Housing Creative Practitioners and Young People in East London.’

Photo: Amber Joy

Tell me more about what it’s like being a Citizen Scientist?

“By definition, a Citizen Scientist is a member of the public who is recruited to collect data for a research project.

Anyone can be a citizen scientist, as long as you have the time to commit to it, and a key incentive for most people is that it’s a paid role!

For this particular project, we were given training by the research team on how to ethically conduct an interview without skewing their results. My experience was that conversations with interviewees flowed organically; we would meet somewhere like a coffee shop and this would help them feel comfortable.

Everyone that I interviewed was a creative: illustrators, fashion designers, photographers. This particular report was focused on community-led housing; a lot of the questions looked into topics surrounding housing affordability in East London, what they want from housing and what matters to them when looking to buy or rent housing.”

What did you want from the experience?

“It just seemed like an interesting opportunity to be involved in. I’d never been on the front line actually collecting data, talking to people and getting information from them. I’m always on the hunt to grow myself and develop new skills so this was an ideal opportunity to do that.”

What was your biggest learning from being a Citizen Scientist?

”Something that I found really interesting is that we may all live in the same area, but actually we each have such different experiences."

"I half expected people to give similar answers to me, but that just wasn’t the case. I also learnt how to have discussions with people without leading them to an answer. If I didn’t have any training, I may be nervous of the silence after a question, but actually, this space allows them to really think about their answer."

Do you see a role for Citizen Scientists in the development process in the future?

”Absolutely. There's a certain advantage of paying local young people, like me - who are more able to easily and comfortably communicate with other young people - to ask questions and gather an honest, open, accurate understanding of people’s real views, than if they were talking with an ‘outsider.’"

"I think the work of a Citizen Scientist needs to come in the early stages of development - when having a say actually matters and it can have a real impact on what’s going to happen in your community.”

What are the top 3 qualities of a good Citizen Scientist? And why

”I think most importantly, you need to be a good listener. It’s about finding a balance between feeding them enough to get the information you need, but also giving the space for them to speak freely.”

You also need compassion; to understand that not everyone has the same perspective as you. As a Citizen Scientist, you’re trying to understand their thoughts and thought processes, not to try and change their mind or sway their opinion.

Lastly, it may seem simple, but I think just having a friendly face makes a world of difference!”

Read the latest Living Lab report here.