Helmholtz to fund three citizen science projects

“The participation of citizen scientists in research benefits everyone involved,” says Helmholtz President, Otmar D. Wiestler. “The wide-ranging knowledge, motivation, and curiosity of the participants are amazing. I’m pleased that we can now use a new funding tool to strengthen the dialogue between academia and s¬-ociety and tap into the potential for innovation offered by citizen science. The three projects that have been selected take an interdisciplinary approach in a wide range of subject areas and give every indication of yielding exciting results.”

Helmholtz has been active in the field of citizen science for many years, including through the Citizens Create Knowledge (GEWISS) initiative. Between 2014 and 2016, GEWISS brought together researchers and members of the public, promoted dialogue between projects, and instigated new activities. “Since then, numerous projects have been run at our Helmholtz Centers,” says Wiestler. “I would like to warmly congratulate those researchers who have been selected in this round and wish them every success in the work that lies ahead.” Among other considerations, the aim of the citizen science projects is to encourage the flow of knowledge held within society to the scientific community and to generate new knowledge in collaboration with members of the public.

The three pilot projects funded in this call for proposals are:

1. The impacts of technological systems on the individual quality of life of type 1 diabetics (TeQfor1)
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition, which, for those affected, is accompanied by constant self-monitoring, the potential health risks of both hyper and hypoglycemia, as well as the threat of long-term complications. Even with the help of modern technology, these issues are difficult to manage. A group of sufferers and their families have therefore come together to make proprietary technologies for automated insulin delivery freely available. These so-called artificial pancreas systems or (hybrid) closed-loop systems are far more effective than commercially available technologies, but they are not clinically approved. In the TeQfor1 project, members of the public with type 1 diabetes have the opportunity to take part in a systematic evaluation to investigate the extent to which these do-it-yourself systems actually influence their personal quality of life as well as whether their blood glucose levels change, and in what way. The partners involved in the project are the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases (IDM) at Helmholtz Zentrum München, and the GECKO Institute for Medicine, Information Technology and Economics at Heilbronn University.

Silvia Woll, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), silvia.woll@kit.edu

2. Sensors to measure aerosols and reactive gases, and analysis of their impacts on health (SMARAGD)
The concentration of atmospheric pollutants is too high in many German towns and cities. However, the level of pollution can vary considerably from street to street. The lack of high-resolution data is a hindrance to the interpretation of epidemiological studies on the health impact of pollutants. The SMARAGD project aims to link data about individual pollution levels to health information. For this purpose, members of the public with an interest in the issue can use quality-approved sensors to measure air quality at their locations. With the help of the mobile application PIA (prospective recording of incidental health events app), they can report on respiratory infections in real time and take nasal swabs when suffering from colds. These swabs are checked for viruses and the results communicated back to the individuals. This health information is then combined with the sensor data about specific pollution levels as part of the project.

 Robert Wegener, Forschungszentrum Jülich, r.wegener@fz-juelich.de
 Stefanie Castell, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), Stefanie.Castell@helmholtz-hzi.de
 Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Centre for Environmental Health (HMGU), claudia.traidl-hoffmann@tum.de
 Erhard Zeiss, Press Officer, Forschungszentrum Jülich, e.zeiss@fz-juelich.de

3. Nachtlicht-BüHNE – members of the public and scientists research nighttime light phenomena
Nachtlicht-BüHNE is a citizen science project that brings together members of the public and scientists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) to research nighttime light phenomena. In doing so, they are contributing toward two pilot studies that are giving rise to citizen science projects on the subjects of light pollution and meteor research. This involves the development, testing, and evaluation of various cooperation techniques. The project’s findings will be made available on an online platform featuring appropriate tools to support collaborative work. In the long-term, it is hoped that the resulting web portal will serve as a point of access and platform for the development of future citizen science projects on related subjects within the Helmholtz Association. The goal of the three-year Nachtlicht-BüHNE project is to develop a co-design strategy for app-based citizen science projects.

Friederike Klan, Institute of Data Science, German Aerospace Center, friederike.klan@dlr.de

Helmholtz contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science, and the economy through top-level scientific achievements in six Research Fields: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Matter, and Aeronautics, Space, and Transport. With more than 40,000 employees at 19 Research Centers and an annual budget of around 4.7 billion euros, Helmholtz is the largest scientific organization in Germany. Its work is rooted in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894)


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