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Authors: Cerrato S., Balli E.

Cerrato S., Balli E. (2024), The Step Change Navigator, ECSA, Berlin


Step Change

Step Change is a project funded by the European Union (under EC grant agreement No 101006386) lasting from March 2021 to April 2024 with the aim to ensure that research institutes make the most of what citizen science has to offer, whilst also identifying, analysing, and limiting the associated risks.

Step Change builds on the assumption that citizen science can play an even broader societal and scientific role than is generally acknowledged. The project explored the potential of citizen science and formulated recommendations and instruments for better cementing this approach within R&I institutions as well as changing researchers’ mindsets on its value.

To maximise its impact, Step Change made use of a multifaceted methodology not only fostering alignment with local contexts, but also nurturing mutual learning, encouraging self-reflection, and performing participatory evaluation exercises.

The core of Step Change are five citizen science initiatives, developed in the fields of health, energy and environment. These initiatives tackle the issues of wildlife conservation in Slovenia, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in the United Kingdom, energy communities in Germany, infectious disease outbreak preparedness in Italy, and off-grid renewable energy in agriculture in Uganda.

The project draws on the expertise of 11 partners from 7 European countries and Uganda, to increase the mutual responsiveness of science and society while boosting the capacity of scientific investigation over phenomena that cannot be completely seized within conventional disciplinary boundaries.

As a final result and legacy for future citizen science initiatives, Step Change presents now The Step Change Navigator in citizen science. This book is associated with a web-based database that collects theoretical and practical insights about different citizen science applications.

The Step Change navigator in citizen science: Facebook: @StepChangeEU
LinkedIn: @stepchange-eu
X: @StepChangeEU
Instagram: @stepchange_eu
YouTube: @stepchangeproject1925

The Step Change crew

University of Primorska, Slovenia

Univerza na Primorskem is Slovenia’s third largest public university, was established in 2003 as a centre of knowledge implementing European educational strategies. Its main objective is to carry out high quality study and research programmes, implementing and integrating them with educational, intellectual and research potential in accordance with European strategies. It satisfies regional demands and needs for quality higher educational programmes in the bilingual area, where Slovenian and Italian cultures are historically intertwined. It also aims to produce beneficial co-existence and close collaboration with industry. University of Primorska provides an active, interdisciplinary research and study environment based on two fundamental pillars: mathematics, natural sciences and technology, and humanities and social sciences. By incorporating both pillars in research and study activities, University of Primorska achieves improved interdisciplinary collaboration and improved international co-operation with the world’s leading institutions and researchers.

University of Primorska is the lead project partner responsible for project management and coordina- tion. University of Primorska is also responsible for the implementation of the citizen science initiative on wildlife conservation in Slovenia.

Aarhus University, Denmark

Aarhus University is a leading European research university with education and research activities in all scientific disciplines. The University attracts 25% of the Danish research funding and has been awar- ded several European Research Council advanced and starting grants. The Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy (CFA) is a research centre at the Department of Political Science, responsible for carrying out both basic research and long-term competence building, together with more practical oriented analyses, evaluations and policy investigations. The Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy is active in the areas of RRI (Responsible Research and Innovation), citizen science, structural transformations, gender and implementation of gender action plans in research organisations, evaluation, capacity building, comparative studies and research policy.

Within Step Change, Aarhus University is part of the evaluation team, working synergically with Knowledge & Innovation. More specifically, Aarhus University is responsible for the evaluation components aimed at the assessment of societal impact according to MoRRI (and SUPER MoRRI) and SDG frameworks.

Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment, Uganda

Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment (ARUWE) is a gender focused organisation that strengthens women’s leadership so that collectively they can break the chains of poverty, patriarchy, class and sexual repression. We do this through advocating for rural women’s economic justice, sexual and re- productive health and rights, promoting education and lifelong learning, enabling communities to adapt to climate change and challenging the negative impact of rigid and oppressive gender stereotypes. ARUWE is a non-profit, non-government organisation working with marginalised groups of people, especially women and girls in Uganda. ARUWE was established in 2003 as a community-based organisation and later registered as a non-profit, non-government organisation in 2008. The organisation started its operations in Wakiso district supporting women to increase agricultural production for household food security and income generation. Currently, ARUWE operates in the central and north-eastern regions of Uganda focusing on socio-economic empowerment of women and girls. We envision seeing a world in which women and girls realise their full social potential. We empower women to initiate and manage their socio-economic development processes through strengthening community participation, advocacy and service delivery.

ARUWE is responsible for the implementation of the citizen science initiative on off-grid renewable energy in rural Uganda.

Centre for Social Innovation, Austria

The Zentrum für Soziale Innovation (ZSI – Centre for Social Innovation) is a trans-disciplinary, non- for-profit, social science research institute. Located in Vienna, Austria, the institute employs around 60 people, most of them researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds. The ZSI offers analyses and concepts for promoting and implementing social innovation in its thematically focused areas from a transdisciplinary perspective.

Within Step Change, ZSI is responsible for mutual learning and training. The work focused on sup- porting the research activities carried out in the citizen science initiatives by strengthening the citizen science initiative teams in trans-disciplinary work and responsive stakeholders’ engagement. ZSI also fostered synergies among the citizen science initiatives and between the citizen science initiatives and other relevant citizen science experiences.

European Citizen Science Association

The European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) is a non-profit organisation set up to support citizen science as a recognized and well-established approach in Europe and beyond. ECSA advocates for enhancing the participation of the general public in scientific processes as a way to advance science while increasing the social relevance and sustainable impact of research. Through the initiation and support of citizen science projects and the performance of research on citizen science, ECSA fosters scientific literacy and contributes to the democratisation of science.

ECSA manages the platform, an online platform for sharing knowledge, tools, training and resources for citizen science – by the community, for the community.

As part of Step Change, ECSA conducted a stocktaking process to leverage the knowledge and les- sons learned from the implementation of the five citizen science initiatives. This information set the basis for the present Citizen Science Navigator to guide researchers in different fields wanting to apply a citizen science approach.

European Science Engagement Association

EUSEA is an international community of public engagement professionals, science festival and science event organisers. The association comprises about 120 members, including universities and scientific institutions, science festival organisations, science centres and museums, municipalities and NGOs.

The network has developed from a knowledge-sharing platform for European science festivals to a collaborative community of public engagement professionals, developing and testing new formats of science communication, building relationships with researchers, policy-makers and stakeholders from scientific institutions, higher education institutions, municipalities and regions. EUSEA is the initiator of the European Science Engagement Platform, a resource of recommendations, best practices and innovative event formats for practitioners working in the field of science-society dialogues.

EUSEA is the leading partner responsible for communications and dissemination activities.

Knowledge & Innovation, Italy

Knowledge & Innovation is a social research institute, whose mission is to promote, plan and carry out applied research projects in different areas connected with the processes of change that are affecting contemporary societies. Knowledge & Innovation is currently involved in several research funded projects on issues such as the socialisation of scientific research, responsible research and innovation and public engagement, gender in science, ethics and integrity of research, migration, environmental sustainability and energy transition, privacy, security and digitisation.

Knowledge & Innovation is the leading partner responsible for the evaluation component of the project. The evaluation exercise adopted a participatory method aiming to involve citizen science initiative teams at every stage of the evaluation process.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom

The NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre is based at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and runs in partnership with the University of Oxford. The Oxford Biomedical Rese- arch Centre undertakes translational research, which means taking laboratory research into a clinical setting. This kind of research is about first-time studies of medical innovations in patients, which are intended to improve healthcare delivery for the benefit of all patients. The Oxford Biomedical Research Centre is divided into 20 themes and four clusters: Precision Medicine, Technology and Big Data, Immunity and Infection, and Chronic Diseases.

The Oxford Biomedical Research Centre is the leading partner responsible for the implementation of the citizen science initiative on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in the United Kingdom.

Science for Change, Spain

Science for Change is a company born from the will to tackle societal and environmental challenges affecting communities using innovative solutions. It specialises in developing user-centred, innovative services and products based on citizen science, participatory strategies, community engagement and co-creation processes to facilitate social innovation.

Within Step Change, Science for Change led work focusing on the scoping process, focusing notably on ensuring citizen scientists’ recruitment for each citizen science initiatives as well as establishing institutional arrangements and other accomplishments for citizen science initiatives implementation, to increase sustainability of the initiatives since the very beginning.

University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy

Established in 1982, the University of Rome Tor Vergata currently offers 106 graduate programmes and 32 PhD courses. Our 18 Departments and 48 Research Centers are active in numerous disciplines to expand basic and applied research. Tor Vergata is part of several important networks such as YERUN (Young European Research Universities Network), VIU (Venice International University) and UNICA (Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe). The Department of Biology at the University Tor Vergata, established in 1983, focuses its training and research mission on cutting-edge issues regarding studies on life at all its levels of organisation and diversity. The various research areas contribute to developing a multidisciplinary platform through constant scientific activity in the biomedical, biotechnological, bioinformatics, ecological, evolutionary and agri-food fields, both through basic research and through collaborations with public and private partners as well as national and international entities. The Department of Biology is attentive to the themes of Responsible Research and Innovation and Sustainable Development with activities aimed at structural change in research institutions. The UNESCO Interdisciplinary Chair in Biotechnology and Bioethics, involved in Step Change, has been present in the Department of Biology since 1998, carrying out numerous national and international collaborations in research and education mainly in the infectious diseases (HIV, Ebola, Zika, COVID-19) and immunology fields.

The University of Rome Tor Vergata is the leading partner responsible for the implementation of the citizen science initiative on infectious disease outbreak preparedness in Italy.

Women Engage for a Common Future, Germany

Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) is a non-profit network dedicated to a gender just and healthy planet for all. The international network consists of over 150 women’s and civil society organisations implementing projects in 50 countries. WECF believes that a sustainable future and environment needs holistic solutions reflecting the lives of people on the ground, and in feminist solutions based on partners’ visions and needs. The network works on transformative gender equality and women’s human rights in interconnection with climate justice, sustainable energy and chemicals, less toxic waste, safe water and sanitation for all. WECF has expertise in three thematic areas: sustainable development, cli- mate action, and a toxic free healthy environment. WECF implements solutions locally while influencing policy internationally.

WECF is responsible for the implementation of the citizen science initiative on energy communities in Germany.

User Type
  • Citizen scientist/civil society organization
  • Educator/museum
  • Policy/decision maker
  • Researcher/research institution
  • Teacher/school
Resource type
  • Case studies
  • Digital tools
  • Projects/project examples
Research Field
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Environmental sciences
  • Medical and Health Sciences