Crowd4SDG, artificial intelligence to democratise decision making in citizen science

Crowd4SDG is a project that studies how citizen science offers information on the UN Sustainable Development Goals' achievements. The project is formed by a consortium of six international institutions, among which it is the CSIC, represented by the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals were launched in 2015 and go up until 2030. Image: Unsplash.The initiative, launched in May 2020, arises from the need to measure the progress of the 17 SDGs decreed by the UN in 2015. Crowd4SDG seeks to evaluate citizen science's action and efficiency in monitoring indicators of these objectives, with a special focus on the climate change objective.  Based on the shared experience in crowdsourcing for disaster response, the project will evaluate how artificial intelligence and machine learning can improve citizen science and its use of new non-traditional data sources, like social media data.

"Our idea is that citizen science projects can make more and better use of contributing citizens. To facilitate this we propose adapting tools such as decidim, that have already proven useful to enhance citizen participation in town councils, for their use in citizen science projects", indicates Jesús Cerquides, principal investigator at Crowd4SDG linked to IIIA-CSIC. As he clarifies, some citizen science projects work "vertically" with a "small group of people in charge of decision-making."

The IIIA will try to propose artificial intelligence algorithms to improve data collection and analysis of non-traditional information sources. Besides, it will provide new tools for the democratisation of citizen science.

"Our goal is for citizens to become more involved in decision-making in any citizen science project," continues Cerquides. "Artificial intelligence can contribute by providing tools that help citizens reach consensus and consolidate a common position using intelligent tools within what is known as 'deliberation technology' or 'agreement technology'," adds.

Crowd4SDG web.The consortium has established a GEAR methodology (Gather, Evaluate, Accelerate, Refine) to develop citizen science solutions to a series of climate change challenges. Once a year new climate challenges will be presented and citizen science teams will be invited to participate in its solution. Within the framework of the European Commission's Horizon 2020 initiative, the Crowd4SDG project consortium is made up of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), the Polytechnic University of Milan (POLIMI), the University of Paris (UP), UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) and the CSIC.CSIC.