Citizen Science - “We Have to Make Our Work Understandable”

Interview with Christine Ahrend on why a transdisciplinary approach to research is needed

Ms. Ahrend, what do you understand by “citizen science”?

What we are talking about is a participative approach to research where research findings are produced by people who are not professional researchers in the field. This could take the form of obtaining data or even the joint formulation of questions for research. We have to meet and discuss with people on equal terms in workshops and other events, invite them to work with us, make our work understandable to them – and we have to listen and grasp what knowledge we can and should take from the outside world and integrate into our work.

Why did TU Berlin place this approach on its to-do list?

In keeping with the University Charter, we wish to develop an innovative use of science and technology for the good of society as a whole as well as drive the transfer of knowledge and technology between academia and commerce and industry. Citizen science has an important role to play in this, providing a means to involve the public in research. This could be anything from collecting data through to co-designing a project. We want to inspire an interest in science among the general public on a number of levels.

What is the relationship between citizen science and transdisciplinarity?

Approaches to citizen science are generally not transdiciplinary – what often happens is that members of the public collect essential data for science, such as the “SimRa” or “Jetzt messen wir” projects. They become transdisciplinary only when members of the public are actually involved in the research process, through providing questions for research or interpreting findings. Good examples of this are “Schmeck!” and “Mind the Fungi!”. From the perspective of TU Berlin, both approaches are valid and important and we wish to continue our work in both directions.

Interviewer: Patricia Pätzold