Citizen/community contributions to climate change research: The case of OpenTEK platform.

#COP26 #Youth and public empowerment

Citizen/community science approaches are fundamental to contribute to #COP26’s Goal 4: “Work together to deliver” since they hold the potential to foster collaboration between scientists, civil society, and governments, which is needed to accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis.

At the LICCI_project (ICTA-UAB) we are very aware about having the voices and knowledge of Indigenous peoples and local communities be heard in the policy debate, but also the voices of civil society in general. We have been working in this line for already three years and have produced a tool that can help to bring these voices together: the OpenTEK platform.

OpenTEK is a multi-language citizen science platform designed to encourage participation in climate research by allowing anyone in the world to document and classify their observations of climate change impacts. This will make local impacts  more visible and provide  a more complete picture of the myriad climate change effects on our daily lives. By documenting concrete impacts of climate change throughout diverse communities worldwide, we can help make better policies and develop and share better adaptation measures. Next to creating and viewing local observations, there are other sources and types of information that will be made available with time. For instance, in this first release, we included an archive of more than 100 scientific publications, which report local observations that have been reviewed and classified by a research team. We also have included field study data collected by scientists in partnership with local communities.

We are still prototyping the user interface to work for Indigenous people, the general public, and scientists likewise, so that the OpenTEK platform can become a tool for cooperation. In this sense, with our civil society partners, and with funding from a Proof of Concept ERC grant (LICCION), we are now developing tailor-made platforms designed to not only facilitate the documentation and visualization of local climate change impacts knowledge but also to allow community-specific protocols to be respected and integrated, as well as preferred ownership levels.

Although we still face important challenges, such as the technological divide and the accessibility of some communities to these types of tools, we think that these technologies can contribute to youth and public empowerment and also to more transdisciplinary climate science and innovation.