Featured research (2)

We introduce a case-study agnostic framework for the application of citizen science in a sustainable development context. This framework is tested against an activity in two secondary schools in western Nepal. While the purpose of this activity is to generate locally relevant knowledge on the physical processes behind natural hazards, we concentrate here on its implementation, i.e., to obtain a better understanding of the dynamic of the activity and to learn how it should be implemented. We determined the social capital of secondary schools as a gateway to the local community: they provide a unique setting to bring different stakeholders together. We find that co-designing a teaching programme is an effective means of both complementing local curricula and ensuring continued buy-in of local stakeholders (i.e., teachers). Student engagement depends on the local relevance of teaching materials, with more holistic or global concepts, such as climate change of lesser importance. Our activity focused on rainfall, including student-led data collection. These rainfall data provide a very good fit to co-located rain gauge data, with an average difference on weekly readings of 11.8%, reducing to 8.3% when averaged over all student readings. The autonomous development of student-organized science clubs suggested that our original framework underestimated students' capacity to apply knowledge elsewhere creatively. These clubs may be used to obtain participant feedback to improve and tailor future activities. Quantitative assessment of long-term sustainability remains challenging, due in part to high levels of student turnover. We suggest that integrating scientists wherever possible within a school or local community has a direct and positive result on participant retention.
The citizen science approach has gained momentum in recent years. It can enable both experts and citizen scientists to co-create new knowledge. Better understanding of local environmental, social, and geographical contexts can help in designing appropriate plans for sustainable development. However, a lack of geospatial data, especially in the context of developing countries, often precludes context-specific development planning. This study therefore tests an innovative approach of volunteer citizen science and an open mapping platform to build resilience to natural hazards in the remote mountainous parts of western Nepal. In this study, citizen scientists and mapping experts jointly mapped two districts of Nepal (Bajhang and Bajura) using the OpenStreetMap (OSM) platform. Remote mapping based on satellite imagery, capacity building, and mobilization of citizen scientists was performed to collect the data. These data were then uploaded to OSM and later retrieved in ArcGIS to produce a usable map that could be exploited as a reference resource for evidence-based decision-making. The collected data are freely accessible to community members as well as government and humanitarian actors, and can be used for development planning and risk reduction. By piloting in two communities of western Nepal, we found that using open data platforms for collecting and analyzing location-based data has a mutual benefit for researchers and communities. Such data could be vital in understanding the local landscape, environmental risk, and distribution of resources. Furthermore, they enable both researchers and local people to transfer technical knowledge, collect location-specific data, and use them for better decision-making.

Lab head

Wouter Buytaert
  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Members (8)

Megh Raj Dhital
  • Tri-Chandra Multiple Campus, Ghantaghar
Simon Allen
  • University of Zurich
Katarzyna Cieslik
  • Durham University
Jagat Kumar Bhusal
  • Worked in the Electricity Tariff Fixation Commission , Government of Nepal; Society of Hydrologists and Meteorologists - Nepal
Bhim Prasad Subedi
  • Tribhuvan University
Binod Parajuli
  • Durham University
Charles Zogheib
  • Imperial College London
Anna Twomlow
  • Imperial College London
Jonathan D. Paul
Jonathan D. Paul
  • Not confirmed yet