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Abstract Deadline November 8, 2020

Organizers: Josep Perelló, Ferran Larroya, Franziska Peter, OpenSystems Group Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.


The Citizen Social Science & Complex Systems Science Workshop is a Satellite Workshop within the Conference on Complex Systems 2020 that the Complex Systems Society organizes every year. This year the entire conference will be held online. We invite you to contribute a short presentation of your research to further reflect on the potential of incorporating citizens’ active participation to better address entangled social problems and on how Complex Systems Science can crucially contribute to this endeavour.

There is a boom in initiatives calling for citizen involvement in research under the label of Citizen Science. Citizen Science can be seen as a new instrument to integrate citizens into scientific knowledge production with the help of digital infrastructures. Considering a wider perspective, the Citizen Science movement can also be associated with the aim of democratizing science. While numerous Citizen Science projects have been mostly installed in conservation biology or environmental sciences disciplines and topics in recent years, social issues are lagging behind. Within what has been termed as Citizen Social Science: A participatory research model that collectively responds with social concerns raised by citizens in general, or by specific vulnerable groups. The workshop wants to inspire scholars of the broad field of Complex Systems to firmly contribute in the exploration of the possibilities for Citizen Science to properly address the societal challenges being raised in social contexts. 

Digital technologies are increasingly facilitating citizen-generated data, particularly in terms of the mushrooming of crowd-sourced data initiatives. Despite the vast potential of active citizenship for Citizen Social Science participants, these initiatives are frequently restricting participants to act as mere sensors, or data producers, rather than research co-creators, data owners or advocates in their own right.

A complex systems perspective has the capacity to develop a careful understanding of social phenomena. Active participation and participatory research processes are deeply intertwined with well-known phenomena and concepts such as adaptive process, bottom-up dynamics, multidimensional or holistic visions of a system or data-driven modelling. The world of Computational Social Science with all current data and technologies available has still not deployed its full potential when considering citizen-generated data.

The aim of this workshop is therefore twofold: to present citizen social science experiences to a complex systems audience and to explore systemic participation of citizens in all research phases with the aim to produce socially robust knowledge outcomes.

We proudly host three outstanding plenary speakers active in both Citizen Science and Data Science/Network Science/Applied Mathematics. Further, we invite OPEN CALL contributions from scientists in either of or preferably both fields of Citizen (Social) Science and Complex Systems Science. A discussion round on the potential of participatory research in Complex Systems/Nonlinear Dynamics closes the session. For those interested in assisting the satellite session, find here the information on how to register.



The Citizen Social Science & Complex Systems Science Satellite Workshop explores the how methods, theories, and knowledge from the Complex Systems Community can be enriched with active citizens’ participation in research related to social issues. We firmly believe that complex systems science can nicely enhance its social dimension when incorporating participation of the public and when social issues raised by communities are addressed. We know that this might sound a bit new to you but we would like to start exploring these promising connections with you. If you feel that your research can contribute to further exploring how citizen social science and complex systems science can cope with social issues with citizens’ active participation, don’t hesitate to submit a 12+3 minutes presentation to this Satellite Workshop.

Possible related topics:

  1. Crowd-sourced science
  2. Citizen-generated data
  3. Social phenomena
  4. Behavioural sciences
  5. Social impact of research
  6. Human mobility
  7. Social inequities
  8. Participatory research…

The deadline for abstract submission is November 8th, 11:59 pm (CET). The authors of accepted abstracts will be notified via Email by 13th November 2020.

If you have any concerns, please contact us through this email:


The Citizen Social Science Satellite forms part of the Conference on Complex Systems that the Complex Systems Society organizes every year. This year the entire conference will be held online from 4-11 December 2020 and in particular the Citizen Social Science Satellite will be held on 9th of December.

The registration for the entire CCS conference or for a single (satellite) day can be done via the conference website of the CCS conference:

The deadline for the registration is November 16, 2020.


Elisa Omodei

Network scientist by training is currently working at WFP’s Research, Monitoring and Assessment Division in the mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) project that uses mobile technology to remotely monitor household food security and nutrition, and food market-related trends in real-time, providing high-frequency, gender-disaggregated and operationally relevant data that supports humanitarian decision-making. The project also includes an automated two-way communication system to give people access to real-time information for free. Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping unit at the UN World Food Programme.

Anxo Sánchez

PhD in Theoretical Physics (with distinction) from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, 1991. Fulbright postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA, 1993 – 1994. Currently, full professor of Applied Mathematics at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, and founder of the research group GISC in (1996). Associated researcher of the Institute for Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems (BIFI), Universidad de Zaragoza. His research deals mostly with the applications of the physics of complex systems to social and biological sciences; he has contributed to the advancement of different fields, from economics to condensed matter physics through ecology and theoretical computer science. He has been the PI of some 20 projects, receiving funding from the European Commission, the Spanish government, the Madrid Regional Government, NATO, ESF, and the BBVA Foundation.

Jacob Sherson

Jacob Sherson holds a joint professorship at the departments of Physics, Management and Cognitive Science at Aarhus University. He is the Founder and Director of the Center for Hybrid Intelligence and the game-based citizen science platform ScienceAtHome with more than 300,000 contributors. In his interdisciplinary Center both human and algorithmic problem solving is investigated through the lense of machine optimization, psychology, cognitive science and behavioral economics. Apart from natural and social science games, he is also investigating large-scale game-based assessment of both basic cognitive skills and 21st century skills like creativity.


Time (CET) Speaker, Title
13:00-13:10 Introduction
13:10-13:40 Elisa Omodei, Monitoring and fighting food insecurity with mobile technology, two-way communication systems and predictive analytics.

Simone Lackner/Joana Gonçalves-Sá, A little knowledge is a dangerous thing: excess confidence explains negative attitudes towards science.

Ferran Larroya, Data and main statistical features for pedestrian mobility through a citizen science project.

Carlos Cañas, Applying citizen science principles to assess perceived walkability in Malta.

14:30-15:00 Virtual coffee break
15:00-15:10 Introduction
15:10-15:40 Anxo Sánchez, Challenges of citizen science: lack of engagement in data sharing.
15:40-15:55 Juan Romero, eMagazine Community Platform: connecting citizen science with scientific community through a bidirectional communication channel.
16:00-16:30 Jacob Sherson, ScienceAtHome: a gamified eco-system for massive investigations of human problem solving and interactions.
16:30-17:00 Discussion round + Workshop


PLENARY SPEAKER: Monitoring and fighting food insecurity with mobile technology, two-way communication systems and predictive analytics. Elisa Omodei, 13:10 CET
As the international community has committed to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 (SDG 2), 690 million people are still undernourished. WFP uses mobile technology to remotely monitor household food security and nutrition, collecting thousands of data on a daily basis through live calls conducted across up to 40 countries. For areas where near real-time data is not available, the prevalence of people with insufficient food consumption is estimated with a predictive model. These data-driven insights enable WFP staff, global decision makers and the broader humanitarian community to quickly identify changes in the food security situation and make more informed and timely decisions. Moreover, WFP is using some of its data collection tools to establish two-way communication mechanisms – to both listen in and deliver critical information about food security to people everywhere, so that people in remote and vulnerable communities obtain information that matters to them for free and on demand.

A little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing: Excess Confidence Explains Negative Attitudes Towards Science. Simone Lackner/Joana Gonçalves-Sá, 13:40 CET
Since scientific research is mostly driven by public funds and its translation impacts societies, how the lay public sees science and scientists have been subjects of pertinent interest. However an interesting paradox can be observed: the rise in science communication and outreach efforts seems to correlate with the rise of openly anti-science groups, leading to fears of a “post- truth” society. We propose a new testable and theoretical model, to understand how knowledge and confidence play a role in determining public attitudes towards science and discuss how this can inform science communication. We used The Science and Technology Eurobarometer surveys, from 1998 to 2005, in 34 European countries, comprising 84000 individual interviews, that contains a set of variables gauging, attitudes and knowledge about science. We created a new variable, an indirect measure of confidence and found that public attitudes towards science vary both with knowledge and confidence, in a nonlinear way. As confidence in one’s knowledge grows faster than knowledge itself (Dunning-Kruger effect), the least positive attitudes are observed in an average knowledge but high confidence group. This corresponds to the majority of the population, across countries, years, education levels and age, and has implications for science communication and policy. Interesting and consistent differences are observed between genders and in different countries.

Data and main statistical features for pedestrian mobility through a citizen science project. Ferran Larroya, 13:55 CET
We study the GPS data from 260 students’ pedestrian journeys to reach their schools. Pedestrian mobility patterns around up to 10 different schools of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area are analyzed. The work is part of Bee-Path, an interdisciplinary citizen science project that has introduced citizen science participatory practice as part of education and learning activities in schools. A data representation through maps already provides valuable insights on urban structure. Diffusion of the pedestrians’ movement is also characterized, showing a super-diffusive regime, almost ballistic. Pedestrian velocities are described with a log-Normal Distribution and the logarithmic Ornstein-Uhlenbeck process appears to be a good candidate for modelling. Stops duration statistics can be described on a weighted double exponential law. The movement orientation is also obtained, giving information about the direction of the movement flow towards schools. Finally, we calculate the turning angle memory, often used to model random walks and animal movement. A family of symmetric distributions on the circle is used to describe it, obtaining practically a Wrapped Cauchy distribution. By treating schools separately, the fit parameters can reveal information on how oriented and straightforward the movement is, hinting at possible difficulties of access to schools due to urban structure. Being a follow up from previous studies, the results confirm the potential of citizen science practices to reach new data to build better mobility models.

Applying Citizen Science Principles to Assess Perceived Walkability in Malta. Carlos Cañas, 14:10 CET
Decades of multidisciplinary research are consistently showing positive impacts in public health, the environment and urban liveability when places are more walkable and people decide to walk more. As a result, many efforts have focused on studying the walkable environment –or walkability of a place–, which could potentially enable and encourage more walking. There is a growing body of literature suggesting that walkability studies cannot be abstracted from its social setting and should be assessed through the citizens who experience it. This is based on the premise that pedestrian needs, perceptions and feelings should play an integral part in studying, planning and designing public space. Unsurprisingly, new pedestrian-centred walkability assessments based on subjective experiences are emerging, but they require new ways of observing, analysing and interpreting the walkable environment. This study proposes an innovative pedestrian-centred walkability assessment, in which pedestrians simultaneously collect georeferenced subjective and objective observations on the walkable environment as part of their daily routine. In order to overcome some resources constrains, the technological infrastructure required for data collection and communication is based on existing social media and messaging platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp). Accordingly, participants collect and share certain locations, coupled with text and images. The combination of this information converge to create a subjective assessment of the walkable environment supported by objective data that add more precision, reliability and further insights to the study. On the one hand, a conceptual operationalisation of the perceived walkable environment based on four concepts –safety, comfort, pleasantness and vibrancy– allows pedestrians to systematically rate perceived walkability in a structured way. Thus, participants can use predefined keywords to rate their experiences through the following dichotomous variables: #Safe or #Unsafe, #Comfortable or #Uncomfortable, #Pleasant or #Unpleasant, and #Vibrant or #Dull. On the other hand, participants can include objective observations identifying any component of the walkable environment that influence their experience. This can be done by attaching images or including text about certain elements, such as #Traffic, #Trees, #NoPavement, #NoBenches, and so on. The resulting data are then processed and analysed, resulting in two main research outcomes. Firstly, a perceived walkability index is used to assess the degree and spatial variation of pedestrian experiences. Then, the linked objective observations helps us to identify the most relevant elements that influence – positively or negatively – such experiences. This research applies a series of principles of citizen science where volunteer participants significantly contribute and benefit from the project. Since engaging and maintaining participants’ contribution is a prerequisite for the research, as it relies on pedestrian’s observations, it includes a series of practices to encourage participation. Furthermore, the study includes specific measures to ensure reliable and accurate data. The suitability and effectiveness of this innovative approach will be gauged by a data quality assessment and further considerations on the results of an ongoing case study and its scientific outputs. To conclude, this study aims at showcasing the almost unexplored potential of citizen science applied to walkability research. Where the combination of local knowledge and experience from the citizens, and the specific research skills from academia, will be used to influence and assist policy and practices towards a more pedestrian friendly environment, with all the benefits that this entails.

PLENARY SPEAKER: Challenges of citizen science: lack of engagement in data sharing. Anxo Sánchez, 15:10 CET
This talk is intended to be more of a discussion kick-off than a presentation of finalized research. I will first describe two studies, one on social relationships on schools, and another one on computational psychiatry, where we have shown that having good quality data allows to extract meaningful conclusions for (and sometimes, with) the involved people. Then I will describe how we tried to scale up these projects into a study within my university and found very difficult to involve students, to the point that we could not carry out the study. This in turn led to the cancellation of a program for mental health and student well being in the university. In closing, the reasons for this lack of engagement as well as a few other examples of similar problems will be discussed, as well as some ideas as to how to overcome this situation and engage the relevant actors.

eMagazine Community Platform: connecting Citizen Science with Scientific Community through a Bidirectional Communication Channel. Manuel Gértrudix, Juan Romero, Begoña Rivas y Alejandro Carbonell, 15:40 CET
The European Union’s Horizon 2020 funded CS Track project (grant agreement No 872522) aims to create a Community Platform that facilitates a bidirectional communication channel to allow community members to share their interests and questions about the most interesting issues around Citizen Science. To achieve that, an eMagazine Community Platform has been created. It seeks to be a space for information exchange that allows connecting and involving different actors (policymakers, academics and practitioners, among others) interested in the analysis of Citizen Science. Its content will be open and free through website. The eMagazine Community Platform includes different ways of accessing information. Through a single communication channel, it provides three different formats where users can get information from: graphic articles, reports and a newsletter. First, graphic articles provide synthetical graphic information that allows Citizen Science community to get direct answers to specific questions. Second, reports publish analytical results procured by CS Track project researches, of Citizen Science Community interest. In addition, they include a commentary system that is useful for users to interact with each other and CS Track researches, create dialog and ask questions about the issues related to published content. And last, users have a third option, the newsletter, that keeps subscribers updated on news, events for general Citizen Science issues, and on reports and articles that come from the project analyses, for specific Citizen Science questions. The content production process is very complex because there are so many actors involved (researchers, multimedia content creators and editors). Two key instruments have been created to expedite the workflow: the report Work-Card and graphic article Work-Card. In summary, the eMagazine Community Platform offers relevant information of an analytical nature about the platforms, projects and initiatives of Citizen Science, as well as recommendations, reports and other resources that highlight the value that Citizen Science has and how it can be supported to improve its results and make strategic decisions to boost their development.

PLENARY SPEAKER: ScienceAtHome: a gamified eco-system for massive investigations of human problem solving and interactions. Jacob Sherson, 16:00 CET
In this talk, I will first briefly introduce our work to provide an understanding of the potential of involving AI in citizen science by viewing the entire field ranging from computer games like FoldIt to pattern matching tasks on Zooniverse and real world tasks like iNaturalist through a lense of hybrid intelligence: optimized human-computer interactions.I will then discuss our use of gamified citizen social science as a social science supercollider bringing traditional social science studies out of the lab and into the wild, with the potential to scale up the scale of participants, the duration of participation, and the complexity/realism of the interactions.I will briefly introduce our portfolio of human problem solving games across a range of complexity and abstraction levels including concrete natural science research challenges played by several hundred thousand volunteers as well as a suite of behavioral economics games to study basic human interactions at scale.To systematically unravel the cognitive underpinnings of both individual and collective search and social interactions in general we have developed a validated suite of cognitive profiling games, Skill Lab, so far played by +15k volunteers. The generated cognitive profiles can then be compared to behavior across the remaining ScienceAtHome game suite. In addition, by incorporating research questions from a wide range of researcher directly in the Skill Lab game, we have realized a novel form of gamified registry-based research of societal factors. First results demonstrated novel findings in fields of decision making and entrepreneurship.In an effort to move participants beyond the stage of mere sources of or providers of data, we are currently developing scalable digital tools for involvement in a broader range activities in the scientific cycle. For instance, in the Citizen Science Notebook participants can collectively generate and test hypotheses and build complex scientific argumentations by sharing and citing data and observations.In a collaboration with the Smithsonian Science Education Center we are currently developing initiatives around a number of the UN SGDs incorporating i) a behavioral economics game to emphasize the generic aspects of the underlying social dilemmas associated with a particular problem ii) concrete simulations to facilitate understanding of concrete local mechanisms and iii) the development of concrete community actions plans.


As organizers of this conference satellite, we appreciate your ideas, concerns, and questions. Please address them to the email address of the OpenSystems Group, Universitat de Barcelona:

Josep Perelló, Ferran Larroya, and Franziska Peter