This project builds on Bioversity's existing work on applying new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and insights from citizen science projects developed in other domains, especially ecology and environmental science, to participatory agricultural research. Citizen science involves (large-scale) public participation in scientific research and has shown success in providing important scientific insights and facilitating citizen education and awareness (Cooper, 2015). In this area, Bioversity's work has led to the development of the triadic comparison of technologies (tricot) approach (van Etten et al., ms), which has been applied mainly to crop variety selection. In this approach, a large number of farmers individually evaluate a different combination of three crop varieties. Feedback on these varieties is pooled and the results are shared back with farmers on paper and through group discussions. The tricot approach precludes free-riding (cf. Misiko 2013), and requires less on-site supervision from trained professionals throughout the process, which contributes to the cost-effectiveness and scalability of the approach. The tricot approach is used by a growing number of organizations across three continents (see below), supported by a continually improved online digital platform, ClimMob.net. However, two important limitations are becoming evident. Firstly, the tricot approach is insufficiently participatory in its expression: identifying needs and setting targets, developing ideas for new technologies, selecting which technologies to evaluate, and which questions to ask in evaluation. Citizen science is lacking established, scalable methods for engaging citizens in the targeting of projects in a way that (a) accurately represents diverse citizen needs and views, including needs beyond the financial aspects of their livelihoods, (b) is procedurally legitimate from a political perspective, addressing social inclusion and gender equity issues, and (c) achieves perceived legitimacy, trust, and buy-in by citizens.
A second main challenge of citizen science is motivating participation. In response, as games are systems purpose-built for engagement, citizen science researchers and practitioners have been increasingly taking to engagement design and gamification -- infusing their platforms with game design elements -- to make them more engaging (Deterding, 2015; Seaborn & Fels, 2015). In the tricot approach, participation depends on farmers' motivation to stay engaged in the process and even take up more responsibility, including recruiting others, data entry, data quality control, and interpretation of results in the local context. Field research is needed on the motivational drivers and hurdles of participants and differences in motivation between groups differentiated by gender, age and other social and economic factors, and to establish what design strategies might best address these factors in this context.
Insights from addressing these knowledge gaps can be directly used in ongoing work with the tricot approach in the McKnight-supported CCRP, as well as work by Bioversity partners who are using the tricot approach, such as ICAR (India), CATIE (Central America). Also, insights emerging from this research can benefit important related initiatives such as PlantVillage, an interactive digital platform, and PhotosynQ a photometric sensor linked to an open data platform. Bioversity is in conversation with both these initiatives about collaboration.