Parallel Session 8

Parallel Session 8 – Providing Platforms of Interaction with Society

Moderator: Dominic Tate, Edinburgh University Library, United Kingdom
Location: Tassos Papadopoulos – Room 202 (2nd Floor)

8.1) Connecting Cities and Universities: Libraries’ role in Citizen Science Pilots of Urban Sustainability

Presenters: Sebastian Harnacker, TU Wien Library, Austria and Phoebus Panigyrakis, TU Delft Library, The Netherlands

Libraries’ role as community hubs positions them as important nodes of urban transformation, citizens’ activity and – focussing on research libraries in particular – as nodes of open science and open innovation. Aiming to commend these prospects of libraries as urban institutions, Citizen Science (CS) is employed as a mode of research for the participation of citizens in science projects, and in particular projects of urban sustainability that contribute both to a deeper understanding as well as a better future for the development of the natural, built and social environment of cities. Based on work conducted through the OPUSH (Open Urban Sustainabilty Hubs) project, this proposal will argue for the potential of libraries as: a) starting points for the information, communication, and engagement of citizens in CS pilots due to their inter- and transdisciplinary networks, communication channels and expertise; and b) facilitators for raising awareness on matters of urban sustainability and the encouragement of citizens in co-creating pilots that deal with their surroundings.

Building upon the unique position of research libraries as a universities’ main contact point to the higher education community as well as to the neighbourhood OPUSH CS activities demonstrate universities’ third mission and their endeavors for a democratization of research and knowledge production. Especially in the field of urban innovation, research libraries have yet to unfold their full potential as a third place. The opening up to the non-academic public by sharing infrastructures as well as knowledge and offering training for citizens can incubate processes of urban commoning and social justice.

In addition to the focus on activating the dormant potentials we see in research libraries’ abilities to foster societal engagement for urban sustainability, this proposal will give a demonstration of two case studies of Citizen Science methodologies on urban sustainability pilots. The CS pilot “Urban Heat Stories” carried out by the TU Wien library together with the future.lab Research Center at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning investigates on the interdependency of urban heat islands and socio-spatial parameters in Vienna. Citizens as co-researchers share their experiences with urban heat and their expertise about their neighborhood. The data collected by Citizen Scientists provides a valuable source focusing on the social dimension of urban heat. The findings are then integrated in current urban development projects conducted by the city administration. The CS pilot “Energy Transition” instigated by TU Delft Library’s Open Science group deals with energy surveying of monument houses of Delft and brings together researchers of TU Delft’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment with a volunteer group of energy-coaches from Delft, as well as residents of monument houses.

These pilots were developed in collaboration with research libraries in the framework of the OPUSH project which was presented at LIBER 2023 in Budapest. In summary our presentation highlights the potentials of societal engagement of research libraries by enabling CS activities through the opening of infrastructures and knowledge production to communities and thereby kick-starting processes of urban innovation for a better future.

8.2) Activating collaboration between researchers and society: the VERA platform

Presenter: Caroline Delmazo, OPERAS, Portugal

VERA – Virtual Ecosystem for Research Activation ( is an online platform to co-create participatory research projects within the Social Sciences and Humanities. VERA is a powerful but easy-to-use collaboration platform between researchers and society, where VERA users shape and carry out citizen science projects. The adaptable interface supports projects with different kinds of goals, purposes, topics and requirements. Users can easily find other stakeholders to be involved in their projects: therefore, a matching service allows the discovery of other persons and potential collaborators. Thanks to VERA it is easy to get in contact with societal actors to work on collaborative research projects.

Citizen science in the Social Sciences and Humanities involves intensive collaborations in small-scale projects. When developing citizen science and participatory research practices, they face specific challenges at different levels and lack the needed support. In VERA you can:

Create your profile and establish new collaborations;

Connect with other professionals (researchers, journalists, activists, community association members, NGO staff, etc.) who are addressing the same societal issues that concern you to create your project team;

Set up and manage your project with the communication and organisational tools that your project needs for successful implementation;

Search for and stay updated on funding opportunities for your citizen science projects;

Share your project on ( and GoTriple ( platforms to gain further visibility.

The actual design and development of VERA was a collaborative process itself. The platform was co-designed involving the Social Sciences and Humanities citizen science community since the very beginning. Furthermore, VERA is interoperable by design; it is currently integrated with EU-Citizen.Science, GoTRIPLE and Fundit platforms to support projects’ visibility, identification of potential collaborators and funders.

Built in the framework of the EU-funded project COESO

(, it is now a service integrated in the OPERAS Research Infrastructure ( OPERAS aims to make Open Science a reality for research and achieve a scholarly communication system where knowledge produced in the Social Sciences and Humanities benefits researchers, academics, students and, more generally, the whole society across Europe and worldwide, without barriers.

Through this presentation, participants will have the opportunity to see the main features of the VERA platform and understand its potential and impact by bringing together professional researchers and non-professional researchers/citizens.

8.3) Implementing BESPOC For Citizen Science Central Services in the Baltic Region

Presenters: Tiberius Ignat, SKS Knowledge Services, Germany and Liisi Lembinen, University of Tartu, Estonia

The LibOCS project (EU ERASMUS+) is a pioneering initiative designed to fortify the relationship between libraries, universities, and society through the implementation of the BESPOC model at five Baltic universities. This model is an innovative platform, nurturing interaction and enabling a cohesive framework for citizen science. Our presentation unveils the nuanced experiences and best practices gleaned from creating a central support service for citizen science projects, drawing from the diverse case studies of the participating universities: Tartu University (Estonia), TalTech (Estonia), Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania), Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania), and the University of Latvia.

The BESPOC model stands out for its originality, offering a novel approach to citizen science by encapsulating nine strategic modules. These modules collectively enhance the operational and strategic integration of citizen science activities within academic libraries, thereby positioning them as central actors in the knowledge exchange between academia and the public. The emphasis on libraries spotlights their potential as trusted knowledge hubs and champions their role in community engagement and educational outreach.

Our presentation outlines the specific requirements, challenges, and opportunities encountered by research libraries in the Baltic region when deploying the BESPOC model. Each university’s journey—characterized by unique institutional culture and societal context—offers insights into the adaptable nature of BESPOC. We share the approaches adopted by these five Baltic universities for policy development, project management, and community building, as well as the practical solutions to challenges such as legal compliance, safety, and specific communication.

Furthermore, the presentation showcases the impact of BESPOC on the libraries’ roles within their universities, including their increased capacity to contribute more significantly to citizen science and open science. This paper reflects on the progress made in citizen science at the five Baltic research libraries and ignites a conversation about the future of these collaborations.

The LibOCS project, through the BESPOC model, represents a considerable advancement in the practical application of Citizen Science in Europe, offering a scalable template for other research libraries. The project’s relevance is underscored by its potential to produce systemic change, promoting the proactive adoption of citizen science. The experiences from the Baltic universities serve as persuasive case studies, underscoring the critical importance and advantages of robust citizen science support services within academic libraries.

In addition to the BESPOC implementation process, we will also introduce other LibOCS findings: Drivers and Barriers of Civic Engagement in Open Science and The Role of University Libraries in The Baltics, The Transformative Role Of University Libraries And Other Memory Institutions For Citizen Science And Open Science In The Baltics, and an Open Access Collection of Resources On Citizen Science For Libraries.

Our proposal is designed to captivate the audience’s interest, engage stakeholders, and inspire other institutions. The implications of our work extend far beyond the immediate academic setting, promising a far-reaching impact on how research libraries can serve as facilitators of science-society engagement, especially in our difficult times of disinformation, manipulation, and anti-democratic discourse.

53rd LIBER Annual Conference