A three-year European Commission project to fund five citizen science projects, including one run by the NIHR Oxford BRC to research metabolism, has got under way.
The €2.2m STEP CHANGE project is funding citizen science projects seven European countries and one in Africa.
Funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and coordinated by the University of Primorska, in Slovenia, STEP CHANGE (Science Transformation in EuroPe through Citizens involvement in HeAlth, coNservation and enerGy rEsearch) will develop five Citizen Science Initiatives in the areas of Energy, Environment, Health and Infectious Diseases.
STEP CHANGE aims to ensure that research institutes make the most of the potential that citizen science has to offer, whilst also identifying, analysing, and limiting the associated risks. The objective of the project, whose Consortium comprises 11 partners from seven European countries and Uganda, is to make science more socially robust, inclusive and democratic, as well as formulating recommendations and tools to cement this citizen science approach in research institutions.
The Oxford BRC has received more than €270,000 as part of the initiative. The BRC and the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM) will carry out research into the role of steroid hormones in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), obesity and type 2 diabetes.
It is the first study undertaken with a citizen science approach in the domain of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism in general and NAFLD in particular.
The Oxford researchers include the BRC’s Chief Operating Officer, Dr Vasiliki Kiparoglou, BRC researcher Dr Syed Ghulam Sarwar Shah, and the BRC’s Theme Lead for Diabetes and Metabolism, Prof Jeremy Tomlinson.
Dr Kiparoglou said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project. As a BRC we have been very keen not only to ensure that our research responds to the needs of society, but also to expand the involvement of the public in our research, so that they can help us to better identify priorities and improve our methodologies.
“The translational metabolic endocrinology research project we have proposed is perfectly suited for this kind of citizen science initiative.”
The OCDEM researchers are looking at the role of steroid hormones and their metabolism in the development, assessment and treatment of metabolic diseases including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Prof Tomlinson explained: “We are aiming to use this citizen science approach to develop a better understanding of the diurnal variation, along with circadian rhythm, of hepatic lipid metabolism in overweight patients in different types of conditions, before and after a lifestyle intervention a weight loss programme.
“For the first time, we will be able to integrate data collected in this area with other qualitative information related to daily life, wellbeing and lifestyles of the participants, allowing us to compare biomedical measurements with the patients’ daily experiences.”
The information gathered in this project will be incorporated into a wider research programme on “Metabolism and Steroid Hormone Biology” and will contribute to the development of new screening tools and novel interventions with the ultimate aim of improving patient care.
As well as the Oxford project, STEP CHANGE will explore the benefits of citizen science in tackling issues such as wildlife conservation in Slovenia, energy communities in Germany, infectious disease outbreak preparedness in Italy, and off-grid renewable energy in agriculture in Uganda.