Citizen science relies on active participation in the research process. But many projects have had to be put on hold due to Covid-19 restrictions affecting the involvement of participants. SMOVE – “Science that makes me move”, a citizen science project engaging school pupils to research the relationship between environmental influences and sedentary behaviour, has been rethinking its approach in light of constraints.
Led by a research team from the ORION partner Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), the initial plan was to engage 300 pupils from schools in Berlin and Brandenburg in the research up to the summer break in 2020. The objective of SMOVE is to involve pupils in the design of the study and with their help assess their physical activity and sedentary behaviour as well as identify associated factors (behavioural, socio-economic, environmental and others). Researchers visit the participating schools three times during the field phase of the study. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data collection was only completed in two school classes in February before schools in Germany were closed.
Despite having to put the field work on hold, the project is now underway again with the reopening of schools in the autumn term albeit with strict hygiene measures in place. In order to obtain scientifically valuable results, the study concept has subsequently been adapted to meet current logistical limitations as well as in terms of content (i.e. questionnaires have been adapted to fit the current school, family and domestic situation and to identify any changes due to the pandemic).
“With the updated questionnaires, we are now able to capture in-class schooling as well as homeschooling and can specifically determine whether certain potential influence factors of sedentary behaviour have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” says Katharina Nimptsch, Co-Project leader of SMOVE
Despite added complications, schools and teachers have continuously expressed a high level of interest in participating in SMOVE, with 10 schools committed to participate in the study, encompassing a total of 21 school classes. School visits from researchers restarted in mid-September 2020 and will now run until June 2021, in order to meet the target of 300 pupils.
SMOVE is one of two pilot citizen science projects that are being supported by the ORION Open Science project to inform future health research and models for citizen science initiatives relating to life science topics.