The Human Side of Digitized Knowledge: Community Curation of the Ethno-ornithology World Archive

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Zoology

Abstract

The Ethno-ornithology World Archive (EWA) is an internet-based, public facing archive of global cultural knowledge relating to birds. EWA was initiated with financial support from an AHRC Digital Transformations in Community Research Co-Production grant with the aim of connecting 'local' communities with communities of conservation practitioners and social and biological researchers through a shared concern for the conservation of birds and cultural and linguistic diversity. To this end, the Project Partnership with BirdLife International is crucial to the design and establishment of EWA, not least because BirdLife's Local Empowerment Programme (LEP), based around 2,700 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and associated grassroots Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) in more than 100 countries, was identified as the core user community for EWA.

Despite the continuing importance of BirdLife International in the EWA Partnership, our work in developing EWA, especially through new contacts made through conferences of the Society of Ethnobiology (SoE) and International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) and linguists at SOAS etc. has convinced us of the need to engage with the many linguistically and culturally distinct communities that currently lie outside BirdLife's LEP (because they are not associated with an IBA), but whose engagement with EWA would be mutually beneficial. Through contacts made through the EWA project, these communities include Indigenous people across five continents. They also include urban groups in the UK and elsewhere who are often marginalised and disconnected from, and lack access to, nature. To enable the engagement with this extended community EWA needs to develop a trustworthy, robust, flexible, and responsive network of Curators worldwide. These Curators will be the key to maintaining EWA's ability to respond to diverse community needs and responsible archival strategies as this global user community grows. They will provide a knowledgeable human interface where required between EWA and their contributing communities. The proposed project aims, therefore, to develop a Curator Network for EWA to extend the reach of this archive resource to diverse communities and audiences not currently accessible through BirdLife's LEP.

EWA's scope is global, with potential outreach to all language groups; and while its value as a research tool is considerable, public and community engagement are essential to EWA's success because: a) it is an archive of publicly submitted (crowd-sourced) information that is being shared with, not donated to, a larger community through EWA; b) it aims to affirm and support local efforts in nature conservation; and c) crowd-funding will be important to maintain the archive in the long term. These concerns require the strongest ethical principles to be embodied within the modus operandi of EWA and its Curator Network to allow for varied terms of permission to submit information and to allow individuals or communities to restrict access to material that they deem to be secret or sensitive. Critically, EWA must be responsive to diverse cultural sensibilities and allow for differing degrees of community engagement consistent with individual and/or community wishes, recognising that ultimately it is their right to choose whether to share their knowledge with a wider audience.

The principal outcomes of the project will be 1) a seed network of at least 30 volunteer curators, trusted by their local communities, with expertise in global and/or local bird taxonomy, local languages, ethnobiology, local traditions and trained in the ethical use of EWA; 2) a document outlining curation management guidelines and strategy, available in several languages; 3) a digitized and translated library of Curator training materials, also multilingual; 4) an effective and scalable database for efficient Curator management; 5) research publications; and 6) the first Curator Workshop at an international conference.

Planned Impact

The Ethno-ornithology World Archive (EWA) was conceived as a 'living archive' with high public and social impact, whose entries would require moderation. It was originally conceived that moderation would be provided through regional partners and Local Conservation Groups of BirdLife International. Whilst effective in connection with Important Bird Areas (IBAs), work on EWA indicates the need for a more broadly based Curator Network so as to connect with audiences other than those directly involved with BirdLife's conservation programmes. As well as many indigenous communities working with ethnobiologists and linguists connected through the Society of Ethnobiology and International Society of Ethnobiology, these include urban groups who are often marginalised and disconnected from nature.

Curators will provide an informed human interface between their communities and EWA. In addition, therefore, to connecting new local communities (indigenous and otherwise) to EWA, and to each other through EWA, the social and cultural impact of the Curator Network will occur at several geopolitical levels although impacts interconnect across these levels:

Locally the recognition that local knowledge is valued globally also affirms the value of that knowledge locally. Such affirmation can be critical to the key socio-cultural impact of stemming the loss of cultural knowledge. Furthermore, through helping to realise more fully EWA's goals of inclusiveness, global reach, ethical practice, and responsible oversight, the Curator Network also presents and promotes these ethical principles within their curated communities.

Nationally, through providing a voice for local communities and through the implicit valuing of their knowledge by, potentially, a global community of users, the value of local knowledge is also affirmed for national institutions, including Governments, with democratising benefits for local communities. In affirming the value of local ethno-ornithological knowledge at a national level, potential is created especially for social and cultural impact within the education and conservation agencies of those countries by affirming the value of local discourses of knowledge and language.

Internationally, social impact is created by demonstrating a model for archive curation that is locally engaged and sympathetic to local needs. The affirmation of local knowledge within a global arena (the internet) will also have wide social impact by helping to normalise the valuing of more locally sympathetic approaches to conservation policy. At all levels, knowledge exchange and protection are promoted.

The impact of this for all who engage with EWA (public and private sectors, conservation and education practitioners, local individuals and communities) lies in its bringing, through a network of Curators with considerable diversity of linguistic, cultural and ornithological knowledge, an important element of human discernment to the process of determining what constitutes a 'valid' entry for EWA, since only Curators who are knowledgeable about their contributing communities are appropriate to deliver the creative, novel, and most importantly diverse, solutions to the issue of EWA entry moderation that best serve the needs of diverse local communities. This also benefits the conservation and research communities using EWA because the validity of data in such an archive is critically determined by the communities' perception of its trustworthiness, and so also their willingness to engage with it. Since conservation is a public good, and knowledge is held in EWA for the public good, these ends are themselves a public benefit.

Information on community perception of EWA will be collected formally during the project through Curator and User feedback. Means will be developed to assess the effectiveness of the Curator Network - essential to reviewing progress. The Curator Network will remain an essential element of EWA throughout its life.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description The practical relationship between the ethical framework for EWA, which was established under the first EWA grant, has been translated into procedures and protocols for use with a worldwide (in that Curators are now identified in every continent) Curator Community which has also been established under this grant. these protocols are ready for upload to the EWA site itself, but awaits further funding.
Exploitation Route The development of a curator network and curation protocols is foundational to global public engagement with EWA. The effectiveness of the protocols we have devised will require testing and are expected to continue to evolve through use over the coming years. There will be scope to publish an account of the principles and practice of community-based ethnobiology related to language documentation and conservation praxis, which should be of value to others involved in community engagement. But that time has not yet arrived.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
 
Description This is necessarily a brief account at this stage as the award has just finished, and so the impact is more potential than actual. However, we regard the appropriate answer to the question to be yes because a non-academic curator network has been established, and a number of talks have been given which are already changing perceptions in relation to the cultural background of natural history knowledge. This will be the basis for establishing principles for community engagement in conservation.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal
 
Description Private funding
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Musee Cantonal d'histoire Naturelle la Murithienne 
Sector Academic/University
Country Switzerland, Swiss Confederation
Start 10/2016 
 
Title Curation Process and Network 
Description A network of 30 Curators around the world has been established, and curation procedures developed through an ongoing dialogue in relation to the continuing IT development (not funded under the current grant) of EWA: the Ethno-ornithology World Archive. We believe that EWA's curation procedures might serve as a valuable model for other archives in due course. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Until EWA goes live we can only speculate. 
URL https://www.ewa.ox.ac.uk/demo/app/webroot/
 
Description Connected Communities project: Creating Living Knowledge 
Organisation University of Bristol
Department School for Policy Studies
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Interviewed for project entitled 'Creating Living Knowledge'
Collaborator Contribution A day spent contributing information on EWA, which contributed to the book 'Creating Living Knowledge' published in 2016 by AHRC by Keri Face and Bryony Enright published in 2016
Impact Contributions to the publication" https://connected-communities.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Creating-Living-Knowledge.Final_.pdf
Start Year 2016
 
Description EWA Curation Workshop 
Organisation BirdLife International
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution The EWA group hosted a three-day international workshop hosted at Mansfield College in Oxford in September 2016 with invited participants with experience relevant to the curation of EWA. Participants came from the UK and Europe, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, North America (both USA, Canada and Alaska), and collectively had experience of working with indigenous people in these as well as in Central and South America, North Africa and the Middle East, New Guinea and Australia This was an intensive meeting which shared and acquired much knowledge, which contributed to developing the policy and curation documents for EWA. In addition to the EWA Secretariat (all four of whom were present), the workshop included five members of the EWA Advisory Board and (including these) 15 EWA Curators or future Curators.
Collaborator Contribution EWA project staff (Dr Grabowska-Zhang and Ms Heidi Fletcher) planned and ran the workshop, presented EWA as currently developed and led discussions. Dr Fanshawe of BirdLife International and Dr Candide Simard of SOAS were both present and made very significant contributions.
Impact Documentation awaiting presentation on EWA website at https://www.ewa.ox.ac.uk/demo/app/webroot/pages/curators This awaits the next grant..
Start Year 2016
 
Description A research presentation by Dr Karen Park at SoE Conference 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A lecture at the Society of Ethnobiology Conference in Tucson Arizona, USA on bird names and metaphor. The paper has been written up and submitted for publication in the Journal of Ethnbiology with Dr Felice Wyndham and is currently in review.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://ethnobiology.org/conference/past-conferences
 
Description Discussion with participants - making contacts for EWA 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Ada Grabowska-Zhang publicised materials and information about EWA, recruited a number of Curators for EWA from around the world and discussed EWA with people - results of which have influenced the development of the Curation elements of EWA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://ethnobiology.org/conference/past-conferences
 
Description Lecture at the Society of Ethnobiology Conference 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A research lecture by Dr Andrew Gosler at an International Conference in Tucson Arizona presenting original research findings. The paper has subsequently been submitted for publication and is currently in review with the Journal of Ethnobiology - the leading intervational journal in this field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://ethnobiology.org/conference/past-conferences
 
Description Words from Birds 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the Linguamania Live Friday event at the Ashmolean Museum on 27 January (see programme available from url given here) Drs Andrew Gosler and Karen Park of the Ethno-ornithology World Archive (EWA) hosted a word game for members of the public (see Ashmolean Gallery 19 on Programme) entitled 'Words from Birds' in which some 40 words in various languages of which half had avian roots (e.g. hen-pecked, but all less obvious than this!) were presented and people had to say if they thought the words were avian in origin. Members of the public in this case included people in approximately an age range of 8-80, and from many parts of the world - for example European, Asian and Pacific Island words were known or guessed by people from those regions.People were also invited to write down words that they thought might hae avian origins, for us to investgae and report back on. The event was very well received.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ashmolean.org/livefriday/2017-01/