CSI-COP Recruitment in Hungary
The Hungarian partner in the CSI-COP consortium, the Association of Hungarian Women in Science (NaTE) was established in 2008 to support girls and women in research and technology and it has since become Hungary’s leading NGO representing the issue of gender equality in science. NaTE wishes to:
- Encourage young girls to choose the education and the career that is the most suitable for their talent;
- Promote equal opportunities in STEM and ICT;
- Contribute to the building of a diverse, balanced research community.
In line with these aims, the main tasks of NaTE in the CSI-COP project were originally to lead the development of the guidelines for gender-balanced recruitment and selection of citizen scientists, as well as the systematic recording of the gender, age, socio-economic and geographical distribution of them. However, as work carried out in the CSI-COP project was progressing, we found ourselves more and more involved in the practical recruitment activities of the consortium, as well. We took on some extra tasks related to the recruitment work. These included the translation of CSI-COP’s ‘Your Right to Privacy Online’ massive open online course (MOOC) and website frequently asked questions (FAQs) into Hungarian; the preparation of the Hungarian version of the five CSI-COP Newsletters published to March 2022, and the organisation of a workshop for learners interested in online privacy and data protection.
We have been striving to find effective ways to encourage members of the general public in Hungary to participate in the project, despite the lack of a solid organisational background that larger units have and the challenges posed by external circumstances. The most serious of these are the coronavirus situation and the war across Hungary’s north-eastern border.
The coronavirus pandemic hit our country hard. In terms of the total number of COVID-related deaths per million people, Hungary has been among the top 10 countries in the world (source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/). Like other European countries, we had restrictions for a long time. The vast majority of them were lifted shortly before the date of our ‘Your Right to Privacy Online’ workshop, but since infection rates remained high, quite a few potential learners were not willing to attend an indoor event in person. However, their interest in the topic of online privacy is shown by the fact that many of them participated in the event online.
The restrictions were still in place when the war broke out in Ukraine in late February 2022. More than half a million refugees have arrived into Hungary since then, and this crisis has led to an unprecedented mobilisation and cooperation of civilians to receive and accommodate refugees. In addition to material donations, many Hungarians are also devoting their time to help those fleeing Ukraine (e.g., by offering free car rides, interpreting, playing with children, etc.). The plight of refugees has become the top priority among civic helpers: everyone who is able and willing to volunteer is rallying behind the cause.
NaTE has a national network consisting of scientists, teachers, research managers, decision makers and young girls attending high school, who are not only interested in STEM fields, but are also actively involved in promoting them as NaTE’s “ambassadors”. These stakeholders are normally quite enthusiastic about the Association’s programs and events. However, due to the above circumstances, adults have been quite unwilling to take the MOOC or attend our workshop, citing computer fatigue and the lack of time as the main reasons. On the other hand, some of the high school girls have shown an eager interest in online data protection, but unfortunately they are unable to participate in the project because they are under 18. In their case we have to limit ourselves to encourage them to raise awareness among their older siblings and parents, and visit the CSI-COP website, to pass on some information and to offer some readings to them – in short, to participate in project communication.
Despite all these difficulties, we managed to identify the following approaches that prove helpful in our recruitment efforts.
Creativity. We try to find new target audiences, such as foreign students living in Hungary, as well as new ways to reach them. I contacted an associate professor, Dr. Lilla Vicsek at my alma mater. The Corvinus University of Budapest is Hungary’s most eminent educational institution in the fields of economics, management and social sciences. Ms. Vicsek’s main field of research covers the social aspects of technologies. She has been teaching the MA course ‘Approaches to Technology and Society’ at the Department of Sociology and Social Policy in English for three years. Seeing the potential in the CSI-COP project, she has incorporated its topic into her course, mobilising her students and encouraging them to become MOOC learners and even citizen scientists.
The students who take this course usually come from all over the world. The vast majority of the 13 students doing the course in the spring semester 2022 were from Asian countries (South-Korea, Thailand, India, Soviet Successor States, etc.). Not all of them are familiar with the concept of citizen science and the European efforts in this area, so I gave them a 20-minute lecture briefly explaining citizen science and the importance of online data protection and talking about CSI-COP’s objectives. I also provided step-by-step information on how to complete CSI-COP’s MOOC and become a citizen scientist.
Direct contact. In our experience a direct approach to recruitment works better than vague descriptions and impersonal information sharing. The more personal and direct our emails and phone calls are, the more likely that they manage to arouse the recipients’ interest, e.g. the invitations to our workshop sent out by managing director Fanni Szigeti were casual and informally worded, but still very informative to specifically target potential learners.
Flexibility. In our recruitment efforts we try to take individual circumstances and preferences into consideration. This is why we chose to hold a blended workshop, giving participants the opportunity to decide whether they prefer to attend in person or online. Although NaTE had a registration page for the event, we welcomed attendees who had not registered, as well, knowing that in these unpredictable times some might decide to attend only at the last minute. This approach paid off because the actual number of attendees was higher than the number of registrations.
Hungarian text version available to download by selecting this link.
For more information about the situation on Ukraine refugees in Hungary, please select the links below to be directed to web articles:
Edited by Dr. Huma Shah: Director of Science (Co-Investigator, CSI-COP).