Personal statement of thanks for the Premi Ciutat de Barcelona 2017 in ciències de la terra i ambientals

John Palmer

15 February 2018

I am honored to receive this award from the City of Barcelona. The recognition from a government body that citizen scientists can help solve the problem of mosquito-borne disease is important and I thank the Barcelona Institute of Culture and the members of the jury for their work and their decision. I am especially happy to see this recognition from the city that I have come to love as my adopted home. The efforts of tens of thousands of Mosquito Alert volunteers have vastly improved our ability to understand and manage disease vector mosquitoes in Barcelona and throughout the region. I hope it will soon be possible to harness this energy around the world to stop the spread of diseases that burden hundreds of millions of people and drive poverty.

I thank, above all, my family. The work I have put into this project has been shared by my wife, Mireia Artigot, and our children, Emma and Albert, who have made it possible for me to devote time to it, and who have entered the world of mosquitoes and citizen science along with me, giving me ideas, enthusiasm and love. This work has been shared also by my parents-in-law, Maria Golobardes and Manel Artigot, who have made me feel at home in Barcelona and dedicated endless time to caring for our children. And it has been shared by my parents, Penny and David Palmer, who spent much their lives helping me be a citizen scientist myself.

I also thank the entire Mosquito Alert team and all of my co-authors on this paper, Frederic Bartumeus, Aitana Oltra, Joan Garriga, Roger Eritja, Anna Ramón, Marina Torres, Jaume Piera, Miquel Àngel Rodríguez, Agustí Escobar, Santi Escartin, Sarah Delacour, Simone Mariani, Pedro María Alarcón-Elbal, Mikel Bengoa, Rosario Melero-Alcíba, Maria Ángeles Puig, Ignacio Ruiz, Francisco Collantes, Juan Antonio Delgado, and Javier Lucientes, as well as Mendel Wong, Scott Edmunds and our other collaborators in Hong Kong, Tomas Montalvo and our other partners in Barcelona’s Public Health Agency, and the 42,896 citizen scientists who have anonymously contributed time to the project. This has been and will continue to be a massive group effort. I am grateful to the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie program for supporting me with a fellowship during the past two years, and to the Obra Social “la Caixa” for funding Mosquito Alert.

Although I am convinced citizen science can play an important role in solving many of the world’s problems, I am under no illusions that it will be sufficient on its own. Citizen science is not a substitute for government commitment and action on environmental protection, public health, and social inequality, or government funding for research. It cannot, on its own, solve the massive environmental challenges we face, the retreat by states from human rights and refugee protection, or the alarming slip towards authoritarianism and fascism in states around the world – including those with which I am most connected: the United States and Spain. What is needed in the face of these problems is not only citizen science but citizen engagement more broadly. We need people to stand up to governments and demand that their rights and the rights of others be respected – and we need governments to listen and respond with dialog instead of threats and violence. In that regard, I absolutely reject the Trump administration’s assault on world peace and nuclear disarmament, the environment, human rights, and democracy – and on truth and reason themselves. I also find it unacceptable that while I am receiving this award, elected members of the Catalan government and civil society leaders are being held in detention and that they and others are being threatened and prosecuted with draconian charges simply for standing up for basic rights through non-violent conduct.

Citizen science may not be enough, but it is necessary and it gives me hope. I am incredibly grateful to the City of Barcelona for offering a place where it can flourish.