Service design for scientific outreach

What if the public could take part in conducting scientific research?

Abisko contains two human worlds that have little contact with each other. The only thing that they have in common, is the natural world that provides the basis for the existence of each. One is the scientific community housed at the Climate Impact Research Centre (CIRC), the other one is a growing hiking community. Both are composed of visitors from around the world.


Our brief was to create a service that facilitates interaction between the scientific community and the tourists visiting the Abisko National Park, in Northern Sweden.

Knowledge produced in public academic institutions seldom trickles down to regular people, like you and me, even though this is stated as a part of the task the institution is committed to.

Collaboration: Climate Impact Research Centre and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat

Team members: Emily Keller, James McIntyre, Marcel Penz

Skills: Service design, ethnographic research methods, workshop facilitation, interface design


The solution


Citizen Science for hikers in Abisko


HikeLab is a service that establishes a symbiotic relationship between scientists and hikers. Hikers become Citizen Scientists by helping scientists gather data at places that would otherwise be difficult and costly to access. This is done through an engaging trek of their choice within the park.

There are three levels of difficulty in data gathering, from low to high, which  the hiker can choose from.

Hikers then pick a hiking route that suits their interests and experience, and collect the data at points dotted along the trail.

In return for gathering data, the scientists provide digestible information about the data collected back to the hikers both during and after the trek via an app and an online platform.

Service system diagram


Catering for different user types

Three levels of engagement

Level 1.f.jpg

1. Low - passive monitoring

Data collection is done with a small portable sensor that tracks air quality, humidity, temperature and pressure.

The hiker also receives a map for the trail, and a booklet with information about the research carried out in the national park.


2. Intermediate - photo monitoring

The hiker takes photos of the landscape at pre-specified locations at designated camera platforms. The photos can be taken either with an analog camera or a smartphone.*

The hiker will also get the kit containing a sensor, map, and an info booklet.
* See description of app below.

3. High - advanced data collection

Hikers carry out activities typical to research workers. Route-specific sampling and monitoring tools are provided by CIRC.

Activities range from taking water samples to measurements that need a higher level of equipment usage knowledge. Hikers will receive training for these activities.


The App

Instant feedback along the hike

After each data submission point the hiker receives information about the sample that has been collected.


The website

The hiker's trail map

Hikers use the website to plan a hike that suits both their hiking experience level and interest in scientific research activities.


A trail creation tool for scientists

Scientists from around the world can suggest new trails in Abisko along with the needed environmental variables to be tracked.
The platform is also used to access data collected by hikers and to communicate back to them about their findings.



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1. Research methods

  • Foundational desktop research

  • User and stakeholder interviews onsite and off-site

  • User studies

  • Stakeholder workshops

  • User surveys


2. Ideation, prototyping and concept development methods

  • Experience prototypes with one-shot videos

  • Communicating user insights by empathy exercises

  • Sinco-lab experience prototyping for ideation purposes

  • Outdoor and indoor low-fi experience prototypes