Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Before the experiment
- 1. What is the INCREASE Citizen Science Experiment ?
The INCREASE Citizen Science Experiment is an innovative approach to seed conservation, evaluation, multiplication and sharing. It invites anyone who wants to support science and who owns a smartphone and a field, garden, terrace or balcony, as well as the required enthusiasm to grow and evaluate different bean varieties. As part of the Citizen Science Experiment, each participant will receive seeds of diverse old common bean varieties to grow and take care of while documenting their development through uploading photos and scoring traits in the dedicated INCREASE CSA app. This enables the INCREASE team to evaluate the characteristics of these old varieties and eventually enhance agrobiodiversity in Europe. More information: https://www.pulsesincrease.eu/experiment.
- 2. How do I register for the Citizen Science Experiment as new participant?
- Go to your App store (Google Play or Apple App Store) and search for “INCREASE CSA”.
- Download the INCREASE CSA App on your smartphone.
- Create an account by entering a login email address and a password.
- Open the menu by clicking on the three dashes in the upper left corner.
- Click on the submenu for the CSE registration.
- Enter the requested details and submit your registration.
- 3. Can I only participate in the experiment by using the INCREASE CSA app?
The INCREASE CSA app, CSA standing for “Citizen Science App”, is the central tool of the Citizen Science Experiment. Citizens can register for the experiment and collect data during their bean cultivation exclusively via the app. Using the app is the only way to participate in the Citizen Science Experiment. More information: https://www.pulsesincrease.eu/experiment/app.
- 4. What material do I need to participate in the Citizen Science Experiment?
To start the experiment, you just need a smartphone on which you can install the INCREASE CSA app and a place to grow the beans, which can be a field, garden, terrace or even a balcony. Once your registration is approved and you have accepted the SMTA, you will receive the most important material needed to carry out the experiment from us: seeds of six bean varieties and two colour checkers. When sowing your beans, you will need to prepare labels to be able to identify the plants later on, but you should be able to easily find material for this in your home (labelling tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLPFN1socR8). In addition, you will need common gardening material, such as soil, pots, water, poles as plant support etc. Then you are ready to go!
- 5. What is the SMTA and why is it needed?
SMTA stands for Standard Material Transfer Agreement. Every citizen has to sign the SMTA in order to receive seeds in compliance with the international "Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture". The Treaty has established a so called “Multilateral System of Access and Benefit Sharing” facilitating access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture while ensuring benefit sharing with the communities/countries from which these plant genetic resources originate. The SMTA furthermore allows us to keep track of which bean varieties are being conserved by whom, creating a decentralised conservation system. The SMTA itself is a standard contract between the Provider and the Recipient of the seeds; it is available in the six official UN languages on the Treaty website (https://www.fao.org/plant-treaty/areas-of-work/the-multilateral-system/smta). The INCREASE CSA app adds your contact information and the names and codes of the bean varieties that we selected for you (or that you selected during the seed exchange) and generates a SMTA. In the context of the Citizen Science Experiment, signing the SMTA is totally free of charge. A fee would only be required, in case you should intend to commercially market any bean seeds originating from those seeds received as part of the experiment. More information on the SMTA: https://www.pulsesincrease.eu/experiment/smta
- 6. Is it free of charge to participate in the Citizen Science Experiment?
Participation in the INCREASE Citizen Science Experiment is completely free of charge. Only in case you were to commercially market any bean seeds originating from the experiment, you would be required to pay a fee according to the SMTA (see Art. 6.10 of the SMTA).
- 7. Do the bean seeds used in the experiment contain genetically modified organisms (GMO)?
None of the bean seeds used in the experiment contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). The bean seeds used for the CSE are old bean varieties that were stored in so called gene banks. Gene banks are institutions specialised in the collection, conservation and utilisation of the genetic material of certain plant species.
- 8. How do I know if I need to update the INCREASE CSA app and how do I make the update?
If you allow automatic updates in your phone settings, the latest version of the app should be downloaded automatically. But as not everybody allows automatic updates, you can always check for a newer version by going to your app store and search for "INCREASE CSA". If you find the icon "update", you can download the update by clicking on this icon. If you only read “open”, you have already the latest version installed on your phone.
- 9. I cannot see the section “My CSE” – what should I do?
You will only see the "My CSE" area when you have been accepted to the current round of the experiment. You will then find the “My CSE” area in the main menu. To access the main menu, you need to click on the three grey dashes in the upper left corner on the app starting page.
- 10. I cannot see the SMTA in the App but I was accepted as a participant – what can I do?
Due to the high numbers of new participants, we cannot activate the SMTA for all accepted participants at the same time. When you are activated for the SMTA acceptance, you will receive an email from us via the email account “Increase.CSEfirstname.lastname@example.org” including all relevant information to successfully complete the SMTA step. Please also check your spam folder for an email from this account.
- 11. We would like to participate as a school class with a dedicated email account set-up for this purpose – is this possible?
It is possible to participate as a school class via one single email account. The app can be used on several devices at the same time. However, you must of course ensure to not enter data in the same data fields at the same time. Please also note that regardless of the number of persons using your school class CSE account, you will receive one single CSE set per registered account (i.e. 6 bean varieties, 2 colour checkers, etc.).
- 12. I would like to grow the beans in a different place than originally indicated (e.g. due to moving to another region or country) – is this possible?
The location where the experiment is being conducted, i.e. where the beans will be planted, can only be indicated or changed during the registration process for a new round of the experiment. After participants are accepted for the experiment, they have to confirm the post address to which the beans should be sent (which might differ from the location where the beans are being planted). It is currently not possible to change the location of the experiment after the registration phase ends. Only in the next round of the experiment, i.e. for the next sowing season, you will be able to indicate a new location for your experiment.
- 13. What else does INCREASE do apart from the Citizen Science Experiment?
The Citizen Science Experiment is embedded into the European research project INCREASE which involves 27 international partners with the important goal to valorise agrobiodiversity and promote food legumes consumption and cultivation in Europe. Focusing on the food legumes common bean, chickpea, lentil and lupin, the INCREASE project is implementing a new approach to conserve, manage and characterise genetic resources through participatory research. More information: https://www.pulsesincrease.eu/about.
During the experiment
- 14. For planning the experiment, I need to know whether my varieties are bush or climbing beans – how do I get this information?
For all the 1,075 bean varieties used in the Citizen Science Experiment, we have assembled a list that is available in different formats (HTML, Excel and PDF) on our website. You can find it here: https://www.pulsesincrease.eu/experiment/info-on-cse-bean-lines. The last column in the list contains the information on the supposed growth type: bush or climbing. In the HTML version you have a search field, where you can enter the code of your variety and easily find the information.
- 15. I registered for the experiment and received the seeds but I am now not able to conduct the experiment. Can I do it in the following year instead?
Personal reasons can hinder you to conduct the experiment as originally planned. We ask everyone to at least validate the seeds in the app, so we are sure the seeds have well arrived. Store the seeds in a dark, cool and dry place, e.g. in the fridge, in a closed box. If you wish to conduct the experiment in the next round, i.e. in the growing season following the one you registered for, please follow this procedure: Wait until the registration for the new round opens – this is usually in late autumn /early winter of each year – and then register as a participant from previous rounds (not as a new participant).
- 16. How can I change the email address used for my INCREASE CSA account?
Changing the email address used for the INCREASE CSA account is not possible. It is only possible to create a new account with a different email address. The previous registration for the Citizen Science Experiment will however still be connected to your old account. It is currently not possible to transfer an ongoing Citizen Science Experiment from one account to another.
- 17. I forgot my password for the INCREASE CSA app – what should I do?
If you forgot your password used for the INCREASE CSA account, you can easily restore it by using the password reset function of the app. You have to click on “forgot password” and provide the email associated to your INCREASE CSA account. Then a new password will be sent to you via email.
- 18. I forgot which email address I used for my INCREASE CSA account – what should I do?
If you forgot which email address you used for the INCREASE CSA account, we advise you to search in your emails for the registration confirmation email. The email should have "email@example.com" as the sender.
- 19. Can I use the app in offline mode in case I do not have internet access in my garden?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to use the app in offline mode. In case you do not have internet access in the place where you grow your beans, we recommend you to write down the relevant information offline, in a notebook or the notes section of your phone, and to take the required pictures with your camera (without the app). When taking the pictures, please make sure to hold the label visible in the picture so that you can later on distinguish the different varieties. Once you have access to internet, you can then record the relevant information and upload your pictures to the app.
- 20. What happens if the bean plants die and therefore do not produce further seeds?
Unforeseen events, such as extreme weather conditions, can easily destroy all plants. To prepare for this eventuality, we suggest to initially only sow a selection of the seeds you have received. Please also bear in mind that the seeds will not be sent to you every year. For the following years you should reproduce the seeds and use your own harvest for continuing the experiment. In case you are still running out of seeds or if you wish to grow other varieties than we initially assigned to you, we invite you to use the seed exchange function, which is now available in the INCREASE CSA app. This function enables you to request seeds of different varieties from other CSE participants.
- 21. Is it possible to harvest and eat the bean pods when they are still green?
All bean varieties can be harvested and eaten (after cooking them or simply boiling them in water) when they are fresh, green or pale yellow. However, not all the varieties included in the INCREASE CSE collection were specifically selected for consumption in green form (as so called green or snap beans). It is still healthy to cook and eat the green pods of these varieties, it might just not taste as great. However, no matter how you consume your beans, be it green or dry, please make sure to always cook or boil them before consumption, to eliminate the toxins that are naturally occuring in raw beans. And even if your beans taste delicious, please do not forget to keep a few seeds for your bean cultivation in the next year.
- 22. How can I get in touch with other participants to network or exchange experiences and tips?
INCREASE has a lively community. You can follow the project on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and you can connect with other citizens via the INCREASE CSE Facebook groups. More information and links to the groups: https://www.pulsesincrease.eu/experiment/connecting-with-other-participants.
After the experiment
- 24. Do I have to commit to participate during several rounds of the experiment?
Our vision is to set up a longer-term system where citizens are conserving plant genetic resources by growing and using them in their gardens/homes and document this conservation with the help of the INCREASE CSA app. We therefore hope that you can participate for several rounds/years, but we understand that this may not always be possible. There is no obligation to participate in the experiment for a set period of time. As a first-time participant you will receive seeds from us. Note that for your participation in the following years you will need to use your own seed harvest or exchange seeds with other citizens via the seed exchange function of the INCREASE CSA app.
- 25. I already participated during one year of the experiment. How can I continue with the experiment in the following years?
For every new round of the experiment, both new participants and participants from previous rounds need to register their participation in the INCREASE CSA app. You will be informed when the registration for the new round of the experiment opens, which is usually in late autumn/early winter. You then need to register as ‘participant from previous rounds’ via the app. Once this is completed, you can conduct the experiment with your old bean varieties. Alternatively, you can participate in the seed exchange with other citizens.
- 26. What is the procedure of seed exchange between participating citizens?
Starting with the second round of the Citizen Science Experiment in 2022, we have established a seed exchange function in the INCREASE CSA app to facilitate the exchange of seeds between citizens. This function enables citizens to exchange seeds using the internationally recognised SMTA contract. During the registration for a new round of the CSE, the participants that have already participated in previous rounds are asked whether they are able and willing to share seeds of their bean varieties with others. The CSE team will use this information to assemble at table of citizens and available bean varieties for seed exchange. Then, participants from previous rounds can request bean seeds from each other via the app. The app ensures that seeds can only be send when the citizen that asked for seed exchange has accepted the SMTA, because only after SMTA acceptance, the app allows the exchange of contact information between the two citizens. Please note that the costs for sending the seeds have to be covered by the exchanging citizens. Thus, if you want to save on postage, we recommend to select a citizen for seed exchange that lives in the same country.