Use of Data from Citizen Observatories to Complement GEOSS Repositories – Experiences from EU Funded Projects
A Blog post by Ioana Popescu (WDS Scientific Committee Member)
Citizen science is getting more and more attention worldwide; in particular, there is a growing interest in involving citizens in data collection due to its capability to complement the acquisition of data classically accomplished through existing complex instrumentation networks. Scientists have experimented with multiple forms of citizen science projects, which have been successfully implemented in many fields. The value of using citizen contributions has been proven—or at least explored—in almost all scientific domains, and its potential is currently also being investigated in the processes of decision- and policy-making.
There are many definitions of citizen science. The definition most often used is that of Buytaert et al. (2014): The participation of the general public (i.e. non-scientists) in the generation of new knowledge. In this blog post, I focus on citizen science from the perspective of data collected by citizens and the use of these data, but there is also much research looking into how to involve citizens, and consequently, how they are participating in the collection of data. Taking the latter viewpoint, there is now lots of terminology that can be found in the literature; for example, citizen observatory (CO), citizen sensing, trained volunteers, crowdsourcing, community-based monitoring, volunteered geographic information, eyewitnesses, and so on.
As mentioned in the title, I would like to spend the remainder of this blog post briefly introducing four Horizon 2020 funded projects that have used innovative technologies for collecting data with the help of citizen scientists. The projects ran from the second half of 2016 until mid-2019, and were clustered under WeObserve, which examines the challenges faced by COs in terms of awareness, acceptability, and sustainability. They shared the specific goal that their final (analyzed and processed) data products would not only complement existing data elements within the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), but also become new GEOSS contributions.
SCENT (Smart Toolbox for Engaging Citizens into a People-Centric Observation Web)
Citizens were engaged in environmental monitoring of land-cover/use changes using their smartphones and tablets, enabling them to become the ‘eyes’ of the policymakers. In particular, the project looked at two pilots—the urban case of the Kifisos river in Attica, Greece and the rural case of the Danube Delta in Romania—where the citizen-collected data were used to assess flood models and flooding patterns. You can read more about this project here.
LANDSENSE (Connecting citizens with satellite imagery to transform environmental decision making)
The focus of this project was on the potential of Earth observations taken by citizen scientists to augment and improve the way we see, map, and understand the world. Three main areas of application were selected as demonstrators: urban landscape dynamics, agricultural land use, and forest and habitat modelling. Read more about LANDSENSE here.
Data collection cycle for citizen science campaigns in water management. The study focus is highlighted in yellow. (Taken from IEEE article: Citizens’ Campaigns for Environmental Water Monitoring: Lessons From Field Experiments.)
Groundtruth2.0 (How to impact decision making with citizen observatories)
The interaction was investigated between people and technology when it comes to setting up a successful system for land and natural resources management. The project combined the social dimensions of COs and enabling technologies so that the implementation of each observatory was tailored to its envisaged societal and economic impacts with a specific emphasis on flora and fauna, as well as water availability and quality. Find out more about the project here.
GROW (Grow Observatory)
In this project, citizen scientists collected information on land, soil, and water resources to answer a long-standing challenge for space science; namely, the validation of soil moisture detection from satellites. Read more here.
Buytaert, W., et al: Citizen science in hydrology and water resources: opportunities for knowledge generation, ecosystem service management, and sustainable development, Front. Earth Sci., 2, 26, doi: 10.3389/feart.2014.00026, 2014.