Citizen Science Projects: share your data management experience, today!

Posted by s.hettrick on 17 August 2015 - 10:11am

This is a reminder to help the Citizen Science community by sharing your experiences on data management practices!

Citizens' contributions to scientific processes, i.e. Citizen Science initiatives, are blossoming all over geographic scales and disciplines. A Citizen Science and Smart City Summit , organised by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) in 2014, identified the management of citizen-collected data as a major barrier to the re-usability and integration of these contributions across borders. The JRC is now following up on these findings with a survey designed to capture the state of play with regard to data management practices on the local, national and continental scales.

Anyone involved in Citizen Science projects are being asked to take the survey to provide the JRC and Citizen Science practitioners around the globe with invaluable information and insight into Citizen Science projects and best practices.

Scope and background

With this activity, we want to help improve the understanding of current data management practices, and use this as a basis for discussion with Citizen Science communities world-wide. Beyond the aims of pure stocktaking and awareness raising, this survey should also establish a baseline for prioritising subsequent actions and for measuring progress.

The questions are inspired by data management principles as they are currently discussed in the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) and the Belmond Forum, a forum for national scientific funding agencies to collaborate in addressing the challenges and opportunities of global environmental change. Although originating from Earth and environmental communities, also projects of other domains, such as the social sciences, are kindly invited to reply to our call for participation.

After discussions with members of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) and the international Citizen Science Association (CSA), it was decided to open the scope of the survey to the international community, so that non-EU and globally acting organisations could also benefit from the results.

Midway findings

So far, the survey already received more than 70 replies to the survey itself, including contributions from 14 Member States of the European Union, Australia, the United States of America, Canada, Switzerland, Montenegro and India. Almost 60 replies represent the environmental domain (here, mainly biodiversity, water and air quality, land cover and land use, and noise), and we would be happy to receive more inputs from these communities, but also complementary information from other domains.

The decision to extend the scope of the survey to the global level was already much appreciated by the many inputs from the international Citizen Science scene, including also the recently established Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA).

We found that data management in Citizen Science projects is indeed a hot topic – currently widely discussed across countries and continents. Subsequent to cataloguing activities and search functionality for a large set of projects, efforts are now underway to share project metadata between services such as SciStarter.com, CitizenScience.org and Citsci.org in the US and similar attempts in Europe and Australia (see also here). These plans also include the integration of the Citizen Science related project metadata of European Union (EU) funded research projects from the CORDIS database.

In addition, the JRC currently experiments with a data repository that might be used to not only archive and curate descriptions about past and recent projects, but could also serve a storage, discovery and access facility for project results, i.e. primarily Citizen Science data. Such a facility might complement well established research archives, as for example the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) in the biodiversity domain, in order to also make available the long tail of Citizen Science. With our experiments we particular focus on the results of EU-funded projects with short term funding, that per se did not include any plan for providing the results beyond the project’s life time.

Intermediary conclusions

Our survey is only a stepping stone in this overall context. Although project metadata is already widely discussed, and services such as Citsci.org provide a sort of technical infrastructure to share common methodologies and tools for supporting Citizen Science projects, the world-wide Citizen Science activities are only known to be scattered and highly diverse. The replies to our questioner should help to get a better picture about the current practices and to identify potential areas where actions are required. It might, for example, reveal if the communities might benefit from best practices in terms of sharing agreements and licensing, assess the communities’ needs in terms of data management planning and supporting services, as well as identifying potential common directions for future developments. This initial surveying activity will be used to fuel related discussions and might be followed up with more detailed exploitations of particular aspects if considered appropriate by the effected communities.

The current survey will be open until 31 August 2015, and the outcomes of the subsequent analysis will be available by the end of September. The results will be shared publicly and dissemination will include the same channels as this call for contributions.

Take the survey today!

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