Abstract: Crowd-sourced environmental observations are increasingly being considered as having the potential to enhance the spatial and temporal resolution of current data streams from terrestrial and areal sensors. The rapid diffusion of ICTs during the past decades has facilitated the process of data collection and sharing by the general public and has resulted in the formation of various online environmental citizen observatory networks. Online amateur weather networks are a particular example of such ICT-mediated observatories that are rooted in one of the oldest and most widely practiced citizen science activities, namely amateur weather observation. The objective of this paper is to introduce a conceptual framework that enables a systematic review of the features and functioning of these expanding networks. This is done by considering distinct dimensions, namely the geographic scope and types of participants, the network’s establishment mechanism, revenue stream(s), existing communication paradigm, efforts required by data sharers, support offered by platform providers, and issues such as data accessibility, availability and quality. An in-depth understanding of these dimensions helps to analyze various dynamics such as interactions between different stakeholders, motivations to run the networks, and their sustainability. This framework is then utilized to perform a critical review of six existing online amateur weather networks based on publicly available data. The main findings of this analysis suggest that: (1) there are several key stakeholders such as emergency services and local authorities that are not (yet) engaged in these networks; (2) the revenue stream(s) of online amateur weather networks is one of the least discussed but arguably most important dimensions that is crucial for the sustainability of these networks; and (3) all of the networks included in this study have one or more explicit modes of bi-directional communication, however, this is limited to feedback mechanisms that are mainly designed to educate the data sharers.

Source: Towards benchmarking citizen observatories: Features and functioning of online amateur weather networks