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

Excerpt: I’ve encountered citizen-scientist bankers who turned from climate change skeptics into sustainability advocates, neighbors who sent an industry manager to jail for polluting their air, a community that accepted the weighty responsibility of managing federally designated threatened sea turtles, and online gamers who became ambassadors for science. These amateurs absorb the scientific method, and along with it, a reliance on evidence. They make inquiry a habit. Citizen science stitches fact-appreciative people into the fabric of society.

Source: How tagging butterflies can help you tell what’s real and what’s fake

Excerpt: “Citizen science” is a term used to describe when members of the public collect—and even analyze— scientific data, often in collaboration with professional scientists. For example, a member of the public might collect samples of water from a stream close to his or her house, or take samples of soil from a nearby park. With its use of non-professional volunteers to help answer questions about the environment, citizen science employs engaged citizens interested in understanding their world.

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) president Scott Vaughan has even suggested that citizen science can help increase compliance with environmental regulations and standards, through such things as air quality apps on smartphones and other user-friendly technologies.

Source: Citizen Science: Gathering rivers of information for the knowledge pool

Matching the right tool with a compelling narrative. For David Lang, this was the ah-ha moment at OpenROV’s inception. “Tool plus narrative” provides an interesting lens to examine citizen science and, perhaps, a useful recipe for the development of new citizen science projects. A narrative is a way of embedding a research question within the larger context of why it matters.– AWA

Excerpt: In the past it was up to famous explorers such as Captain Cook or Christopher Columbus to go on discovery expeditions. When they returned from voyages they would share tales of the new lands they had found. There were huge barriers – high costs for one, and enormous safety risks – that separated explorers from non-explorers.

David Lang and his co-founder, Eric Stackpole, want to give amateurs from all over the world an easy and affordable way to discover the mysterious life under the sea. In 2012, they launched a robotics start-up called OpenROV that sells remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) which can be sent as deep as 100 metres under water.

Today, there are more than 3,000 ROV owners who use them to explore shipwrecks, find ancient Mayan pottery, spot elusive sea creatures and observe pollution from the comfort of their living rooms. The global community share their expeditions and follow ones they are interested in on an online platform called Open Explorer.

David Lang: “We’ve always emphasised the journey: it’s not important what you find. It’s important that you’re out looking. Eric and I made a promise to each other really early on that our goal would always be to maximise our return on adventure.”

Photo Credit: Video still, video by OpenROV

Source: OpenROV’s David Lang enables armchair Jacque Cousteaus, Rachel Botsman, Australian Financial Review

Abstract: Citizen science is a form of collaboration that engages non-professionals as contributors to scientific research, typically through the processes of gathering, transforming or analyzing data. To date, research has documented examples of hugely successful citizen science projects, such as Zooniverse and eBird, but citizen science also includes hundreds of smaller citizen science and functionally similar digital humanities projects, operating from small-scale web platforms and in-person collaborative teams. Yet, it is unclear what the “science” of citizen science entails: What are the core research questions and methodologies for answering them? What theories and concepts have been associated with citizen science research to date? What are the technology needs for supporting successful research collaboration among diverse stakeholders and across distinctive types of citizen science projects? In this workshop, our goal is to (i) bring together researchers studying citizen science to form a coherent map summarizing the theories, methodologies and platforms that currently defines citizen science research, with a special focus on CHI and CSCW relevant topics (ii) brainstorm a list of fundamental open questions and ways to tackle them, and (iii) form a multidisciplinary community to build synergies for further collaboration.

Source: The Science of Citizen Science

A year ago, University of Alabama professor Sarah Parcak won a $1 million TED Prize for her work in “space archaeology” — using satellite imagery beamed down from space to search for archaeological sites lost through time. Today, Parcak launches GlobalXplorer, a citizen science platform that encourages people around the world to identify and preserve our collective heritage. That means you can now spend your coffee break saving the world’s ancient treasures while leveling up to “space archaeologist” status yourself!

When Parcak won the TED prize in late 2015, she noted her commitment to engaging the public in finding and protecting sites, in particular to help prevent further looting and destruction of our collective world heritage. With GlobalXplorer, she has delivered on this promise.

Source: Space Archaeologist Funds Citizen Science Platform With $1M TED Prize

The tsunami had receded just days before. The cores of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Japan’s central east coast were molten wrecks. The deadly radiation once bottled inside their concrete containment domes — well, nobody knew exactly where it went.
So a group of citizens decided to find out.
The years-long nationwide act of citizen science that followed armed Japan’s citizenry with information never before publicly available, and forced the country’s government and institutions to adapt to a political reality unthinkable just a few years earlier. Their story is one of three examples of the diffusion of scientific research explored in “Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement,” a new book by Carnegie Mellon University’s James Wynn.

Wynn’s book explores how this practice is changing the arguments that steer public policy by raising awareness about risk. If risk data are no longer the sole province of scientific institutions and governments, if the information is gathered and held by the public, that “changes the way people can argue,” said Wynn, associate professor of English and rhetoric in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Source: Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement | EurekAlert! Science News

This article is a must-read for anyone thinking about “going mobile” with citizen science projects. The meticulous work shows that while the use of a smart-phone app may draw more engagement, it can lead to “casual quality data”. Another example of the usual tradeoff in citizen science – data quality against engagement.  -LFF

Abstract: Technology-supported citizen science has created huge volumes of data with increasing potential to facilitate scientific progress, however, verifying data quality is still a substantial hurdle due to the limitations of existing data quality mechanisms. In this study, we adopted a mixed methods approach to investigate community-based data validation practices and the characteristics of records of wildlife species observations that affected the outcomes of collaborative data quality management in an online community where people record what they see in the nature. The findings describe the processes that both relied upon and added to information provenance through information stewardship behaviors, which led to improved reliability and informativity. The likelihood of community-based validation interactions were predicted by several factors, including the types of organisms observed and whether the data were submitted from a mobile device. We conclude with implications for technology design, citizen science practices, and research.

Image: Figure 2 from the article

Source: Community-based Data Validation Practices in Citizen Science

Abstract: The development of the geospatial web (GeoWeb) over the past decade opened up opportunities for collaborative mapping and large scale data collection at unprecedented scales. Projects such as OpenStreetMap, which engage hundreds of thousands of volunteers in different aspects of mapping physical and human-made objects, to eBird, which records millions of bird observations from across the globe. While these collaborative mapping efforts are impressive in their scale and reach, there is another type of mapping which is localised, frequently carried out over a limited period of time, and aims at solving a specific issue that the people who are living in the locality are facing. These needs are addressed in participatory mapping, which nowadays includes citizen science elements in data collection and management. The paper describes the background and design of a novel infrastructure for participatory mapping and science – GeoKey. The paper provides a differentiation between collaborative and participatory mapping, describes the state of the art and several usecases of community mapping, and the architecture of GeoKey, focussing both on the approaches to data capture and subsequent potential to share the data in an open manner where possible. It also describes the design elements that support learning and creativity in these projects.

Source: GeoKey – Open infrastructure for community mapping and science

Abstract: This article summarizes the Citizen Cyberlab (CCL) Summit, which took place at University of Geneva on 17-18th September 2015, and introduces the special issue on “Learning and Creativity in Citizen Science”. As the final event of a 3-year EU FP7 CCL project, the Summit sought to disseminate project results and reflect on the issue of citizen science (CS) as a participatory environment where opportunities for self-development and various types of creativity can arise. A number of interesting themes emerged at the intersection of the work presented by project collaborators and external partners, including the different types of creativity that are evident in CS, the role of the community as the main medium for innovation and participant learning to occur, and the common challenges concerning the design, initiation and management of CS projects.

The current issue presents work done during the CCL project, as well as external project contributions, for which the main focus is on learning and creativity in CS. The set of articles addresses diverse aspects of the topic, ranging from empirical research on the phenomena themselves, to tools, platforms and frameworks developed specifically for citizen cyberscience (CCS) with creativity and learning in mind, and distinct CS cases where these phenomena manifest in previously undescribed and unexpected ways. We hope that the issue will be useful to researchers and practitioners who aim to study, evaluate or design for learning and creativity in a range of CCS projects.

Source: Creativity and Learning in Citizen Cyberscience—Lessons from the Citizen Science Cyberlab Summit