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Citizen science technologies and new opportunities for participation

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Highlights • New technologies supporting data collection, data processing and visualisation, and the communication of ideas and results create a wide range of opportunities for participation in citizen science. • Technologies are especially beneficial for opening additional channels for public involvement in research, allowing participants to contribute through a range of activities and engaging newer audiences. • There is a range of existing resources to help project co-ordinators develop and maintain citizen science technologies. • It is important to consider issues such as participant demographics, affordability and access, and fitness for purpose when selecting technologies
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UCL Press
Chapter Title: Citizen science technologies and new opportunities for participation
Chapter Author(s): Suvodeep Mazumdar, Luigi Ceccaroni, Jaume Piera, Franz Hölker, Arne
J. Berre, Robert Arlinghaus and Anne Bowser
Book Title: Citizen Science
Book Subtitle: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy
Book Editor(s): Susanne Hecker, Muki Haklay, Anne Bowser, Zen Makuch, Johannes Vogel,
Aletta Bonn
Published by: UCL Press. (2018)
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv550cf2.28
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Citizen
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Part IV
Innovation in technology and
environmental monitoring
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303
21
Citizen science technologies and
new opportunities for participation
Suvodeep Mazumdar1, Luigi Ceccaroni2, Jaume Piera3,
Franz Hölker4, Arne J. Berre5, Robert Arlinghaus4 and Anne Bowser6
1 Sheeld Hallam University, UK
2 Earthwatch, UK
3 Institut de Ciències del Mar, Barcelona, Spain
4 Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Germany
5 SINTEF, Norway
6 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, US
corresponding author email: s . mazumdar@shu . ac . uk
In: Hecker, S., Haklay, M., Bowser, A., Makuch, Z., Vogel, J. & Bonn, A. 2018. Citizen Science:
Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. UCL Press, London. https://doi.org/10.14324
/111.9781787352339
Highlights
New technologies supporting data collection, data processing and
visualisation, and the communication of ideas and results create a
wide range of opportunities for participation in citizen science.
Technologies are especially beneficial for opening additional chan-
nels for public involvement in research, allowing participants to con-
tribute through a range of activities and engaging newer audiences.
There is a range of existing resources to help project co-ordinators
develop and maintain citizen science technologies.
It is important to consider issues such as participant demographics,
aordability and access, and fitness for purpose when selecting
technologies.
Introduction
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, there was a paradigm shift
with the institutionalisation of scientific activities through the establish-
ment of research institutions and a growing emphasis on rigour, processes
and protocols (see also Mahr etal. in this volume). Members of the
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public remained contributors to scientific research throughout this pro-
cess, albeit in selected areas of study including astronomy, archaeology,
ecology and the natural sciences. During this time, researchers primarily
involved citizen science volunteers in data collection initiatives, with obser-
vations interpreted and analysed by professional scientists (e.g., the Audu-
bon Christmas Bird Count). Such data collection generally followed a
paper-based approach, with volunteers either systematically recording
observations or individually sending evidence such as photographs or
specimens to professional scientists, along with key metadata such as
observation time and location (Miller-Rushing, Primack & Bonney 2012).
The recent proliferation of Information and Communication Tech-
nologies (ICT) such as mobile technology, the rise of Web 2.0 (e.g., mov-
ing beyond static web pages towards user-generated content and social
media) and the ubiquity of high-speed internet has resulted in a further
paradigm shift, this time in citizen science (Silvertown 2009). The rising
interest in, and popularisation of, science and technology, as well as the
push by governments and institutions for Science, Technology, Engineer-
ing and Math (STEM) education, have further created an excellent envi-
ronment for individuals and communities to participate in scientific
research (see Haklay in this volume). Participation itself now takes numer-
ous forms extending far beyond data collection, such that the very con-
ceptualisation of a citizen science project can now be initiated by
individuals and their communities rather than scientists (see Ballard etal.;
Novak etal., both in this volume).
This chapter discusses the new tools and technologies that have
influenced citizen science and, as a result, revolutionised how citizens and
communities can participate and engage in research. The following sec-
tion presents a high-level overview of the various tools and technologies
used in citizen science as well as resources to allow projects to develop
similar tools and technologies. This is followed by a discussion of how key
technological developments have created and expanded opportunities for
citizen participation. The chapter concludes with key policy implications,
as well as a brief discussion of how the future of citizen science may be
shaped by, and benefit from, emerging technologies and online services.
Overview of citizen science technologies
New technologies facilitate scientific research by supporting the collabo-
rative collection of data and dissemination of information in real-time
(Mooney, Corcoran & Ciepluch 2013). These platforms also support social
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interactions and organisation between public participants and scientific
researchers, and among public participants and their communities. As
such, citizen participation in democracy is now transitioning from one-
way broadcasts to two-way dialogues, empowering more people to express
their voices and drive change. This is also true in the context of scientific
research.
Citizen science participation in data collection can be explicit (when
citizens collect the data themselves) or implicit (when contributors share
geolocated photographs, videos or messages on social media). Explicit data
collection can now be carried out through a wide range of new instruments,
devices, tools (including do-it-yourself, or DIY, technologies) and mobile
apps that can be easily built, bought or borrowed by citizens, communities
and enthusiasts. However, the use of ICT does not always guarantee high
data quality and participant engagement.
On the contrary, adopting suboptimal ICT can hurt projects through
hidden costs including poor usability and lack of appropriate functionality
(Wiggins 2013). Dierent mechanisms for data collection should usually
be considered, based on user preferences, demographics and constraints
(see box 21.1). For example, participants less familiar with technologies
like mobile apps may prefer to provide data via more traditional forms
such as pen-and-paper-based data sheets. Facilitating participation
through a range of channels can help avoid age-dependent bias, as well as
biases that may exclude low resource communities.
Researchers have identified several technologies that are promis-
ing for the field of citizen science, including wireless sensor networks,
online gaming (Magnussen 2017) and, perhaps most importantly, the
development and adoption of smartphones and mobile applications
(Newman etal. 2012). Technology development has steered the direc-
tion of citizen science and oered new mechanisms for engaging volun-
teers. While some projects build their own tools and technologies, there
are a number of resources to help projects recruit and communicate with
volunteers, collect, share, store and manage data, and enhance participa-
tion (table21.1).
Project websites
Most citizen science projects have a presence on the web to (1) provide
information, (2) recruit and (3) manage volunteers, and (4) allow citizens
to contribute to research by collecting or analysing data. Initiatives like Pro-
ject BudBurst (Johnson 2016), where volunteers provide information
on plant phenology cycles, employ websites with information and basic
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Table21.1 Dierent types of technologies and supporting resources used
in citizen science
Supporting resources Purpose
General purpose technologies
Project websites Development frameworks. Make it easier for users to
build websites.
Project
catalogues
Existing catalogues and
directories of citizen
science projects.
Allow users to list projects
and/or conduct research.
Web 2.0 and
social media
Most social media
platforms use application
programming interfaces
(APIs) to make it easier to
create posts and access
data. Third-party tools like
TweetDeck and Hootsuite
allow posts on multiple
accounts/platforms.
Help users collect data
from, or through, social
media sites and
communicate with
volunteers.
Technologies to support data collection and analysis
Mobile websites
and apps
Tools to support responsive
design and hybrid apps.
Make it easier for projects
to develop websites that
are accessible on mobile
devices or tablets.
Smartwatches
and wearables
Development kits. Help users automatically
collect data as they go
about their everyday
activities.
DIY sensors and
the Internet of
Things (IoT)
DIY sensor kits. Help users build sensors
for large-scale, ongoing
data collection.
Drones Drone kits. Help users collect data
in dicult to reach
environments.
Data analysis
tools
Platforms that process,
visualise and export data.
Help users answer
research questions by
analysing data and
detecting trends.
Mapping
technologies
Mapping platforms. Allow projects to publish
data on maps and
integrate various data
layers to support analysis.
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forms for data collection. Test My Brain, for example, provides more vis-
ual approaches to data analysis, such as by allowing volunteers to sift
through images to perform tasks such as counting craters or matching or
classifying images. The websites of virtual citizen science projects like
EyeWire (Kim etal. 2014) also employ real-time communication such as
chat systems or forums to help participants and create a more supportive
community.
While websites broadly facilitate participation for users, the increas-
ing availability of development frameworks support and empower project
leaders. Development frameworks help project owners create websites
and other tools to support citizen science projects without the need to
write complex software from scratch. At the most basic level, WordPress,
Django, Wix and Weebly are examples of frameworks that provide means
for interacting with participants through features like content manage-
ment, authoring (a content authoring feature is used to create multime-
dia content typically for delivery on the World Wide Web), authentication,
blogging and basic input via forms. Such frameworks also support respon-
sive design to deliver content appropriate for display on mobiles, desktops
and tablets. For more advanced users, frameworks such as PhoneGap and
Ionic help developers write websites in HTML and JavaScript, which can
be easily packaged as mobile applications. Ushahidi, Inc. and Open Data
Kit (ODK) provide a way to easily develop customised surveys and set up
websites and mobile applications that can be distributed to crowdsource
information. These frameworks also allow project owners to aggregate,
visualise and analyse the data collected.
Table21.1 (continued)
Supporting resources Purpose
Improving the citizen science experience
Virtual reality
and augmented
reality
Virtual reality headsets. Create an immersive
experience to augment or
replace real world
environments.
Open data and
supporting
resources
Data standards; data
storage and management
platforms.
Collect, store, and manage
open and interoperable
data in a publicly accessi-
ble repository, enabling
access and use beyond the
lifetime of a particular
project.
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Development frameworks simplify the web development process.
However, it is important to ensure that project websites are appropriately
designed for their target users. Although customising templates supported
by web hosting platforms is an apparently inexpensive solution, it often
comes with hidden costs such as poor usability and awkward workflows
(Wiggins 2013). Newman and colleagues (2010) explored the various
factors that should be considered when developing websites for citizen
science that are particularly relevant to websites that involve interactive
maps.
Project catalogues
Websites like SciStarter, The Federal Catalogue of Crowdsourcing and
Citizen Science, iNaturalist, Natusfera, Citsci . org and Zooniverse serve
as project catalogues, or online directories that benefit citizen science
by helping participants find projects to contribute to and collecting infor-
mation for researchers to analyse. Many of these platforms also support
participation directly. For example, iNaturalist and Natusfera allow citi-
zen science volunteers to find biodiversity monitoring projects and
directly upload biodiversity data. Some platforms, like Citsci . org, allow
participants to create their own citizen science projects to initiate data
collection and analysis via websites and/or mobile applications. Other
platforms, most notably Zooniverse, provide cyberinfrastructure sup-
porting data analysis via tasks such as classification, annotation and
tagging (in a variety of fields such as arts, biology, literature and plane-
tary science). Unlike development frameworks, which were designed
for use in any context, these project catalogues are designed specifically
to support citizen science.
Web 2.0 and social media
Web 2.0 and social media oer new means for citizens to express them-
selves and connect with others via open and free platforms. Citizen sci-
ence has benefitted from social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook
and Instagram that help project co-ordinators recruit and communicate
with participants. In addition, data generated from online platforms such
as Twitter can be automatically processed and analysed to provide citizen-
generated data on critical events and emergencies (Gao, Barbier & Goolsby
2011; Shaw, Surry & Green 2015). The very nature of social media has
also paved the way for global communities to self-organise, develop and
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become more sustainable, helping promote grassroots or bottom-up citi-
zen science activities (see also Hecker etal. in this volume).
Mobile websites and apps
Technological developments in smartphones are revolutionising citizen
science: Web-based data capture, analysis and presentation tools and apps
are in common use, and a wide range of next-generation environmental
sensors to be coupled to smartphones are under development. From online
recording and real-time mapping to digital photography, there are tools
for most tasks (Tweddle etal. 2012). In terms of actually making the
record, many field recorders still use pencil and notebook or record cards
(although increasingly relying on GPS handsets for geolocation) and this
may be the most ecient method for capturing data in the field for many
experts. However, communications technology has facilitated the ability
to make records, especially incidental records, through smartphone apps.
Currently, there are apps linking directly to iRecord (for ecient data
flow) for recording ladybirds, butterflies, orthopterans, mammals and
invasive non-native species. These provide the ability to take a photograph
(or potentially, for species such as orthopterans to make a sound record-
ing), capture location via GPS and store the record for later upload to
iRecord. These apps are an ideal tool for widening participation, especially
when observing species that are relatively large or immobile, conspicuous
and easy to identify. Records still need to be verified for them to become
scientifically useful though, and one important advantage of interoper-
able data systems is that there is the potential to bring together records
from many dierent websites and smartphone apps to facilitate ecient
verification (Pocock etal. 2015).
A collection of recommendations specific for citizen science that
provides support and advice for planning, design and data management
of mobile apps and platforms that will assist learning from best practice
and successful implementations can be found in Sturm etal. (2017). Smart-
phones support many of the same data collection functions as desktop com-
puters, allowing volunteers to provide observations and opinions through
web forms and supporting simple data analysis tasks. More complex tasks
are harder to support through mobile apps or mobile websites so some
projects are not accessible via mobile devices (e.g., EyeWire). However, the
ability to deliver content via mobile phones and tablets provides an excel-
lent opportunity for citizen science projects to involve participants at all
times, even while they travel. Further, mobile devices may facilitate
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Fig.21.1 The Project BudBurst website is designed to recruit and train
participants, collect and publish data and provide education materials.
The project also supports a mobile application mainly designed to
facilitate data collection. The app is coded in HTML5, which is easier to
develop and maintain but has less functionality than a native app
available for Android or iPhone.
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Fig.21.1 (continued)
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access by larger, more diverse populations–access to the internet via
mobile and tablet exceeded desktop for the first time in November2016
(Gibbs 2016). Many citizen science projects therefore support both web-
based and mobile participation. Project BudBurst hosts a website for
desktop users, as well as an HTML5 website for mobile users (figure21.1)
(HTML5 is a markup language used for structuring and presenting con-
tent on the World Wide Web), and has explored an additional gamified
app (Bowser etal. 2013). The iRecord Dragonflies mobile web applica-
tion is another example of this approach.
Responsive design enables websites to be viewed according to the
device being used to access them, by adapting layouts, media items and
other content to dierent resolutions and screen-sizes. For projects that
seek to host a website and a mobile site or app, styling tools employing
responsive design, including Bootstrap and Boilerplate, can greatly sim-
plify this process. Alternately, hybrid apps are web pages packaged into
mobile apps that can run on multiple operating systems without the need
for a web browser. The process of developing hybrid apps too can be
greatly simplified by using frameworks such as Ionic, PhoneGap and Cor-
dova. Finally, native apps are apps that are developed individually for
dierent mobile operating systems using dierent programming lan-
guages. Native apps require greater investment and development eort but
support a more interactive experience, and enable developers to use
the phone’s hardware to a greater extent.
Smartwatches and wearables
The increasing development of wearables and smartwatches oers the
opportunity to explore new forms of engagement and data collection (e.g.,
Tse & Pau 2016; Nieuwenhuijsen etal. 2015). Smartwatches or weara-
bles can provide information on the environment, human health and
mobility using a wide range of sensors such as accelerometers, GPS,
cameras, microphones, heart rate sensors, barometers, compasses and
air quality sensors. Smartphones, smartwatches and wearables also facili-
tate lifelogging, recording activities throughout the day to help people
understand how their habits and routines relate to external variables
such as environmental conditions. For example, AirBeam provides wear-
able sensors and the AirCasting Android app for collecting air quality
information as citizens travel around cities.
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Do-it-yourself sensors and the Internet of Things
Do-it-yourself technologies have recently become popular, mainly due to
the development of makerspaces or hackerspaces (see box 21.2; see also
Novak etal. in this volume). These collaborative spaces oer dierent
tools and facilities, including equipment such as 3-D printers, laser cut-
ters and computer-controlled machines, for making, learning, exploring
and sharing technologies. Open to a diverse community (from kids to bud-
ding entrepreneurs), makerspaces seek to provide hands-on learning,
support community interests and creative expression, and foster critical
thinking, particularly linked to STEM education. Makerspaces are also
used as incubators and accelerators for business start-ups. In addition to
persistent spaces like Fab Labs, participatory technology development is
also supported through events like hackathons (see box 21.2; see also
Gold & Ochu in this volume).
While traditional sensors are developed by engineers and experts,
citizens and enthusiasts can now make use of DIY devices such as Arduino
and Raspberry Pi. These are essentially basic computers to which dier-
ent sensor modules can be attached. A large variety of modules can be
used, including GPS sensors, accelerometers and cameras. Projects such
as Smart Citizen (Diez & Posada 2013) use DIY sensors to help partici-
pants upload environmental data for analysis. Another example is the Cos-
mic Pi project, which aims to use low-cost, pocket-size detectors to detect
cosmic rays.
Drones
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or ‘drones’, are powerful platforms for
monitoring and reporting, especially in terrains that are dicult to access
on foot. In some areas, drones have a bad reputation because of their role
in military missions (for surveillance or bombing) and due to privacy con-
cerns. However, drones and other DIY aerial platforms can be used for
social good (Choi-Fitzpatrick 2014). For example, members of Digital
Democracy worked in Guyana with the local Wapishana people to build
DIY drones to monitor and map deforestation (MacLennan 2014).
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico illus-
trates the complex nature of aerial data collection by citizen science
communities, since BP (the company responsible of the spill) and the
US government explicitly denied monitoring access to journalists, citi-
zen groups and scientists. While the word ‘drones’ typically evokes a
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high-technology approach, this is not always the case. In the Public Labs
model, aerial mapping based on DIY balloon and kite systems serves as a
powerful alternative strategy to monitor the environment (Dosemagen,
Warren & Wylie 2011).
Data visualisation tools
Data visualisation is helpful for feeding analysed data back to participants
and for presenting results to policymakers. There is a range of tools avail-
able to support project co-ordinators and volunteers in processing, ana-
lysing and visualising data; and many also come with plug-ins or modules
to provide further analytic capabilities (see also Williams etal. in this
volume). Earthwatch’s Freshwater Links and UCL’s Extreme Citizen Sci-
ence: Analysis and Visualisation (ECSAnVis) are examples where users
can visualise data coming from a variety of remote databases. Simple tools
like Google Charts (an interactive web service that creates graphical
charts from user-supplied information) also provide a quick means of
visualising data online as configurable charts and graphs. As mentioned
earlier, more complex frameworks such as Ushahidi, Inc. and ODK sup-
port both data collection and data analysis/visualisation.
Mapping technologies
Spatial data analysis is often critical to understanding variables ranging
from biodiversity presence and distribution, to local environmental con-
ditions, human population and transportation patterns. Many websites
and most citizen science apps provide feedback to participants through
maps, using map layers to add collected information as point data (e.g.,
iNaturalist displays points for observations of dierent species) and to
overlay information such as heat maps (e.g., the Environment Hamilton’s
INHALE Hamilton project presents air quality information in this way) or
geometries (e.g., Safecast presents levels of radiation and air quality data
in this way, among others).
GIS tools have a long history of expert use, but mapping technologies
have only recently been made easily available to non-expert users. Tools
like Google Maps and OpenStreetMap paved the way for location services
such as routing, searching, trip planning, trac estimation and other rou-
tine tasks now used on a daily basis. Overlays can be created fairly easily
using the methods made available in standard mapping tools such as
OpenStreetMap, Google Maps, OpenLayers and Mapbox. Currently, the
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largest citizen science mapping initiative is Google Local Guides, with 50
million volunteers in October2017.
Virtual reality and augmented reality
Virtual reality and augmented reality may be viable and cost-eective
ways to improve data collection–for example, measuring the colour of
the sea in the Citclops project (Wernand etal. 2012), train citizen science
volunteers with personalised and immediate feedback, track individual
data quality and improve retention and motivation, for example, increas-
ing patient engagement in rehabilitation exercises using computer-based
citizen science (Laut etal. 2015).
The availability of smartphones has resulted in investigations into
how augmented reality can be embedded into standard interfaces–for
example, overlaying objects on top of on-screen displays of camera views
or base map layers. In addition to employing gamification approaches,
which use the motivational elements of games to engage users, virtual or
augmented reality can provide engaging applications to support citizen
science through the increased recruitment of volunteers. And virtual
reality can improve data quality and participant engagement by allowing
users to dynamically interact in immersive environments (Klemmer, Hart-
mann & Takayama 2006).
Open data and supporting resources
Open data are both a resource for citizen science and an output of most
citizen science initiatives. Open data policies implemented by govern-
ments, businesses and universities have begun to make large volumes of
data available, which is openly accessible for the public to query, process
and analyse. Many citizen science projects also make their data available
as downloadable raw-data files, queryable databases or processed visuali-
sations. Technical developments supporting open data include data stand-
ards, which promote interoperable data collection and sharing (Williams
etal. in this volume) and are developed and maintained by organisations
like the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). Expanded data storage, such
as scalable databases and cloud storage, also supports open data, with
computational, storage and hosting resources available from providers
either for free (e.g., WordPress and Google Sites as general technologies;
CitSci . org for citizen science) or on-demand (e.g., Amazon Web Services),
oering much needed help for citizen science projects.
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Box 21.1. Collaborative research on sustainable fish stocking
in Germany
Angling clubs are fishing rights holders in Germany, and any
changes to the governance and management of fisheries depends in
part on decisions made by these clubs. Fish stocking is the practice
of raising fish in a hatchery and releasing them into a river, lake or
the ocean to supplement existing populations, or to create a popu-
lation where none exists. Stocking may be done for the benefit of
commercial, recreational or tribal fishing, but may also be done to
restore or increase a population of threatened or endangered fish in
a body of water closed to fishing. Stocking is a contested issue,
whose success or failure depends on a range of social, ecological
and evolutionary factors (Arlinghaus etal. 2014). To learn about
successful and unsuccessful stocking practices, as well as associated
genetic and other ecological risks, researchers partnered with 18
angling clubs in Lower Saxony on a transdisciplinary research pro-
ject called Besatzfisch (which translates as ‘stocked fish’).
Working in close collaboration with the angling clubs, the
research team developed an experiment involving radical stocking
density treatments of northern pike (Esox lucius L.) and common
carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) in angler-managed flooded gravel pits.
Workshops were used to develop specific goals, objectives and
hypotheses and to allocate treatment to 24 angler-managed flooded
gravel pits. Outcomes were monitored jointly through a series of
workshops, creating opportunities for reflexive learning.
Anglers participated in fish surveys and completed angling
diaries to monitor carp. The research team chose paper-and-pencil-
based diaries to allow anglers of all age groups to participate. Sur-
veys of club anglers were also used to understand attitudes, norms
and other human dimensions related to stocking and to behaviours
(Arlinghaus etal. 2014; Gray etal. 2015; Fujitani etal. 2016).
Results showed that the integration of anglers into the experiments
was instrumental in improving ecological knowledge.
This project shows how citizen science using paper-and-
pencil-based diaries, workshops and flooded gravel pits can sup-
port the co-production of knowledge. Given the age of many club
anglers, it is likely that an app would reduce participation and bias
the study towards the younger demographic segment. The benefits
of ICT-enabled versus non-ICT-enabled citizen science approaches
should therefore be carefully weighed depending on the target
audience and project goals.
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Box 21.2. Participatory technology development
Making and hacking democratise the creation of the hardware and
software that aid in research, just as citizen science democratises
the scientific research process itself. Fab Lab and TechShop are
names used for two particular types of makerspaces:
The fabrication laboratories (Fab Labs) programme was ini-
tiated in 2001 by Professor Neil Gershenfeld of the Massa-
chusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and it has since become
a collaborative and global network. Fab Labs are currently
governed by the Fab Foundation, which lists more than 1,000
Fab Labs from all over the world (including 700in Eurasia,
300in America, 40in Africa and 8in Oceania; Gershenfeld
2008).
TechShop was a chain of makerspaces started in 2006in
California. It was supported by monthly fees from members,
which supported access to machines and tools. TechShop
defined makerspaces as part prototyping and fabrication stu-
dios and part learning centres. As of 2017 there were 10 loca-
tions in the United States: three in California, one in Arizona,
one in Arlington, Virginia (near DC), one in Michigan, one in
Texas, one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one in Brooklyn,
New York, as well as four international locations. On Novem-
ber15, 2017, with no formal warning, the company closed
and announced they would declare bankruptcy under
Chapter7 of the United States bankruptcy code (immediate
liquidation).
Hackathons also have promoted the development of new
technological products to facilitate citizen participation. Hack-
athons are short-term, collaborative design events where volun-
teers, often including computer programmers, engineers and
designers, create new technologies for a prize or other reward.
These new technologies are usually software projects and applica-
tions, but they can include hardware products as well. Hackathons
may be sponsored and organised by companies, educational insti-
tutes, non-profit organisations or government agencies. TheUS
National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), for example, rou-
tinely hosts the International Space Apps Challenge, a 48-hour
event where teams use public data to solve challenges in hardware,
software, citizen science and information visualisation (Bowser &
Shanley 2013).
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CITIZEN SCIENCE
318
Practical and policy considerations
This chapter has explored a wide range of technologies used in citizen sci-
ence, and oered examples of existing resources available to researchers
and project co-ordinators, ranging from web development frameworks to
virtual reality headsets. The majority of these resources were not devel-
oped specifically for use in citizen science. Therefore, it is important to
understand how these resources are being used in a citizen science con-
text, as well as to assess their strengths and limitations for dierent citi-
zen science contexts.
To complement their existing database of citizen science projects,
SciStarter is compiling a database of tools and technologies that citizen
science volunteers can build, borrow or buy. This database will help
project co-ordinators and volunteers to:
Find information about dierent tools and technologies, and deter-
mine which are suited to their needs;
Access new tools and technologies by linking to blueprints, lending
libraries and online marketplaces; and
Identify gaps in existing hardware and infrastructure, which could
be filled by new collaborations between the citizen science and
maker movements, bringing two participatory paradigms into closer
alignment.
Another opportunity lies in the collection and development of rel-
evant data and metadata standards to promote the collection, sharing
and use of interoperable citizen science data. This could include stand-
ards for citizen science observations that follow the structure of a common
model, such as the ISO 19156 model for Observations and Measurement.
A citizen science profile for this has been suggested in the Sensor Web
Enablement for Citizen Science work within OGC (Williams etal. in this
volume).
Citizen science tools and technologies also need to be maintained as
well as developed. On the one hand, building new technology for use in a
citizen science project oers extensive customisation and opportunities
for collaborative or participatory design. However, on the other hand,
these technologies must then be maintained by the core project team,
rather than relying on external developers. It is also important to consider
how and where technologies will be deployed. For example, sensors used
in the WeSenseIt project were installed in river banks, which are often
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319
CITIZEN SCIENCE TECHNOLOGIES
dicult for citizens to access so professional help was required to main-
tain and service sensors (Mazumdar etal. 2016).
There are numerous policy considerations to the development or
procurement and use of citizen science technologies. Data quality is a crit-
ical issue in citizen science, especially in policy contexts such as monitor-
ing and regulation (see also Brenton in this volume; Williams etal. in this
volume). It is important to consider fitness for purpose in all aspects of
project design, including when designing or selecting citizen science tech-
nologies. For example, while some environmental monitoring sensors
may align with regulatory standards, others may not (Volten etal. in this
volume).
Funders and policymakers have both made it clear that citizen
science activities should produce open and interoperable data. For exam-
ple, recent guidance on crowdsourcing and citizen science issued by the
Director of the US Oce of Science and Technology Policy suggests that,
‘federal agencies should design projects that generate datasets, code,
applications and technologies that are transparent, open and available to
the public, consistent with applicable intellectual property, security, and
privacy protections’ (Holdren 2015). Guidance in the EU tends to rec-
ommend a balanced approach to openness and emphasise interopera-
bility. For example, in 2015 the European Commission’s Horizon 2020
Framework Programme issued a call for the ‘Coordination of Citizens’
Observatories and Initiatives’ (SC5-19-2017) seeking a team of research-
ers to help ‘promote standards’ and ‘ensure interoperability’.
Some citizen science projects, particularly those run by government
agencies, may be limited in the types of technologies they can use. TheUS
Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act (15 U.S.C. § 3724 [2017]) tasks
one government agency, the General Services Administration (GSA), with
specifying the appropriate technologies and platforms to support citizen
science activities. While these guidelines would strictly apply to all fed-
eral employees, citizen science projects hoping to influence government
decision-making would be wise to consult any published list of GSA
guidelines for citizen science technologies and tools. Additional policy
guidance in the United States, the EU and elsewhere is likely to be issued
as citizen science continues to grow.
Conclusions
As citizen science has evolved, new technologies have emerged to enable
citizens and communities to contribute to citizen science in a variety of
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CITIZEN SCIENCE
320
ways. The relevance, contribution and importance of technology in citi-
zen science therefore demands much more attention from practitioners
and communities. Mobile technologies will continue to revolutionise the
field, an innovation particularly valuable for engaging new communities
and stakeholders in citizen science, including younger populations and
participants in developing countries. Technologies also support a wide
range of project governance models. Many future citizen science endeav-
ours will harness the power of social networking to larger eect in all
aspects of research, with members of the public collaboratively conduct-
ing research, validating and publishing results. Resources that support
technology development by making it easier to build websites, apps,
sensors and maps similarly lower the barrier to entry for top-down and
bottom-up models of citizen science alike. At the same time, the use of vari-
ous technologies should be carefully considered, taking into account par-
ticipant demographics, aordability and access, and fitness for purpose.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the following pro-
jects: EU FP7 WeSenseIt and Citclops; Horizon 2020 Seta, STARS4ALL
and CAPSSI; Crowd4Sat; EyeOnWater @ Vendée Globe; and ATiCO; as
well as the AlfredP. Sloan Foundation.
Notes
1 https:// www . fablabs . io / labs
2 http:// www . wesenseit . com/
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