OGC Project Document 16-072r1

TITLE: Citizen Science Domain Working Group

Author (s) Name: Anne Bowser, Chris Higgins & Joan Masó

Organization(s) Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, EDINA- University of Edinburgh, UAB-CREAF

Email(s): anne.bowser@wilsoncenterNOspamPlease.org, chris.higgins@edNOspamPlease.ac.uk, joan.maso@uabNOspamPlease.cat

Date: 6-23-16

CATEGORY: Domain Working Group

1. Introduction

This Domain Working Group charter defines the role for OGC activities within the citizen science information community, namely to provide an open forum for the discussion and presentation of interoperability requirements, use cases, pilots, best practices and implementations of OGC standards in this domain. This group can also suggest the need for new OGC standards. This Charter is to be presented to the OGC’s Technical and Planning committees for consideration.

2. Purpose of Working Group

There are a large and increasing number of citizen science projects active around the world involving the public in environmental monitoring and other scientific research activities. The OGC Citizen Science DWG is motivated to support citizen science by providing a forum for increasing understanding and demonstration of the benefits brought by the use of open standards and best practices. This DWG will support the development of improved interoperability arrangements for the citizen science community. Based on these considerations, this charter defines the OGC Citizen Science Domain Working Group (DWG).

3. Problem Statement

As a preliminary consideration, this charter defines citizen science as a form of “public participation in scientific research” (Shirk et al., 2012). More precisely, this charter acknowledges the following definitions as helpful to understanding citizen science within OGC:
  • “Citizen Science is the involvement of the public in scientific research whether community driven research or global investigations” (Citizen Science Association (CSA), Accessed June 22, 2016);
  • “Scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often collaboration with or under the direction of professional and scientist and scientific institutions” (Wikipedia.org, Accessed June 22, 2016);
  • “Developing concepts of scientific citizenship which foregrounds the necessity of opening up science and science policy processes to the public” (Irwin, 1995).
Some domain experts argue, “Many different [citizen science] projects collect similar data in different locations, which confuses the pool of potential participants and results in numerous patchy data sets rather than a few large and truly useful ones” (Bonney et al., 2014). As many citizen science projects are grassroots initiatives formed in response to local concerns, some duplication is inevitable. However, for citizen science to have maximum impact on scientific research and public policy, data collected from local projects must also be re-usable on national and global scales (beyond the purpose for which they were originally collected).

In 2015, the U.S. Citizen Science Association (CSA) founded a Data and Metadata Standardization Working Group in coordination with the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) and Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA). To date, this working group has focused on standardizing project metadata, or data about citizen science projects, to facilitate interoperability between different project metadata repositories. The larger challenge of supporting interoperability between observational data is yet to be addressed.

There is also work on standardization within the OGC. The OGC participated as a partner in the EU funded Citizen Observatory Web (COBWEB) project. Over the period of the project (2012-2016), COBWEB organized open citizen science ad hoc meetings at five Technical Committee meetings with the intention of gauging interest from within the membership and getting community support into the development of a harmonized information model – SWE for Citizen Science (SWE4CS). Building on enthusiasm for activities of the CSA Data and Metadata Standardization Working Group, and the work of COBWEB, the OGC Citizen Science DWG will bring together:
  • Users, including citizen science volunteers, and scientists conducting research through citizen science;
  • Data, collected in a range of domains including ecology, biology, astronomy, environmental monitoring, and public health;
  • Service and technology providers, including OGC members, representatives from CSA, ECSA, ACSA, citizen science data repositories, and citizen science technology providers; and,
  • Other standardization bodies such as: W3C...
Citizen Science encompasses different types of projects, including citizen observatories (where citizens voluntarily capture observational data, both using smartphones or specific hardware) and also crowdsourcing data (where data mining techniques are used to extract patterns on citizen activities, or volunteers process big data sets). This group will initially focus on the first group of activities.

The DWG will address the citizen science relevant aspects of interoperability chartered by data life cycle:
  • Hardware communication (standards used by sensors communicate e.g to a mobile phone);
  • Data acquisition (how devices send data to repositories);
  • Data storage and dissemination (how repositories make data discoverable and available); and,
  • Data curation and preservation (how the data is maintained in particular in the long term when the actual data campaign is finished).
The DWG will also address additional aspects of interoperability that affects all stages of the data life cycle, including: Privacy, security, trust as well as quality and semantics.

4. Charter

The Citizen Science DWG will work with OGC and external organizations to support citizen science data interoperability. The Citizen Science DWG will also serve as liaison for connecting OGC activities with external initiatives, including the work of the CSA Data and Metadata Working Group.

4.1 Charter Members.

To help OGC members learn about standards and interoperability requirements in the context of citizen science, initial membership of the Citizen Science DWG will be open to both OGC members and those outside of OGC. The OGC Domain Working Group is chartered by the following members and individuals with extensive education and experience in citizen science:



Anne Bowser

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Joan Masó

Autonomous University of Barcelona

Chris Higgins

University of Edinburgh

Russell Scarpino

Colorado State University

John Herring


Liping Di

George Mason University

Ted Habermann

The HDF Group

Jamie Williams

Environment Systems

Andreas Matheus

Secure Dimensions

Erin Robinson

Foundation for Earth Science

Jason Smith


Sven Schade

Joint Research Centre

Maria Antonia Brovelli

Politecnico di Milano

4.2 Key Activities.

This DWG will support and promote interoperability in citizen science by:
  • Developing and documenting requirements for interoperability between information models,, applicable to citizen science, including information about citizen science projects, and the exchange and the integration of citizen science data;
  • Considering citizen science data curation and preservation;
  • Considering legal aspects like: privacy, data rights and ownership;
  • Contributing to an understanding of the mechanisms through which citizen science can be made available, and developing concrete use cases for project and observational data sharing;
  • Analyzing and promoting application interfaces and tools that allow for standardized data capture and harmonization of data acquisition protocols;
  • Contributing to an understanding of what is necessary to make citizen science data comprehensible, usable, and understandable including:
    • incorporation of privacy and security information,
    • semantics, metadata,
    • data quality and trust, and
    • data formats,
    • Promote the value of standards in citizen science by supporting and documenting pilot demonstrations of data sharing through OGC and related standards; and,
    • Informing the ongoing development of OGC standards to support citizen science through e.g. swe4citizenscience (SWE4CS).

4.3 Business Case

Issues related to interoperability that confront the citizen science domain include:
  • Identifying existing standards within and external to OGC that are already used in this domain; and additional standards with the potential to be used in this domain;
  • Determining the metadata, data models and semantics required to make citizen science data understandable and usable across multiple disciplines, by citizen science volunteers, citizen science practitioners, researchers, and policymakers;
  • Documenting mechanisms used to describe data quality, to maximize the impact of citizen science on research and policymaking processes;
  • Determining how to integrate additional citizen-sourced data, such as that collected through participatory sensing or social media as well as how to integrate it with officially or conventionally produced data;
  • Assessing security and privacy requirements for sharing citizen science data sets, which may contain sensitive Personally Identifiable Information (PII; Bowser & Wiggins, 2015); and,
  • Supporting user education and outreach, which will be coordinated through OGC in collaboration with three citizen science associations (CSA, ECSA, and ACSA).

5. Organizational Approach and Scope of Work

5.1 Citizen Science DWG Business Goals

The primary goal of the Citizen Science DWG is to support the citizen science community, both within and external to OGC, by promoting and facilitating interoperability. A secondary goal is to collaborate with other OGC working groups, to help increase impact of citizen science data. Explore partnerships with other working groups (incomplete list) within OGC, including the IoT DWG, SWE, Security DWG, Dataquality DWG, University DWG and many more, like Smart Cities ad hoc.

5.2 Citizen Science DWG: Mission and Role

The OGC Citizen Science DWG will focus on citizen science-based interoperability standards for data and related processing services, under the auspices of OGC. The DWG will coordinate with and support the activities of external organizations, especially the CSA Data and Metadata Working Group and the ECSA Data, Tools, and Technology Working Group.

5.3 Activities planned for Citizen Science DWG

Document domain requirements then develop best practices. The following activities have been identified as examples to support these objectives:

  • Outreach and stakeholder engagement
  • Host one or more workshops or hackathons with domain and OGC experts in order to elicit interoperability requirements from the broad citizen science community, and demonstrate the value of interoperability as supported by OGC and related standards;
  • Identify and document relevant standards for citizen science data collection, including OGC and related standards, national regulatory standards (such as the Water Quality Monitoring Standards advanced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), and domain-specific standards (such as Darwin CORE), in web portal(s);
  • Recommend standards and/or profiles for documenting project metadata relevant for a) record sharing between citizen science project databases, and b) observational data sharing;
  • Support interoperability pilot, testbeds and demonstrations of citizen science data sharing;
  • Support the development of OGC-specific profile standards, vocabularies and best practices, e.g. SWE4CS, through the above activities; and,
  • Additional activities as listed in section 4.2.

Activities do not include the development of new domain models. The DWG will instead look at the applicability of the output of other DWGs within the citizen science disciplines.

6. References

Bonney, R., et al. (2014). Next steps for citizen science. Science, 343 (6178), 1436-1437.

Bowser, A. & Wiggins, W. (2015). Privacy in participatory research: Advancing policy to support human computation. Human Computation, 2, 1, 19-44.

Irwin, A. (1995). Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise, and Sustainable Development. London: Routledge.

Shirk, J., et al. (2012). Public participation in scientific research: A framework for deliberate design. Ecology and Society, 17 (2), 29-49.

Higgins, C., Williams, J., Leibovici, D., Simonis, I., Davis, M., Muldoon, C., Genuchten, P., O'Hare, G. (2016): Citizen OBservatory WEB (COBWEB): A Generic Infrastructure Platform to Facilitate the Collection of Citizen Science data for Environmental Monitoring - Work in Progress, International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructures Research (IJSDIR)

-- GregBuehler - 28 Jul 2016
Topic revision: r2 - 28 May 2017, MariaAntoniaBrovelli
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