Citizen Science DWG


Higgins, Chris (EDINA, University of Edinburgh)
Maso Pau, Joan (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (CREAF))
Abhayaratna, Jo (PSMA Australia)
Bowser, Anne (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)

Group Description:

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.

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” (, 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.