Citizen Science, Crowdsourcing and Big Data: A Scientific and Social Framework for Natural Resources and Environments

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 3:25 PM
Pierre David Glynn1, John W. Jones2, Sophia B Liu2, Carl D Shapiro1, Harry L Jenter1, Dianna M Hogan1, David L Govoni1 and Barbara S Poore3, (1)USGS, Reston, VA, United States, (2)USGS, Baltimore, MD, United States, (3)USGS, St. Petersburg, FL, United States
We describe a conceptual framework for Citizen Science that can be applied to improve the understanding and management of natural resources and environments. For us, Citizen Science represents an engagement from members of the public, usually volunteers, in collaboration with paid professionals and technical experts to observe and understand natural resources and environments for the benefit of science and society. Our conceptual framework for Citizen Science includes crowdsourcing of observations (or sampling). It considers a wide range of activities, including volunteer and professional monitoring (e.g. weather and climate variables, water availability and quality, phenology, biota, image capture and remote sensing), as well as joint fact finding and analyses, and participatory mapping and modeling. Spatial distribution and temporal dynamics of the biophysical processes that control natural resources and environments are taken into account within this conceptual framework, as are the availability, scaling and diversity of tools and efforts that are needed to properly describe these biophysical processes. Opportunities are sought within the framework to properly describe, QA/QC, archive, and make readily accessible, the large amounts of information and traceable knowledge required to better understand and manage natural resources and environments. The framework also considers human motivational needs, primarily through a modern version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We examine several USGS-based Citizen Science efforts within the context of our framework, including the project called “iCoast – Did the Coast Change?”, to understand the utility of the framework, its costs and benefits, and to offer concrete examples of how to expand and sustain specific projects. We make some recommendations that could aid its implementation on a national or larger scale. For example, implementation might be facilitated (1) through greater engagement of paid professionals, and (2) through the involvement of integrating entities, including institutions of learning and agencies with broad science responsibilities.