Eye on Earth Summit 2015 talk – Extreme Citizen Science – bridging local & global

Thanks to the organisers of the Eye on Earth Summit, I had an opportunity to share the current state of technological developments within the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) group with the audience of the summit: people who are interested in the way environmental information sharing can promote sustainability.

The talk, for which the slides are provided below is made of two parts. The first is an overview of current citizen science and where are the extremities of current practice, and the second covering the current state of development of the technological work that crease the tools, methodologies and techniques to allow any community, regardless of literacy, to develop their own citizen science projects.

I have addressed the issues at the beginning of the talk in earlier talks (e.g. the UCL Lunch Hour Lecture) but now found a way to express them in several brief slides which demonstrate the changes in science and education levels in the general population as an important trends that powers current citizen science. If we look at early science (roughly until the early 19th Century), professional science (roughly from the middle of the 19th Century all the way throughout the 20th Century) and the opening of science in the past decade, we can see an ongoing increase in the level of education in the general population, and this leads to different types of participation in citizen science – you couldn’t expect more than methodological basic data collection  by volunteers in the early 20th Century, while today you can find many people who have good grasp of scientific principles and are inherently sharing data that they are interested in.

After exploring the limits of current citizen science in terms of the scientific process and levels of education that are expected from participants, I turn to our definition of extreme citizen science, and then focus on the need to create technologies that are fit for use within participatory processes that take into account local and cultural sensitivities, needs and wishes about the use of the data. In particular, I’m explaining the role of Sapelli and its use with participatory processes in the Congo basin, Amazon and potentially in Namibia. I then explain the role of GeoKey in providing an infrastructure that can support community mapping, ending with the potential of creating visualisation tools that can be used by non-literate participants.

The slides are available below.


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Professor of GIScience, University College London

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