The tools of citizen science: An evaluation of map-based crowdsourcing platforms

Paper by Zachary Lamoureux and Victoria Fast: “There seems to be a persistent yet inaccurate sentiment that collecting vast amounts of data via citizen science is virtually free, especially compared to the cost of privatized scientific endeavors (Bonney et al., 2009; Cooper, Hochachka & Dhondt, 2011). However, performing scientific procedures with the assistance of the public is often far more complex than traditional scientific enquiry (Bonter & Cooper, 2012).

Citizen science promotes the participation of the public in scientific endeavors (Hecker et al., 2018). While citizen science is not synonymous with volunteered geographic information (VGI)— broadly defined as the creation of geographic information by citizens (Goodchild, 2007)—it often produces geographic information. Similar to VGI, citizen science projects tend to follow specific protocols to ensure the crowdsourced geographic data serves as an input for (scientific) research (Haklay, 2013). Also similar to VGI, citizen science projects often require software applications and specialized training to facilitate citizen data collection. Notably, citizen science projects are increasingly requiring a webbased participatory mapping platform—i.e., Geoweb (Leszczynski & Wilson, 2013)—to coordinate the proliferation of citizen contributions. ...

In this research, we investigate publicly available commercial and opensource map-based tools that enable citizen science projects. Building on a comprehensive comparative framework, we conduct a systematic evaluation and overview of five map-based crowdsourcing platforms: Ushahidi, Maptionnaire, Survey123 (ArcGIS Online), Open Data Kit, and GIS Cloud. These tools have additional uses that extend beyond the field of citizen science; however, the scope of the investigation was narrowed to focus on aspects most suitable for citizen science endeavors, such as the collection, management, visualization and dissemination of crowdsourced data. It is our intention to provide information on how these publicly available crowdsourcing platforms suit generic geographic citizen science crowdsourcing needs….(More)”.