How GIS Improves the Process of Citizen Science

By Jim Baumann
Esri Writer

Researchers, Artists, and Technologies Engage with Local Groups Using Computer Mapping

Citizen science is an increasingly popular activity among a broad cross section of the population. Because the number and variety of opportunities for participation continue to grow, it is appealing to those in a widening range of age and physical ability. Participants have joined diverse scientific monitoring projects, including migratory bird studies and personal weather station observations, as well as provided their unused computer time for interstellar space exploration. Citizen science has even stimulated growth in the ecotourism industry.

Patrick Rickles at al 2“Regardless of their background or level of skill, citizen science provides people with a powerful platform that allows them to get involved in science and their environment,” says Patrick Rickles, research associate for the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group at University College London (UCL). “However, as valuable as this is, these programs often see the citizen as a passive participant that simply collects information and then hands it over to the researcher. At that point, their involvement in the project is considered complete.”

Recognizing the potential for change provided by greater engagement with citizen scientists, Muki Haklay, UCL professor of geographical information science (GISC), and Jerome Lewis, a UCL lecturer of anthropology, formed ExCiteS. This is an interdisciplinary group composed of researchers, artists, and information and communication technology specialists that work with local groups to better engage them in the process of citizen science through participatory action.  Continue reading