Data sharing for the advancement of science: Overcoming barriers for citizen scientists

Kirsty Williamson, Graeme Johanson, John Weckert and I have just had a paper from our citizen science work accepted for publication by JASIST. It’s been a great project which hopefully can be continued. The paper  addresses data sharing by citizen scientists particularly focusing on independent citizen scientists – that is those who work on their own or as part of a voluntary environmental group rather than as a part of a formal citizen science program. We contend that these citizen scientists can make a significant contribution to science with their data which can contribute to aggregated datasets used in data-intensive science. The paper reports three-phase project Conducted between 2011 and 2013 within a large environmental voluntary group, the Australian Plants’ Society Victoria (APSV), the interviews of the first phase are the major data source. Because the project revealed the importance of data sharing with professional scientists, professional scientists’ views are included in the literature review where four themes are explored: lack of shared disciplinary culture; trust; responsibility and controlled access to data; and describing data to enable reuse. The findings, presented under these themes, revealed that, within APSV, sharing amongst members is mostly generous and uninhibited. Beyond APSV, when online repositories were involved, barriers came very strongly into play. Trust was weaker and barriers also included issues of data quality, data description, and ownership and control. The conclusion is that further investigation of these barriers, including the attitudes of professional scientists to using data contributed by citizen scientists, would indicate how more extensive and useful data sharing can be achieved.

Building on:

Johanson, G., Williamson, K. & M.A. Kennan (2013). Multiple communities: botanical data from citizen scientists for digital repositories. In Nexus, Confluence, and Difference: Community Archives meets Community Informatics; Prato CIRN Conference Oct 28-30, 2013, Monash Centre, Prato Italy. Centre for Community Networking Research, Centre for Social Informatics, Monash University.

Kennan, M.A., Williamson, K. & Johanson, G. (2012). Wild data: collaborative e-research and university libraries. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 43(1) pp.55-78.

Kennan, M.A., Williamson, K & Johanson, G. (2013). Environmental Voluntary Groups: Towards Curating Data for Sharing, Access and Preservation, 76th Annual ASIST Annual Meeting, Beyond the Cloud: Rethinking information boundaries, Montreal Canada. November 1-5 2013. Proceedings of the 76th ASIS&T Annual Meeting, Volume 50.


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