How citizens’ observatories can contribute to GEOSS and earth observation — reflections on Helsinki

Drew Hemment and Mel Woods of the University of Dundee represented the GROW Observatory at the European GEO Workshop in Helsinki on 19–21 June 2017. This is the annual gathering of the earth observation science community, who are actively contributing to the Global Earth Observations System of Systems (GEOSS).

The Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS, links together existing and planned observing systems around the world, while supporting the development of new systems where gaps currently exist. The scope is enormous to create useful applications and services using this data.

The GROW team, together with three sister citizens’ observatories — Groundtruth 2.0, LANDSENSE and Scent — attended the European GEO Workshop in Helsinki during June. We are working together to champion the contribution citizens can make to earth observation, as part of a new group on citizens’ observatories and citizen science within the international GEOSS community.

There is now a European group set up to champion GEOSS in Europe, EuroGEOSS. We were asked by the European Commission on behalf of GROW and our community what we would like to see this group achieve, and how we could contribute.

1. How can citizens’ observatories contribute to earth observation science?

Citizens’ observatories offer a new and exciting mechanism to engage large numbers of people in earth observation and in addressing issues with impact across the world. They can foster deeper engagement and understanding for citizens in global challenges, such as adapting to a changing climate and soil degradation.

There is wide interest in how citizens’ observatories can contribute to important data gaps in datasets derived from satellites. Data gaps depend on context and also reflect differences according to the country. By engaging communities, from the ground up, citizens’ observatories can help to address these factors and bridge the gap.

In GROW, we have made the case that citizens’ observatories can help move GEOSS closer the mainstream of European society. Citizens’ observatories bring designers, artists, grassroots communities, policy makers and SMEs into the GEOSS community. Ultimately, by creating relevance to people’s lives, we want to turn earth observation into a cultural movement in Europe.

2. Where can earth observations help answer social and environmental challenges?

Citizens contributing data is only one side of the equation. We also looked at how citizens, and citizen needs, can be a main driver for the uptake in geographical data. We hope to bring these two sides together, so that citizen science is truly co-created and answers the needs of citizens and science.

Citizens’ observatories can contribute to innovation using GEOSS data, while helping citizens help society tackle big environmental challenges, especially in earth observation. They have the potential to stimulate user driven, service oriented approaches for sustainable environmental management. They can help demonstrate benefits and impact for governments, citizens and businesses.

3. How can we help earth observation scientists engage with citizens?

In Helsinki the four observatories came together to champion and represent a role for citizens: how to listen to their concerns, but also how to engage their creativity and ingenuity in collecting and sharing data on the ground.

We ran a session introducing the scientific community to how they can work with citizens, and also scoping the data gaps citizen contributions can fill in the future. It was a positive take-away for us that soil moisture data — a focus in GROW — was widely seen as the most valuable datasets citizens could contribute to this community.

4. What next for open data in earth observations

An open data strategy has been promoted in GEOSS to make the data as available and accessible as possible. This has had success, with applications created built on open data.

We can now build on this, and one part of that needs to be to promote GEOSS to give it greater visibility as the actual source of data used in downstream services.

5. How can EuroGEOSS help citizens’ observatories?

The new EuroGEOSS group can play a big role in helping the emergence of citizens’ observatories as important contributors to earth observation. To amplify their potential, it is important to champion the role of citizens’ observatories and citizen science to the scientific community, to provide advocacy around acceptance and uptake of data generated by citizens, and leadership to enable the observatories to deliver sustainable value to governments, citizens, civil society organisations and businesses.

We look forward to building on this partnership between citizens’ observatories and the GEOSS community.

The Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS, links together existing and planned observing systems around the world, while supporting the development of new systems where gaps currently exist. The scope is enormous to create useful applications and services using this data.

The GROW team, together with three sister citizens’ observatories — Groundtruth 2.0, LANDSENSE and Scent — attended the European GEO Workshop in Helsinki during June. We are working together to champion the contribution citizens can make to earth observation, as part of a new group on citizens’ observatories and citizen science within the international GEOSS community.

There is now a European group set up to champion GEOSS in Europe, EuroGEOSS. We were asked by the European Commission on behalf of GROW and our community what we would like to see this group achieve, and how we could contribute.

1. How can citizens’ observatories contribute to earth observation science?

Citizens’ observatories offer a new and exciting mechanism to engage large numbers of people in earth observation and in addressing issues with impact across the world. They can foster deeper engagement and understanding for citizens in global challenges, such as adapting to a changing climate and soil degradation.

There is wide interest in how citizens’ observatories can contribute to important data gaps in datasets derived from satellites. Data gaps depend on context and also reflect differences according to the country. By engaging communities, from the ground up, citizens’ observatories can help to address these factors and bridge the gap.

In GROW, we have made the case that citizens’ observatories can help move GEOSS closer the mainstream of European society. Citizens’ observatories bring designers, artists, grassroots communities, policy makers and SMEs into the GEOSS community. Ultimately, by creating relevance to people’s lives, we want to turn earth observation into a cultural movement in Europe.

2. Where can earth observations help answer social and environmental challenges?

Citizens contributing data is only one side of the equation. We also looked at how citizens, and citizen needs, can be a main driver for the uptake in geographical data. We hope to bring these two sides together, so that citizen science is truly co-created and answers the needs of citizens and science.

Citizens’ observatories can contribute to innovation using GEOSS data, while helping citizens help society tackle big environmental challenges, especially in earth observation. They have the potential to stimulate user driven, service oriented approaches for sustainable environmental management. They can help demonstrate benefits and impact for governments, citizens and businesses.

3. How can we help earth observation scientists engage with citizens?

In Helsinki the four observatories came together to champion and represent a role for citizens: how to listen to their concerns, but also how to engage their creativity and ingenuity in collecting and sharing data on the ground.

We ran a session introducing the scientific community to how they can work with citizens, and also scoping the data gaps citizen contributions can fill in the future. It was a positive take-away for us that soil moisture data — a focus in GROW — was widely seen as the most valuable datasets citizens could contribute to this community.

4. What next for open data in earth observations

An open data strategy has been promoted in GEOSS to make the data as available and accessible as possible. This has had success, with applications created built on open data.

We can now build on this, and one part of that needs to be to promote GEOSS to give it greater visibility as the actual source of data used in downstream services.

5. How can EuroGEOSS help citizens’ observatories?

The new EuroGEOSS group can play a big role in helping the emergence of citizens’ observatories as important contributors to earth observation. To amplify their potential, it is important to champion the role of citizens’ observatories and citizen science to the scientific community, to provide advocacy around acceptance and uptake of data generated by citizens, and leadership to enable the observatories to deliver sustainable value to governments, citizens, civil society organisations and businesses.

We look forward to building on this partnership between citizens’ observatories and the GEOSS community.