Data and metadata: Reporting from the citizen science data and service infrastructure meeting in Italy

25. May 2016by ECSA
ECSA News - Data and metadata

Data and metadata: Reporting from the citizen science data and service infrastructure meeting in Italy

by Sven Schade, Anne Bowser, and Russell Scarpino; minor edits by Claudia Göbel

Photo by Luigi Ceccaroni

With the growth of citizen science comes the challenge of coordinating people, projects, and data. But these challenges also present a tremendous opportunity – with proper standardization, data can support multiple projects, allowing citizen science to address ever-grander issues and problems.

The U.S. Citizen Science Association (CSA) recently founded a Data and Metadata Working Group to promote collaboration in citizen science through development and/or improvement of international standards for data and metadata. To support, advance, and facilitate interoperability, the working group supports the standardization of:

  • Project metadata, which describes different types of citizen science activities. For example, one type of project metadata could be the intended outcomes of a certain citizen science project.
  • Observational metadata, which describes the data collected through citizen science activities. One type of observational metadata could be the location where a data point was collected.

Within ECSA, the Working Group on “Data, Tools and Technology” is working on related topics.

This project is a collaboration between the CSA, ECSA, the Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA) and other organizations. It seeks to implement joint work on web based services and resources as one of the three core areas of cooperation identified in the Memorandum of Understanding between the three associations.

On Jan. 26-27, 2016, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center invited 20 international participants, including members of the three associations, to Ispra, Italy for a two-day workshop to discuss data and service infrastructures for citizen science.

Participants at the workshop were asked to: (1) discuss the relationships between existing databases (e.g., SciStarter, Atlas of Living Australia, and; (2) identify major requirements for interoperability between citizen science project databases, including a new database to be hosted by the European Commission; (3) draft a reference model for analyzing and sharing citizen science tools and data; and, (4) define a high-level roadmap with checkpoints for synchronizing ongoing activities related to standardization.

The workshop – a full report is available here – showcased the highly collaborative nature of the global community of citizen science projects and portals, and represented the important and ongoing collaborative effort between the European, Australian, and American Citizen Science Associations.


Workshop participants also developed a set of next steps to begin to move towards citizen science data and metadata standardization:

  • For project metadata standardization
  1. Continue mapping existing project metadata standards, including PPSR_Core and the standards used to describe projects in different repositories, to develop a common vocabulary and ontology for talking about citizen science;
  2. Continue to support coordination between existing project repositories through activities like developing Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to share related information across repositories;
  3. Help coordinate a series of national repositories that are currently under development in Europe (included but not restricted to Germany, Austria, and Spain), through the activities listed above.
  • For observational metadata standardization
  1. Propose a high level reference model for citizen science observational data, based on existing models from the spatial data infrastructure (SDI), biodiversity, and big data community, among others;
  2. Continue to support coordination between data hosting and management platforms, through the development of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to share observational data, and demonstrating proof-of-concept data sharing;
  3. Prepare a discussion on data lifecycle management for citizen science, including an introduction to the topic and the possible projection of lifecycle models from other domains (e.g. Big Data and Spatial Data Infrastructures) onto observational data.
  • For the project at large
  1. Conduct a stakeholder analysis on citizen science data and metadata standards in order to investigate current assumptions on requirements from both data providers, data users, and others;
  2. Continue to recruit stakeholders to join this initiative, like by requesting a citizen science Domain Working Group (DWG) within the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC);
  3. Develop a collaboration platform to coordinate activities, and publish and share resources;
  4. Investigate the legal, organizational, semantic, and technical aspects of interoperability, as well as interoperability related to political context.


Contact Information

To coordinate with or contribute to the CSA working group, please contact Anne Bowser (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,
To coordinate with or contribute to the ECSA working group, please contact Luigi Ceccaroni (1000001 Labs, or Jaume Piera (
To coordinate or contribute to the ACSA working group, please contact Peter Brenton (Atlas of Living Australia,
For information on the Ispra workshop, please contact: Sven Schade (Digital Earth and Reference Data Unit – JRC.H06,


Copyright by European Citizen Science Association (ECSA).
All rights reserved.

Webdesign by Goldweiss

Copyright by European Citizen Science Association (ECSA). All rights reserved.

Webdesign by Goldweiss