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GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Citizen Observatories and Crowdsourcing

Activity ID: 142


The proliferation of mobile devices and low cost sensors enable citizens to provide timely geospatial information to contribute, together with scientists and policy makers, to address locally relevant, global environmental issues, including disaster management, food security and climate change. This collaborative exchange, in which citizens are active participants in the co-creation of new scientific knowledge, is known as Citizen Science.

During the last decade, citizen science and projects which are based on knowledge generated from volunteers and non-experts, at both the individual and collective level, have dramatically increased. A number of initiatives have emerged which actively involve citizens in environmental monitoring and stewardship supported by Earth observation enabled applications. Citizens’ observations, data and information can complement authoritative, traditional in-situ and remote sensing EO data sources in a number of areas such as climates change, sustainable development, air monitoring, flood and drought monitoring, land cover or land-use change. There is a huge potential to use citizen-driven observations in combination with other currently increasing EO data coming from the Sentinel family of satellites and Landsat. In particular, in-situ data provided by citizens can be used for calibration and validation activities, as well as the conflation or combined use of satellite and citizen observations to fill existing gaps.

Within this emerging field, the European Commission is supporting the development and integration of new sources of in-situ EO data collection with the shape of Citizens’ Observatories. Citizens’ Observatories are community-centric initiatives that build on the social change which is taking place where citizens become more active in collecting and sharing information, harnessing the latest technological advances (ubiquitous Internet connectivity, IoT, machine learning, social media, portable and inexpensive sensors). Citizens’ Observatories contribute to empower citizens to actively participate in environmental decision making, raise awareness about environmental issues and help build more resilient societies.

Five Citizens’ Observatories (CITI-SENSE, WeSenseIt, COBWEB, Citclops and OMNISCIENTIS) were funded under the FP7 programme, covering different environmental issues such as air quality, flood and water management, coastal ecosystems, biodiversity and odour annoyance. Four Citizens’ Observatories Innovation Actions– LandSense, Ground Truth 2.0, SCENT, and the GROW Observatory - have been recently funded under the Horizon 2020 programme. Each of these projects will demonstrate approaches to create actionable knowledge for participatory governance and policy making with a particular focus in the field of Land Use and Land Cover (LULC). Harnessing the power of citizens through such observatories will enhance existing Earth Observation monitoring systems, including GEOSS and Copernicus.

Building on the latter activities and many other initiatives and programmes in the field of crowdsourcing and citizen science, and  not only in Europe but also beyond, efforts within this GEO Community Activity will focus on: promotion of standards and best practices in managing (collection, representation, annotation, processing) crowd-sourced data; exploration of linkages of citizen data to the GEOSS and its common infrastructure (GCI); investigation of methods and tools to integrate citizens-generated data with authoritative ones; knowledge sharing about  citizen engagement practices, case studies and demonstration pilots; exploration of synergies with other GEO initiatives such as GEOGLAM. Tasks will also include reviews of existing citizen observatories and related activities including assessments of their impacts on local, regional and national policy; finally it  will analyze and propose how COs can contribute to social innovation.

Activities for the period

  • Research the motivations and incentives that stimulate citizen participation within the observatories;
  • Promotion of the use of standards and best practices for citizen-observed data management;
  • Investigation of algorithms for the integration of citizen-acquired and authoritative data sources;
  • Promotion of evidence-driven environmental governance using participatory citizen science approaches;
  • Promotion of demonstration case studies, such as the H2020 citizens’ observatories, within the GEO community;
  • Addressing potential synergies with other GEO initiatives such as GEO BON and GEOGLAM;
  • Building a GEO community of practice around citizen observatories by linking to existing initiatives such as European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), etc.;
  • Collecting best practices for discovery and access to this kind of citizen-observed data through the GCI/GEOSS; and
  • Seek regional/local/national support for CO initiatives by showcasing early results of project, with emphasis on feedback channels to policy makers.

Future plans

Horizon 2020 SC5-19-2017 Coordination of citizens’ observatories initiatives should contribute to this activity.

Projects funded under topic Horizon 2020 SC5-17-2015 Demonstrating the concept of Citizen Observatories (a total of €20 Mil.).



Members: EC, Ireland, Norway, Romania, Spain, UK.

Participating Organizations: IIASA, UNESCO.

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Jose Rubio Iglesias

European Commission

European Commission,


Steffen Fritz




Uta Wehn De Montalvo