Discovering and connecting with citizen science projects at a global scale has never been closer to reality than now! Over the past few months the teams at SciStarter (www.scistarter.com – based in the USA) and the Atlas of Living Australia (www.ala.org.au – ALA) have been collaborating to enable project information about citizen science projects to be shared between the two systems so that people can easily find and connect with citizen science activities wherever they may be operating, and regardless of which system the projects were registered in.
This has been a dream of many people for a long time. Over the last 10 years or so, several different project discovery platforms have evolved independently around the world and the internet allows people anywhere to register their projects on any of the platforms. However, it has been becoming increasingly difficult and confusing for people to find and connect with projects of interest to them in their local areas because the systems have not been connected with each other. Often thing aren’t easy though and connecting them up has proven to be pretty challenging due to incompatibility of data structures and differences in the level of technical development in different platforms.
SciStarter and www.CitSci.org have been sharing project information within the USA for a few months already, but the connection with the ALA is the first successful international connection. The ALA is Australia’s national biodiversity data aggregation system and provides hosted web-based infrastructure to support people in Australia running biodiversity related citizen science projects including the collection of standards-based biodiversity data.The BioCollect system (http://www.ala.org.au/biocollect/) provides both a project register tool to help connect people with projects, as well as a powerful and flexible data collection facility for those who want to use it.
The Australian Citizen Science Association (www.citizenscience.org.au – ACSA) and European Citizen Science Association (www.ecsa.citizen-science.net – ECSA) are also working towards providing discovery and access points for citizen science projects at a continental level. To facilitate this and related goals, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC is also leading an international data and metadata working group in conjunction with the American Citizen Science Association (www.citizenscienceassociation.org – CSA), ECSA, ACSA and the Open Geospatial Consortium (www.opengeospatial.org – OGC) to develop a data interchange standard for citizen science project information (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/ppsr-core-metadata-standards). It is anticipated that this will enable other platforms to also begin connecting up to share their project information too.
According to Anne Bowser, coChair of the data and metadata working group and Senior Program Associate at the Wilson Center, “The international connection between SciStarter and ALA will heighten our awareness of the range of citizen science projects operating on different geographic sales. This is a huge step towards building a global community of citizen science researchers and practitioners, and will pave the way for new research collaborations and partnerships”.