Data quality assurance in web-based citizen science systems for occurrences of local fauna and flora (biodiversity) collected by volunteers
The overall goal of the project is to enhance data collection and monitoring concerning the biodiversity on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany.
For several years now, amateur naturalists have been able to document and publish their observations of animal and plant species in citizen science platforms on the internet. This provides the chance to gain extensive data about biodiversity collected by volunteers, which could be used by nature conservation authorities, by planners, or by scientists. However, this opportunity so far has been rarely used, mainly because the scientific community doubts the reliability and quality of data collected by volunteers. This project aims at establishing and proving methods for quality improvement and quality assurance for observational data collected by volunteers, and at showing ways to provide these data to planners and authorities.
This will be done in cooperation with the major citizen science projects and initiatives in the field of biodiversity in Germany.
Main Subjects (among others)
- Software-aided data quality assurance: a software tool for quality assurance will be developed. Authentication of volunteers, as well as diverse methods from the fields of GIS, geostatistics and spatial data mining, will be used to profile the observations. The software tool will evaluate the quality of observations, identify outliers, and check the plausibility of spatial correlations between observations and relevant environmental factors as well as indicator species, thereby providing possibilities to enhance data quality. In this way, dubious records are identified, marked accordingly, and transferred to professionals to be checked manually.
- Data interchange and interfaces: in Germany, there should be a comprehensive pool of compatible biodiversity data collected by volunteers. To achieve this goal, it is necessary that data on specific issues are able to be aggregated and then transferred from one existing system to another. In this project, interfaces between existing systems will be developed (or enhanced) and tested. Recommended procedures will be derived from the lessons learned in this process.
- Extending web-based methods of data acquisition: So far, web-based systems for the collection of species occurrence data have been used mainly for documentation of chance finds of animals and plants. Another goal of the project described here is to use web-based systems to collect biodiversity data in a systematic way, and, in the process, to mobilise volunteers for specific data collection tasks. To this end, specific data collection campaigns will be carried out. Developing software solutions for the integration of such campaigns into existing data collection systems is another aspect of this project.
- Tools for data analysis: we believe that the benefit of web-based systems for collecting species occurrence data can be greatly improved, if such a system is not only used for collecting the data, but if it also offers possibilities to analyse species occurrence data together with other environmental data directly in the web (to find, for example, correlations in the spatio-temporal occurrence of two species, or correlations between spatial patterns of certain environmental factors and the occurrence of a species). Therefore, the project aims at developing tools for analysis and visualisation (especially maps) based on web-GIS technology, to be used for species occurrence data.