Why is it relevant?

The incremental and regular release of outputs can help stakeholders develop a common understanding of the issue and solutions to it. In the long run, doing this may help stakeholders reorient the Citizen Observatory to new and emerging questions. For public authorities, such openness also facilitates the transparency, accountability and continuity of public participation. 

How is this done?

Technology has changed the way knowledge and information is spread. When people invented printing and books, we had a tool for sharing knowledge that was costly to it in terms of writing and production, but this method could attribute the knowledge to its author. Now, moving forward into the increased use of online platforms and digital information, the outputs of Citizen Observatories can regularly be made open (publicly accessible) in the form of digested and impactful information that is useful and tailored for different stakeholders: citizens, scientists, and decision-makers. 

As scientific work, citizen science results should be made available through and follow the open science recommendations for research visibility in science. These recommendations are based on the assumption that science results made freely available to the scientific and social communities will lead to a more collaborative, transparent and comprehensive advancement of collective knowledge. To this goal, any publication, such as research papers, proceedings, policy briefs, books and letters, describing your research results should be made openly available through their publication into open access journals, platforms and repositories. There are two ways to do this:

  • Gold Open Access: This involves directly publishing your work in an online open access journal or repository. Open access platforms are those which guarantee that free access to research is made with no restrictions, both for the content and  for the license agreements, entirely being open content licenses. This way the research results are made available for consultation, download, sharing and reuse immediately after their publication. Publication charges may apply to publications on open access platforms, as for other types of publications.
  • Green Open Access: With this you can publish your work in a journal or repository with any kind of access policy and at the same time make available a copy of the work through an open access platform. In this case, the copy you wish to make open will need to be consistent with the legal restrictions imposed by the journal or repository in which the work is published. This can consist of an embargo period, the ability to publish only a pre-print version or some copyright restrictions. Of course, this way is less adequate for making the research results immediately and completely available to the research and social communities, as complete free access to research results is not given immediately.

Many sites and platforms offer open access storage and publication; you can find a list in the Directory of Open Access Journals (for journals and articles) or in the Registry of Open Access Repositories (which includes data repositories and open access journals and databases). The ones most often sed by the research community are probably Zenodo and OpenAIRE. In any case, when making your decision, it is essential to first check in detail the journal or site policy in relation to the copyright of the work in order to avoid further conflicts regarding the ownership and access rights to the content.

In recent times, there has been a general agreement that publication of results should be traceable back to the data that supports the conclusion. Since most Citizen Observatories are constantly adding new observations to their data sets, a frozen version of the data, conveniently anonymised and without any sensitive information in it, should also be made available through an open repository cited in the publication using a permanent and unique identifier (PID) for your data set. Examples of repositories that provide PIDs along with some basic metadata are  GitHub, Zenodo, the Open Data Repository and the B2SHARE catalog. Many other thematic repositories exist, and you can find a catalogue on the re3data webpage. Make sure the repository you choose is adequate for the type and formats of your data and that it matches your needs in terms of licenses, as well as of costs of the service. Also, consider whether it will be useful for you to be notified about the use of your data.

Example from the LandSense project

The LandSense project has made its research results available in open access mode through the Zenodo repository, including research papers, posters, presentations and deliverables, as well as the related data sets, and including some publications which have restricted access due to the journal policy. In this case, at least the metadata of the work is provided so that everyone can know of the existence of the research and the work.

Ensuring the sound knowledge transfer of your Citizen Observatory results and their uptake by citizens (especially the participants of your Citizen Observatory) requires making the results easy to understand and clearly relating them to the problems you are trying to solve. This will help citizens to fully grasp the scope and meaning of the findings.  Sharing and making the Citizen Observatory results open to citizens is particularly important for making sure the citizen scientists can receive and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Since coming to understand an issue is a process, it is also important to digest and disclose the Citizen Observatory outputs periodically with citizens and in this way ensure their continued support and participation, which is essential for the longer term sustainability of the Citizen Observatory.

When transferring knowledge to citizens, you can think of several channels and use them according to your type of Citizen Observatory. You can use online tools, face-to-face events, and/or  printed materials or media dissemination. Locally-based Citizen Observatories are better suited for face-to-face meetings or presentations, while global Citizen Observatories run better through online communication. Many times, the Citizen Observatory website can be the most important platform on which to share results with citizens, in particular if they already use it for participating in the project. Face-to-face presentations can provide a more direct and collaborative atmosphere and allow for a bidirectional knowledge exchange. Printed material summarising the project results in a clear language can be distributed. Other techniques can help with online dissemination: sharing outreach videos and reports, posting summary messages in the digital tools and apps and in the social media channels of the project, or distributing periodical newsletters in which project results can be synthesised. Media appearance is also a good way of disseminating your results, not only to the Citizen Observatory participants, but also to the larger society, as they are seen as reliable sources of information.

Example from the Mosquito Alert project

The Mosquito Alert Citizen Observatory has been active since 2014 and is dedicated to investigating and controlling disease-transmitting mosquitoes. It offers an app to report the observation of tiger mosquitoes and yellow fever mosquitoes, as well as their bites and possible breeding sites. This Citizen Observatory brings together citizens, scientists and managers of public health and the environment to fight against those vectors of Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya. Involving all these actors is possible by making the research results available to them in appropriate ways. Mosquito Alert periodically offers status reports to the participants and to the authorities in order for them to keep informed on the progress on the research as well on  the situation of the mosquitoes and their distribution. On the MosquitoAlert website, periodical news is published, as well as summary reports, and a periodic newsletter is sent to the participants summarising the results and impact of the Citizen Observatory and containing pictures and observations contributed by the citizens as a means to acknowledge their contributions.

Useful Resources

WEBSITE: The Open Knowledge Foundation lists data licenses which conform with the open definition

SCIENTIFIC PAPER: The paper “The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship” outlines the rationale behind the principles, and gives several examples of their use

WEBSITE: The Frontiers website offers detailed, peer-reviewed information and publications on citizen science methods

HANDBOOK: The Open Science Training Handbook provides a  living handbook on open science training developed by the German National Library of Science and Technology. The focus of the handbook is how to spread ideas about open science most effectively.

GUIDELINES: The OpenAIRE Guides for Researchers. How to select a data repository? provides information and guidelines for selecting a data repository.

CATALOGUE: Re3data.org is a registry of research data repositories, containing useful information relating to open access data.

This work by parties of the WeObserve consortium is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.