Why is it relevant?

Citizen Observatories depend on the reaction levels of their users. If it is not possible to clearly estimate the number of infrastructure users supporting the community,  the exact hardware requirements cannot be determined. If, at some point in time, more participants start providing observations, performance and reliability issues can emerge. Cloud providers offer ‘elastic’ infrastructure as a service which can solve this problem. Citizen Observatories can be deployed in the cloud, and the service can be designed to automatically request more resources when there is more demand.

How can this be done?

There are many cloud providers that can offer relevant services for Citizen Observatories. But from a strategic perspective, a Citizen Observatory should consider moving into the  European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). The EOSC is an environment for hosting and processing research data that supports EU science. The EOSC was initiated by the European Commission in 2015. It aims to develop a federated environment that cuts across borders and scientific disciplines to re-use research data and software, following the FAIR principles. Since Citizen Observatories have demonstrated their capacity to complement official data sources, they  should be part of this comprehensive initiative.

To become a recognised institution by the EOSC, you should register your Citizen Observatory in the EOSC portal. Once this is done, you can register the Citizen Observatory services as EOSC resources. This process will give the Citizen Observatory more visibility among the scientific community.

Currently, the EOSC is not imposing requirements on the infrastructure sustaining a Citizen Observatory. If your Citizen Observatory has not yet been moved into the cloud, it can request cloud access to the EGI Federated Cloud. EGI will determine which member of the federation can best serve the Citizen Observatory in terms of Cloud Compute, Cloud Container Compute or Training infrastructure.

Cloud providers rent infrastructure to their clients as a business model. Your Citizen Observatory needs to secure continuous funding to pay for the cloud services. Costs will depend on the computer resources reserved as well as the level of usage of the infrastructure. The organisation of successful data collection campaigns can increase the level of use, resulting in unforeseen costs. On the other hand, your Citizen Observatory will save in hardware costs that are necessary to manage a local infrastructure. The Citizen Observatory will benefit from providing a reliable and stable service whatever the circumstances, something very difficult to achieve with a local infrastructure (which can fail unexpectedly).

Example from the Cos4Cloud project

The Cos4Cloud project is developing eleven services. Once these are ready, Cos4Cloud will upload these services to the EOSC as modules, so that any existing Citizen Observatory will be able to choose and install the technological services needed to improve its functionalities. These projects are adopting a common interoperable architecture that will make it possible to allow them to work together and to integrate them in the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) ecosystem. These services are: 

  • Cos4Bio (and Cos4Env), a platform that integrates observations on biodiversity (or environmental) from different Citizen Observatories, potentially monitoring an enormous number of observations that are of interest to the expert community;
  • DUNS (Data Use Notification Service), an innovative system for data-usage tracking and user rewards. This system will serve as a method to evaluate the scientific contributions linked to citizen-observatory data;
  • MOBIS (Mobile Observation Integration Service), which offers a nice user-friendly interface to get valuable data from smartphone sensors and images; 
  • MECODA, an expandable scripting repository;
  • FASTCAT (Flexible Ai System for CAmera Traps)-Cloud, an automatic way to propose the species name for a picture; 
  • FASTCAT (Flexible Ai SysTem for CAmeranTraps)-Edge, which automatically pre-processes video streams (or regular snapshots);
  • Pl@ntnet API, an interface to use the Pl@ntNet identification engine and gain access to Pl@ntNet data; 
  • AI-Naturalist, providing automatic identification tools adapted to Citizen Observatory needs based on machine learning;
  • AI-GeoSpecies, which shows potential species to be observed in a set area. Works on a scale of 50 thousand species on a Europe-wide level;
  • Biodiversity-DL, a training set on a particular group of living organisms on-demand; and 
  • Authenix, which allows registered applications and services to log in to multiple digital platforms using one authentication GDPR-compliant service

Useful Resources

REPORT: The EOSC Interoperability framework contains a proposal for the management of FAIR Digital Objects in the context of EOSC and a reference architecture for the EOSC Interoperability Framework that  is  inspired  by  and  extends  the  European  Interoperability  Reference  Architecture (EIRA), identifying the main building blocks required.

TOOL: Citizen Science Cloud: Initially created for the Earth Challenge 2020 initiative, the Citizen Science Cloud is a place where anyone can share and access open, interoperable citizen science data and related applications.

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