There is growing interest in and curiosity about Citizen Observatories. By learning more about their specific characteristics and how they fit within the wider field of citizen science, you will better understand their unique potential. This will help you to know what factors to consider when designing, launching or engaging with Citizen Observatories.
Citizen Observatories are community-based environmental monitoring and information systems.
When the term ‘Citizen Observatories’ first emerged in the early 2010s, Alan Grainger from the University of Leeds defined them as The simplest and most broadly applicable definition comes from Alan Grainger. He defined Citizen Observatories as any use of Earth observation technology in which citizens collect data and are empowered by the information generated from these data to participate in environmental management. Since then the concept of Citizen Observatories has evolved beyond that.
While there is no one official definition, the common characteristics of Citizen Observatories are:
- citizen participation in environmental monitoring and governance,
- typically at the community level or in a specific location, even if linked to a national or global environmental concern,
- in which citizens use modern mobile and web technologies and/or sensors to collect and share data,
- which enhance Earth observation systems and official data sources by filling in gaps and adding detail,
- supporting the flow of data and information between citizens, scientists and decision-makers,
- with a focus on influencing decision-making, policy change and/or environmental governance outcomes.
Two models of recent Citizen Observatories are presented below.
Image: Illustration of Citizen Observatories by the Ground Truth 2.0 project
Image: GROW Observatory
Citizen Observatories can be set up to monitor issues such as: