Joint Research Centre
Digital Earth Lab

Powered by a series of digital transformations over the past decade, citizen became one of the major providers of data - both, on the web and in uncountable many closed systems. Examples include – but are by no means restricted to – logs of movements by mobile phone operators, footage of public cameras, scanner data, logs of financial transactions, but also traces and data on online platforms, as well as active contributions by the use of mobile phone applications or the use of low-cost sensors in peoples’ backyards.

We find ourselves in a situation in which, we know arguably little about all the data flows surrounding us, and the potentials and threads still leave main research questions unanswered and ethical consideration to be taken more seriously. Paired with legal and organizational considerations, related challenges are also been taken up in policy-making.

With our research activities we - an interdisciplinary team of researchers and developers at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) - want to advance the understanding of possible roles of citizen and the (power) relationships that are emerging due to data and the ongoing digital transformation of society. While keeping a holistic view across the different possible types of citizen-generated and citizen-contributed content, the work presented on these pages should help to advance our understanding of peoples’ intentional engagement in authentic scientific investigations (Citizen Science) and its possible usages for European policy.

The figure above illustrates our phased approach to develop an information platform for Citizen Science and to demonstrate its use for European policy-making. In the past, we primarily experimented with dynamic data streams from novel sources, such as sensors, civil society, and the commercial sector. We framed the overall approach to develop a Citizen Science Platform and started to build partnerships with organizations and working groups in the area of Big Data and Citizen Science. We are now in the transition of providing the results of our work and start demonstrating the implications. We will continue with these activities in the coming years, with the aims to (1) provide methodologies to integrate Citizen Science into the policy cycle; (2) operationalize an information platform that can support the underlying processes; and (3) reflect on the changing role of the public in European policy making and new forms of contributions to the provision of scientific evidence.

Ultimately, the Citizen Science Platform will be a web front-end comprising of an archive of resources (data, tools and apps) and supporting a set of Citizen Science demonstrators that address the requirements of specific research questions and European policy interests. Each demonstrator will illustrate the potential policy relevance of a particular aspect of Citizen Science and provide a means to evaluate the feasibility for pan-European operations. The Citizen Science Platform will not only present the final results of each demonstrator, but also provide access to the data, services, and support functionality needed to design, develop and deliver this particular application. The archive of Citizen Science resources becomes increasingly populated with the results of selected European-funded research projects and additional resources as considered relevant for particular demonstrators.