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Please note that key information required by senior managers to evaluate and rank all CDI proposals will be extracted from this page and copied into the required synoptic FY 2012 Proposals page for their convenience.


Engaging the public in scientific endeavors is not a new concept. Amateur ornithologists monitored birds in 17th century Finland, and in Victorian England, citizen astronomers participated in the great Transits of Venus to accurately measure the distance from the earth to the sun. The Christmas Bird Count was begun in 1900 by the Audubon Society and has yielded long records of North American bird distribution. Citizen science is the term now commonly used term to describe projects in which volunteers collect observations and measurements or perform computations for use in science projects. In recent years, the Internet, smart phones and social media have revolutionized the way data can be collected and shared, resulting in a proliferation of these projects. While questions have been raised about the accuracy of citizen science data, research is beginning to show that, properly constrained and managed, citizen science can produce data that compare favorably to authoritative data.

The USGS has a number of well-known citizen science efforts. Did You Feel It? is a website sponsored by the Earthquake Program that asks citizens to report ground shaking during an earthquake. Volunteers for the National Phenology Network monitor the life cycles of wildlife and plants and help digitize records of bird and animal distribution that date back to the 19th century. Other USGS citizen science efforts, many championed by individual scientists in distributed centers, are not as well known to one another nor to the USGS at large. A forum for exchanging information could potentially benefit these projects and provide higher visibility within and outside the USGS. Potential citizen science project leaders might need answers to these questions:  How does one design a project, recruit, train, and retain volunteers? What types of data are appropriate? Are there best practices that can be inferred from established projects? What policy issues are encountered in citizen science projects? How sustainable are citizen science projects? Can data collected by one group be reused for another scientific purpose?

The Citizen Science Working Group of the Community for Data Integration is proposing a USGS-wide meeting of citizen science project leaders inside USGS and in other organizations to share best practices for establishing citizen science projects, working with volunteers, colleting and validating data, education, and communication. The proposed workshop is described in detail below. Citizen science can be relevant to each new USGS mission area, and these projects could make our science more approachable and understandable to students, teachers, and the general public


Project Topic


Resources Required

Major Outcomes

Total Funding Needed

USGS Citizen Science Workshop

-- Plan workshop
-- Conduct workshop
-- Prepare and publish workshop materials (products)
-- Set up & populate Website

-- x FTE/$ TBD for Program Committee (in-kind?)
-- x FTE/$ TBD for local staff logistical support (in-kind?)
-- Travel funds for invited speakers
-- Funds to host event (at hotel? at DFC?)
-- 0.1 FTE/$ TBD K (12 months) post-Workshop coordination
-- x FTE/$ TBD to set-up/host website

-- Workshop
-- USGS-series workshop report (including, e.g., extended abstracts, posters, presentations, white paper(s), general meeting notes); OFR or SIR
-- White paper(s) (separate or included in Workshop report)
-- Proposed guidance on Crowd-sourced Citizen Science relative to USGS Volunteer Handbook
-- Best practices handbook/document(s)
-- FY2013 Powell Center proposal
-- New CSWG focus groups
-- Informational website
-- Presentation of findings to 2012 PPSR Conference

-- Pre-workshop planning:  $ TBD K
-- Workshop logistics (execution):  $ TBD K
-- Travel expenses (invited speakers; planning committee): $ TBD K
-- Post-workshop support:  $ TBD K
-- Publication of workshop report:  $ TBD K
-- Travel expenses to 2012 PPSR Conference


-- Total:  $ TBD K

Assumptions (for Costing Purposes)

Size, Venue, Dates, Duration

  • Size: |]
    |] participants including select non-USGS partners, collaborators, or others -- I think 100 is too many to get good discussion in. Based on our VGI workshop, I'd recommend 50-60 (bps) -- I'm inclined to agree: 50-60 active (onsite) participants (DLG)
  • Place: Denver Federal Center
  • Date: Late Spring 2012 (April-May)
  • Duration: 3 days (2.5 days workshop plus travel)


  • Workshop Report: 50-60 pages; USGS-series publication (OFR or SIR)
  • Website: Public/Extranet/Intranet to hold and share key information & documents
  • Workshop documents: Presentations, white paper(s), etc., posted to CDI-CSWG wiki

General Ideas

  • The focus should be on shedding light on existing projects within USGS and partners, and educating others on how citizen science could help their studies/research
  • What can we glean/learn from existing projects in all the areas of interest?
  • Invite speakers from well established projects outside the USGS/partners realm (since many other groups are leaps ahead)
  • Those attending would learn how to set up new projects, technical aspects of citizen science projects (data management, standards adoption, technology choices, novel approaches), case studies of existing projects, dealing with challenges and breaking down barriers within the USGS and in the science world.
  • Establish new CSWG focus groups and identify areas for future development and attention through the working group
    • Policy barriers
    • Best practices
    • Discovery/"Show and tell"
    • Training group

Other Workshop Ideas

Session/Presentation/Breakout Ideas

Session Topic/Idea



Possible Outputs

Case studies of existing projects/Spotlight on established projects


  • Their project purpose, goals, reason for existence
  • Drivers behind starting the project
  • What are the data outputs?
  • Are there management decisions being made with the data?
  • Who are using the data?
  • How does it strengthen or integrate with USGS Science
  • Solicit expanded metadata/data survey ?
  • Typology of citizen science projects in USGS--active and passive (gathering data from social media)
  • Understanding citizen motivation
  • Detailed metadata records about the data collected (expand survey/inventory performed in Fall 2011)
  • Where the data are used, what standards it they utilizes, how it can be accessed, data sharing policy

Challenges, barriers, tough spots - what are the barriers you encountered establishing your citizen science project?


  • Challenges encountered in establishing or running citizen science projects
  • How did you deal with USGS policies and issues such as PII, etc.
  • USGS Volunteer Handbook doesn't clearly address web-scale Citizen Science.
  • What other barriers had to be overcome?
  • Knowledge-base of challenges and solutions from various projects/perspectives
  • as approach to spur interest in other user communities

How to establish a citizen science project


  • How did you establish your project - what was the driver/need?
  • Policy issues
  • How to engage the public
  • Training citizen scientists
  • QA/QC of data
  • Analyzing data
  • Outputs/effect/evaluation needs
  • Roadmap of needs and decisions, how to start a citizen science project within the USGS
  • Mandated limits on collection of PII, other information
  • Security
  • Collection ethics
  • Quality resources and help documents used as guides
  • Data acquisition and management best practices

Standards adoption in citizen science projects


  • What standards are used?
  • What protocols are available?
  • Biological data standards used?
  • What has the adoption of standards allowed in your project?
  • Has it expanded data sharing capabilities? 
  • Other benefits the adoption of standards can bring?
  • Novel uses of the data by other scientists or in other programs/projects?
  • Knowledgebase from existing projects:
    • Standards used
    • Protocols used
    • Biological data standards used
    • Exchange schemas used
    • Examples of data exchange or integration

Technical aspects/Technology diversity in citizen science


  • Data management,
  • Tech stack
  • Novel approaches to data collection/technologies available
  • Mobile data collection or participation
  • Knowledge-base from existing projects
  • Developments or examples from existing projects
  • Pros/cons to consider with each

Future Directions in USGS/Partner Citizen Science - formation of new focus groups within the CSWG


  • Discussions and kickoffs for new focus groups
    • Policy Barriers group
      • Address continuing or upcoming challenges
      • Include folks who have some kind of power to push issue resolution (or establish contacts with those who do have that power)
    • Discovery group
      • Continue the discovery and sharing of new/existing projects, establishing document store/knowledge-base of their activities
      • Scheduling meetings for future CSWG meetings, inviting or outreach to other USGS scientists
    • Training group
      • Have presenters demonstrate various how tos
  • Organize new focus groups
  • Brainstorm ideas for new focus groups needed
  • Solicit membership

Logistics to Consider (stolen shamelessly from 2011 CDI workshop planning)

  • Auditorium/large meeting room
  • Request for large meeting
  • Hotel reservation block
  • Email announcement
  • Projectors/laptops
  • Internet/Intranet access
  • Audio bridge (if expecting virtual participants)
  • WebEx large meeting (if expecting (large number of) virtual participants)
  • Coffee, snacks
  • Lunches
  • Name tags
  • Printed materials - Agenda, Participants & Guest List

Current Contributors

Govoni, David L. 101111
Hines, Megan K. 4210
Benson, Abigail L. 200
Sellers, Elizabeth A. 200
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