Citizen science got started in Norway circa after year 2000. It means that just about anyone can now collect and publish data, which can be used later in scientific research of nature management. The best known example in Norway is Artsobservasjoner.no (or artsobs for short). Here people share information about species they have seen, be it a bird or a flower or whatever.
Artsobs really became a hit, and now over 18 million observations of Norwegian species is available freely online. These are downloaded and used by researchers that work on diverse questions, like species distributions and biodiversity monitoring. But with big data come big challenges.
Citizen science can only be done where there are people. Therefore, lots of data has been collected from inside and in close vicinity to large cities. Researchers that want to use this data for their work require at least some data from all parts of the country. In other words, we need more data from the wilderness areas. Another problem occurs when anyone, regardless of training, can publish data and this is because some species are quite hard to confidently identify.
High data quality at the university museums
There is large confidence in the quality of biodiversity data stored in university museums as physical specimens. These objects, or samples, can be identified to species with a larger degree of certainty and confirmed by experts. An example of this type of data are herbaria specimens. These are pressed plants that are fixed on a piece of paper along with information about when and where it was collected. Researcher really like this type of data. The problem is there is limited amounts of it, and therefore we would like to also make use of the citizen science data.
Physical specimens, like this herbaria sheet, is very valuable to researchers. One important thing is that the species identification can be quite certain and confirmed by other experts if necessary. Photo: Dean Wm. Taylor CC BY 2.0.
New research sheds light on the bias
Researchers at NTNU University Museum have recently published an article where they describe the differences between data collected as physical object or samples, and data collected without this, for example by citizen scientists. The differences are large, as already described, but the researchers believes there is still large potential for this data to be used more frequently, if only one takes certain precautions.
Join the research community!
Citizen science is definitely here to stay, and the scientific community is forever grateful for the work laid down but people all over this country. By collecting biodiversity data and sharing it with the world, you have joined the research community and are contributing to forming the basis for our nature management. If you wish to make your data even more useful, we give you there three tips:
- Collect more data from outside the cities and towns
- Take good pictures that can verify you identification
- Take physical samples when possible (plants, fungi, etc.) and send them to the university museums