FOSS4G 2023 academic track

Mario Pesch

Educator and Developer at Institute for Geoinformatics University of M√ľnster and CEO of openSenseLab gGmbH.

Mainly working on low-cost sensorstation and computer science education.


Motivating environmental citizen scientists and open data acquisition on openSenseMap with Open Badges
Frederick Bruch, Mario Pesch

The openSenseMap(1) is an open-source(2) citizen cyber-science platform that facilitates environmental monitoring by allowing individuals to measure and publish sensor data. The platform is designed to create a community-driven network of sensors to monitor various environmental factors, such as air, water quality, and much more. A significant advantage of the platform is that it operates on open data principles, whereby all sensor data
is accessible to the public(3). This openness encourages collaboration and facilitates innovation, which has led to numerous applications in environmental monitoring. Despite its success, the platform still faces challenges regarding user engagement and motivation, necessitating the incorporation of gamification strategies to enhance participation.

The christmas bird count, started by ornithologist frank chapman in 1900, is one of the earliest and longest-running citizen science projects in the world. Today, it involves thousands of birdwatchers who count birds over a 24-hour period in mid-december. The data collected during the christmas bird count provides scientists with valuable information about bird populations, migration patterns, and other important ecological trends. This project set the stage for the growth of citizen science initiatives, where people participate in scientific research.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of citizen (cyber-)science projects, which leverage the power of the internet and digital technology to involve people in scientific research. These projects have had a significant impact on society, contributing to advancements in fields such as astronomy, ecology, and health. While these projects can be a lot of fun, sometimes the tasks for participants can be really monotonous, and they can lose motivation to continue being a part of the project. Therefore, project organizers need to keep participants engaged. This is where gamification comes into play. Applying game elements to anything that isn't a game is known as gamification. Adding elements of competition and rewards can help people stay engaged in the project and continue making contributions (Haklay, 2012). This can be especially helpful for long-term projects that require continual effort from participants.

Digital badges can be earned in a variety of settings and are a recognized symbol of skill or accomplishment. Although badges are a common gamification component, they are typically only usable in closed environments. The possibility of awarding badges for voluntarily participating in scientific research can increase participant motivation. The ability to display, share, and verify badges alongside skills and credentials from other environments has changed the game of digital credentials. This technology is called Open Badges.
This paper focuses on the motivational impact Open Badges can have on citizen science in the context of the openSenseMap platform. Users of the openSenseMap platform were surveyed for this study. Based on the results, a prototype was implemented, combining an open badge platform with the existing openSenseMap platform. The prototype added an open badge component to the platform, allowing users to earn badges for various achievements, such as contributing a certain number of measurements or completing a specific task.
The badges were designed to be displayed on the users profiles and could be shared on social media or other online platforms. This feature enabled participants to showcase their contributions and achievements, increasing their motivation to continue participating in the project. The survey results indicated that participants found the open badge component to make the citizen science platform more interesting, which may suggest that open badges have the potential to increase motivation and engagement in citizen science projects.
Furthermore, its important to note that the open badge platform (called mybadges(4) ) used in this project is open source(5), aligning with the spirit of collaboration and transparency in citizen science. By leveraging the power of open badges and open-source technology, this project has the potential to drive significant positive change in the field of cyber-science and promote reproducibility in scientific research.
In addition to its potential impact on citizen cyber-science, open badges can also be adapted to the open (geo)education context. Open Badges can provide learners with an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and skills in a tangible and transferable way (Halavais, 2012). A genealogy of badges: inherited meaning and monstrous moral hybrids). By earning badges for completing educational tasks, learners can build a portfolio of evidence that can be used to demonstrate their achievements and credentials. This can be particularly valuable in fields such as geospatial science, where there is a growing demand for individuals with specific technical skills and knowledge. The use of
Open Badges in open (geo)education can enhance the learning experience and increase learner motivation, leading to improved educational outcomes and better-equipped professionals in the field.
This paper explores the use of Open Badges, a gamification component, to enhance engagement and motivation in citizen cyber-science projects. The proposed approach uses an open-source citizen cyber-science platform, the openSenseMap, to collect and publish sensor data, making it accessible to the public. The incorporation of Open Badges can incentivize participants to contribute to the project continually. The results of our survey indicated that participants found the open badge component to be an engaging and motivating feature, which suggests that Open Badges have the potential to increase engagement in citizen science projects. This papers contribution aligns with the foss4g academic track audiences interest in exploring innovative approaches to open-source technologys use to address environmental and social challenges. Therefore, this papers findings and implementation approach could be of significant interest to the foss4g academic community.

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