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Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science or Volunteered Geographic Information? The Current State of Crowdsourced Geographic Information

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Schlossplatz 1, Laxenburg A2361, Austria
Department of Computer Science, Maynooth University, Maynooth W23 F2H6, Ireland
School of Geography, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
School of Engineering and Applied Science, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK
School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
NOVA IMS, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (UNL), 1070-312 Lisboa, Portugal
Department of Earth Systems Analysis, ITC/University of Twente, Enschede 7500 AE, The Netherlands
Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Division of GIScience, University of Gävle, Gävle 80176, Sweden
Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, Kirkkonummi 02430, Finland
Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), Kjeller 2027, Norway
Sinergise Ltd., Cvetkova ulica 29, Ljubljana SI-1000, Slovenia
Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana SI-1000, Slovenia
Institute of Geoinformatics, Óbuda University Alba Regia Technical Faculty, Székesfehérvár 8000, Hungary
Université Paris-Est, IGN-France, COGIT Laboratory, Saint-Mandé, Paris 94165, France
Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Technikerstr. 21a, Innsbruck A6020, Austria
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Alexander Zipf, David Jonietz, Vyron Antoniou and Wolfgang Kainz
ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2016, 5(5), 55;
Received: 24 January 2016 / Revised: 5 April 2016 / Accepted: 18 April 2016 / Published: 27 April 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Volunteered Geographic Information)
PDF [2495 KB, uploaded 27 April 2016]


Citizens are increasingly becoming an important source of geographic information, sometimes entering domains that had until recently been the exclusive realm of authoritative agencies. This activity has a very diverse character as it can, amongst other things, be active or passive, involve spatial or aspatial data and the data provided can be variable in terms of key attributes such as format, description and quality. Unsurprisingly, therefore, there are a variety of terms used to describe data arising from citizens. In this article, the expressions used to describe citizen sensing of geographic information are reviewed and their use over time explored, prior to categorizing them and highlighting key issues in the current state of the subject. The latter involved a review of ~100 Internet sites with particular focus on their thematic topic, the nature of the data and issues such as incentives for contributors. This review suggests that most sites involve active rather than passive contribution, with citizens typically motivated by the desire to aid a worthy cause, often receiving little training. As such, this article provides a snapshot of the role of citizens in crowdsourcing geographic information and a guide to the current status of this rapidly emerging and evolving subject. View Full-Text
Keywords: crowdsourcing; volunteered geographic information; citizen science; mapping crowdsourcing; volunteered geographic information; citizen science; mapping

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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See, L.; Mooney, P.; Foody, G.; Bastin, L.; Comber, A.; Estima, J.; Fritz, S.; Kerle, N.; Jiang, B.; Laakso, M.; Liu, H.-Y.; Milčinski, G.; Nikšič, M.; Painho, M.; Pődör, A.; Olteanu-Raimond, A.-M.; Rutzinger, M. Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science or Volunteered Geographic Information? The Current State of Crowdsourced Geographic Information. ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2016, 5, 55.

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