Environmental policy involving citizen science (CS) is of growing interest. In support of this open data stream of information, validation or quality assessment of the CS geo-located data to their appropriate usage for evidence-based policy making needs a flexible and easily adaptable data curation process ensuring transparency. Addressing these needs, this paper describes an approach for automatic quality assurance as proposed by the Citizen OBservatory WEB (COBWEB) FP7 project. This approach is based upon a workflow composition that combines different quality controls, each belonging to seven categories or “pillars”. Each pillar focuses on a specific dimension in the types of reasoning algorithms for CS data qualification. These pillars attribute values to a range of quality elements belonging to three complementary quality models. Additional data from various sources, such as Earth Observation (EO) data, are often included as part of the inputs of quality controls within the pillars. However, qualified CS data can also contribute to the validation of EO data. Therefore, the question of validation can be considered as “two sides of the same coin”. Based on an invasive species CS study, concerning Fallopia japonica
(Japanese knotweed), the paper discusses the flexibility and usefulness of qualifying CS data, either when using an EO data product for the validation within the quality assurance process, or validating an EO data product that describes the risk of occurrence of the plant. Both validation paths are found to be improved by quality assurance of the CS data. Addressing the reliability of CS open data, issues and limitations of the role of quality assurance for validation, due to the quality of secondary data used within the automatic workflow, are described, e.g., error propagation, paving the route to improvements in the approach.
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