Sensitive topics like invasive alien species can lead to challenges when utilizing Citizen Science and public involvement. Observations can be time-sensitive, like disaster reports, or topic-sensitive, like controlled pests in agricultural monitoring. Some data categories even include legal requirements, like in the latter example, where new sightings of a controlled pest species must be reported to national authorities.For that purpose, SPOTTERON has developed an elaborate technology system to handle automated reports during the IPM Popillia Horizon 2020 project, which now also benefits other Citizen Science projects on the platform.
As Task Leader for Citizen Science in Horizon 2020 IPM Popillia, SPOTTERON researched the legal requirements that dealing with "controlled pest species" brings with it. Such dangerous invasive species can do tremendous harm to ecosystems or agriculture, and it is mandatory under EU legislation that observations of such species be reported to national bodies. But in practice this is often neglected, also by major biodiversity platforms, which collect report controlled pest species among many other occurance records. But especially in a public funded Horizon Europe or Horizon 2020 project, it is important to extend data gathering to also include official data reports to government bodies or stakeholders.
With the IPM Popillia App, running on the SPOTTERON Citizen Science Platform, we have started to provide a solution for the problem. With the new Automated Reporting System (ARS), a Citizen Science App can new generate email reports for multiple use cases - both for the research team to stay infomred as well as for offical points of contact after an expert within a project has checked and confirmed a data point as correct.
The first level of reports enables the integration of experts into a Citizen Science project. Whenever a user of the Citizen Science App adds a new observation, official internal or external project experts get an email notification directly in their inbox, including a link to the new entry. This makes it easy for internal or external project partners to stay informed about new sightings and to check a new contribution for correctness. Since experts can come from different fields, the system also allows the configuration of contacts on a per-category or per-species basis.
With this important detail, it is possible to, e.g., include both entomologists for insect observations and ornithologists for bird sightings within the same project. With international or cross-regional Citizen Science projects, utilizing the SPOTTERON Project Internationalization Toolkit, experts can also be set up on a per-country or per-region basis. This enables further knowledge diversity and national/regional partner integration into the Citizen Science app.
Thanks to the already widely used "Spot Validation System" for Citizen Science Apps on SPOTTERON, officially appointed expert users in a project can check in data as correct with just a tap of a button. Together with the new email notifications, that results in a powerful toolkit with which an expert can:
This use-case alone makes the new feature a valuable extension for many Citizen Science Apps. But since in IPM Popillia, not only the notification of the project partners is essential, there is a second level built into the Automated Reports System.
When an expert confirms the correctness and species identification of an entry in the Citizen Science App, a second notification can be triggered for an official report by the project to official recipients. This optional feature can be configured per project and makes it possible to create automated reports about expert-confirmed entries within a Citizen Science App.
In the case of controlled pests, it is even legally mandatory to report such a finding to national authorities. For that purpose, we have collected the contact details for all EU countries' official plant health services/government bodies to fulfil this requirement in the IPM Popillia Horizon project. As is the case for the reports about new entries, the secondary level can also be configured for single categories, such as particular species. With that option in place, a Citizen Science project can also make official reports to different authorities or stakeholders for different species or other categories.
With the official reporting system in place, another common problem is also addressed. Our research did show that reporting an invasive alien species, especially for controlled pests, is not an easy task for a citizen. In different countries, different agencies and stakeholders are the official contact points. Often, it is also the case that the official body to report a controlled pest to, or even the reporting method, can vary on a regional basis within one country. This information can be difficult to find for citizens. Within the IPM Popillia project, we plan to invite national stakeholders and other project actors, dealing with invasive species, to come together and utilize a future extended version of the Citizen Science App. In that collaborative approach, a streamlined and reliable system is in place to not only be able to manage the data on a per-country and per-species level, but to also have expert-confirmed sightings being reported automatically to the right contact based on the GEO-location of a sighting. In the IPM Popillia project, we offer already a range of data connectors and options for data exchange, and with the SPOTTERON Project Internationalization Toolkit, partners can manage data submissions for their country of origin. Extensions to the system can include further fine-tuning admin access to data, even on a per-species level, to better integrate experts. We hope to bring you more news about the future of invasive and controlled pest species Citizen Science soon.
With the new Automated Reporting System and its two reporting levels, project administrators can stay informed about new observations and check the data right away. With the second-level reports to third-party recipients about confirmed data points, project collaborations can be deepened, and in the case of sensitive data topics, legal requirements can be fulfilled. This major upgrade to the SPOTTERON Citizen Science App platform brings advanced technologies to all Citizen Science projects, and utilizes automated reports to the researchers, experts and optional even to official national or regional authorities.
On SPOTTERON, features developed within one project are shared with all others. Each App on the SPOTTERON Citizen Science Platform can utilize this new system to better work with data and engage experts for data validation and official reporting about confirmed Spots within an upcoming extension pack.