Making Data Meaningful: Data Visualization Overlay in Citizen Science Apps on the SPOTTERON Platform


With the new Data Visualization Overlay, you can display data points as heatmaps or data distribution maps directly in a Citizen Science App, thus making important information clutter-free and appealing to the eye.

What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization is a technique used to communicate data or information by encoding it as visual objects contained in graphics. By visualizing information, you can see the patterns and connections that matter. It helps to communicate information clearly and efficiently, making complex data more accessible, understandable and usable, ultimately fusing scientific data with art.

On the SPOTTERON platform, there are currently two kinds of Data Visualization Overlays, a Heatmap which shows the density of Spots with colours, and a Distribution Dot Map, where the distribution of Spots is visualized on a grid, with more Spots in bigger circles and less in smaller circles. This is only the beginning, with more advanced and elaborate data visualizations coming along the way.

Data Visualizations are live and immediate - when Citizen Scientists contribute new data points in a Citizen Science App, the different data visualization overlays are including these new spots right away. The visualizations are a live view of the current situation and the contributions in a Citizen Science project.

Example from the Roadkill Citizen Science App running on the SPOTTERON platform: an area with many spots (left) and visualized with a heat map (right).

Extendable and Flexible: Custom Citizen Science Data Visualizations

Projects can fund the development of new data visualizations, which will again be shared with all other projects without additional costs. Future extensions will cover more interactive elements, which allow, e.g., selecting particular species and seeing their unique distribution or even having time sliders to show how occurrence records change over time. But not only biodiversity data is benefiting from the data visualizations - with the flexible and interactive toolkit we have developed as a basis for advanced data visualizations. Also, Citizen Science Apps from other fields like Social Sciences or GEo sciences can add custom and specific live visualizations on the map.

The Technology of Data Visualizations in Citizen Science Apps

For providing a smooth and responsive functionality of the data visualization, we have set up a new web service on the SPOTTERON ICT infrastructure. This new service offers a flexible and performant backbone for quick and smooth data handling based on cacheing and indexing technologies. All projects on SPOTTERON can use this new infrastructure in their Citizen Science Apps right from the start and include live data visualizations in their projects.

Examples of different Data Visualization Overlays in a SPOTTERON App.

Citizen Science connecting Continents - Researcher...

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Wednesday, 04 August 2021

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