A new feature for a better data quality in Citizen Science Apps: Check & Lock

Friday, 24 January 2020 20:03

Data quality and data management are essential aspects of Citizen Science. In order to always have a validated and stable data-set of user's contributions that can be managed directly in your Citizen Science app's administration interface present, we have created "Check & Lock".

Check & Lock is an easy-to-use tool that enables the administrators to set submissions in the Citizen Science app as validated data with just a click. When done so, a data point displays a green checkmark in the app on various views, from the list of Citizen Science observations to the detail view and the marker on the map. The green checkmark becomes a reward, a symbol of good data quality in the Citizen Science app for both users and visitors of the project. But most importantly, after setting a spot to "checked", the user in the app is not able to edit the data anymore.

In the Citizen Science app, Users can edit their submissions

Without a set Check & Lock, users in the Citizen Science app can go to the edit mode and correct their own observations. The author of a data point can change the location of the spot, correct spelling errors or even change the classification, e.g. after others in the Citizen Science community made remarks about an incorrect classification. This edit mode feature, also part of the SPOTTERON data quality pack, is used frequently throughout all projects on the platform.
While such an edit option is essential to let users correct mistakes, it has a major drawback: the project researchers can never be sure, if the data-set was changed. That makes it an unstable variable when, e.g. doing citations of the data in papers or publications or at the data analysis

Check & Lock: a solution with benefits

With the new Check & Lock feature, this drawback has been solved.

In the administration interface, the administrators of a project now find a new column "Checked" (2nd column). With just a click, the entry can be set to "checked", and a checkmark appears. By setting a data point to checked, it will be locked in the app for editing by the user and a data-set can be managed directly in the administration area of SPOTTERON. For further use, the data list can be filtered easily via a dropdown selection to show just the checked spots and export only the checked & locked data-set anytime.

Citizen Science Data Administration showing the SPOTTERON Check & Lock Feature

To contribute validated and correct data is also crucial for the users participating in your project. As instant feedback and visual reward, all checked & locked spots in the Citizen Science app will display a new spot bubble marker, so it is clearly visible which data has been validated and is used by the project. Also, in the list views, this new checkmark bubble is displayed for the checked spots. If a user opens up a spot, it is also stated in the spot details list that the spot is validated. For the original author of an observation, the edit icon is now greyed out, and a lock symbol is shown instead.

An example for the importance of design in a Citizen Science app

This visual feedback level is essential when working with a public tool. A Citizen Scientist in your project should not be wondering why an observation can not be edited anymore - the Citizen Science app must always give destinct and easy to comprehend feedback back to the users in the app's graphic user interface. The Check & Lock feedback loop is a good example for applying practical design concepts and creating additonal benefits for both the users and the researchers within a project. We Citizen Scientists are glad if we can contribute valueable data and by showing it to us via a strong visual element like the green checkmark bubble, we are happy to have done so. 

See the feature live in action, download the official apps!

Here are live screenshots from two projects on the SPOTTERON Citizen Science platform: Crowdwater, a hydrology Citizen Science app and Project Roadkill about street ecology and roadkill hotspot identification. You can find both projects in our Citizen Science app section here: Citizen Science App Examples. Every Citizen Science app on SPOTTERON is available for Android & IOS, and you can also access the web-application for your browser via the show map button on the app page.

The new Check & Lock feature shown in various SPOTTERON Citizen Science apps (Crowdwater, Project Roadkill)

The comment section is, of course not affected, so users can still comment underneath the spot as usual and enjoy all the other fun aspects of the app - without you worrying about the data quality!

Questions? Get in contact!

For further question about the Check & Lock functionality or other features of the SPOTTERON Citizen Science platform and how to use it for your own Citizen Science app please do not hesitate to get in contact - we are available via eMail, phone, Skype, Zoom and even via Signal and WhatsApp:

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