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Crowdsourcing, citizen science or volunteered geographic information? The current state of crowdsourced geographic information


Linda See

Peter Mooney

Professor of Geographical Information

Lucy Bastin

A. Comber

Jacinto Estima

Steffen Fritz

Norman Kerle

Bin Jiang

Mari Laakso

Hai-Ying Liu

Grega Mil?inski


Marco Painho

Andrea Podor

Ana-Maria Olteanu-Raimond

Martin Rutzinger


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.


See, L., Mooney, P., Foody, G. M., Bastin, L., Comber, A., Estima, J., …Rutzinger, M. (2016). Crowdsourcing, citizen science or volunteered geographic information? The current state of crowdsourced geographic information. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 5(5), 55.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 18, 2016
Online Publication Date Apr 27, 2016
Publication Date Apr 27, 2016
Deposit Date Mar 8, 2017
Publicly Available Date Mar 8, 2017
Journal ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information
Electronic ISSN 2220-9964
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 5
Article Number 55
Pages 55
Keywords crowdsourcing; volunteered geographic information; citizen science; mapping
Public URL
Publisher URL


2016-IJGI-See.pdf (2.6 Mb)

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