Research Data Management Challenges in Citizen Science Projects and Recommendations for Library Support Services. A Scoping Review and Case Study

Abstract:  Citizen science (CS) projects are part of a new era of data aggregation and harmonisation that facilitates interconnections between different datasets. Increasing the value and reuse of CS data has received growing attention with the appearance of the FAIR principles and systematic research data management (RDM) practises, which are often promoted by university libraries. However, RDM initiatives in CS appear diversified and if CS have special needs in terms of RDM is unclear. Therefore, the aim of this article is firstly to identify RDM challenges for CS projects and secondly, to discuss how university libraries may support any such challenges.

A scoping review and a case study of Danish CS projects were performed to identify RDM challenges. 48 articles were selected for data extraction. Four academic project leaders were interviewed about RDM practices in their CS projects.

Challenges and recommendations identified in the review and case study are often not specific for CS. However, finding CS data, engaging specific populations, attributing volunteers and handling sensitive data including health data are some of the challenges requiring special attention by CS project managers. Scientific requirements or national practices do not always encompass the nature of CS projects.

Based on the identified challenges, it is recommended that university libraries focus their services on 1) identifying legal and ethical issues that the project managers should be aware of in their projects, 2) elaborating these issues in a Terms of Participation that also specifies data handling and sharing to the citizen scientist, and 3) motivating the project manager to good data handling practises. Adhering to the FAIR principles and good RDM practices in CS projects will continuously secure contextualisation and data quality. High data quality increases the value and reuse of the data and, therefore, the empowerment of the citizen scientists.

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