A working vocabulary of citizen-generated data methodologies

Open Knowledge International in partnership with King’s College London and the Public Data Lab are working together to develop a vocabulary for governments to navigate the landscape of citizen-generated data.

The research seeks to develop a working vocabulary of different citizen-generated data methodologies. This vocabulary shall highlight clear distinction criteria between different methods, but also point out different ways of thinking about citizen-generated data. We hope that such a vocabulary can help governments and international organisations attend to the benefits and pitfalls of citizen-generated data in a more nuanced way and will help them engage with citizen-generated data more strategically.

You can read more about the research in blog posts from Open Knowledge International and Kings College London.

In the spirit of collective inquiry, the project aims to surface different perspectives and encourage public debate around citizen-generated data and the roles that it could play in relation to the UN SDGs by:

  • Mapping existing literature, online content and examples of projects, practices, methods and devices associated with the term “citizen generated data”;

  • Using this mapping to solicit for input and ideas on other kinds of citizen-generated data initiatives as well as other relevant literatures and practices from researchers, practitioners and others;

  • Gathering suggestions from literature, researchers and practitioners about which aspects of citizen-generated data to attend to, and why;

  • Undertaking fresh empirical research around a selection of citizen-generated data projects in order to explore these different perspectives.

If you’re interested in following or contributing to the project, you can do so here.


I see many ways that citizens can generate data, either directly, or indirectly. Here are some projects that come to mind that might be relevant in this context.

Perhaps the most common case is when citizens interact with companies, which in turn register many aspects of that interaction. Some studies have been exploring ways to make use of that data for the public interest in the form of data collaboratives.

Some researchers have been trying to map interactions that citizens do with governments, proposing a social participation (e-Participation) ontology.

Also, as 3D printers become more common, people have begun to share schematics for building things, in what the European Commission has called “Digital Do it Yourself (DiDIY)”, in a study they have funded in 2015-2017. I think of this as also one form of citizen generated data.

Similarly, there are also other, older and more well known projects such as Wikipedia, Wikidata, DBPedia, Open Steet Map, etc.


Thanks so much @herrmann, these are great resources which reflect nicely the different viewpoints on citizen-generated data. We will add these to our literature repo (which will be shared here shortly). The repo currently contains roughly 120 articles gathered, which crossover nicely with your examples.

One first observation: there are many characteristics between different initiatives (e.g. some defining elements of e-government applications can be found in community mapping, environmental monitoring, etc.). Hopefully we can spot more of these overlaps and differences!

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We are looking at this from a Citizen Science perspective —> Working Group 1 - Ensure scientific quality of Citizen Science | COST Action CA15212 Our first report is expected early next year.

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This is great, I’m curious to hear if you have preliminary results to share. Will your project mainly be about ensuring data quality?

We are also very interested in this aspect of CGD, when data is good enough for different use purposes, and strategies to ensure quality.

Just stumbled upon the blog post, great to hear!

At IISD we are following citizen science projects in Canada and would be happy to chat or contribute. We are connected to a few programs and are aware at some which are forthcoming. Also we are finalizing a report on how CGD/Citizen Science and trust as it flows between originators and users.

I’m especially interested in your concept about generating standardized vocabularies and methodologies surrounding citizen-generated data.

Happy to chat further on this topic!

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