Letter to the Community

July 2015

Dear GLOBE Community Members,

As GLOBE heads into its 21st year, I would like to begin a conversation with you about the topic of Citizen Science, often referred to as CS. A possible new term for this type of public engagement is now emerging -Public Participation in Scientific Research. For the purposes of this discussion, I will use the term Citizen Science or CS.  You may have heard about CS in recent years as numerous scientists around the world are realizing the power of CS and 'crowd-sourcing' the acquisition and analysis of data either for short-term or long-term projects.  This movement has spawned a multitude of projects around the world. However, it may surprise you to know that GLOBE has always been a CS project and one of the first global projects of its kind.

GLOBE Students are (and have always been) Citizen Scientists

GLOBE students have been doing "Citizen Science" for the past 20 years by engaging in data collection, entry and analysis; partnering with scientists and Earth observing satellites; and participating in scientific measurement campaigns. The GLOBE database now holds more than 127 million measurements provided by our "student citizen scientists." Technology has evolved, providing the ability to measure more phenomena with greater accuracy. GLOBE has become part of the digital revolution with the release of its first app; solitary efforts have given way to large-scale collaborations, with the power to transform how we think about the world and how we live in it.

Mobile Apps Make Data Entry Easy

Recently, GLOBE released its first mobile app for data entry, allowing GLOBE students and teachers the opportunity to enter GLOBE protocol data directly from an iOS or Android device for any of GLOBE's protocols. After an initial download of the app, users can enter measurements in the field and then choose to send the data to GLOBE when an internet connection is available. The app streamlines some aspects of data entry, allowing users to employ the phone's camera to document sites and measurements. This app is intended only for users who have an existing GLOBE account. 

New Mobile Apps Are Coming that Will Expand the Numbers of GLOBE Citizen Scientists

After 20 years of working with student citizen scientists, GLOBE thinks the time is right to engage people beyond the formal education areas (schools) through its new Citizen Science Initiative. During the fall of 2015, GLOBE plans to release a Cloud App that will allow anyone with the app to enter data about clouds directly into the GLOBE database.

What Does Expanded Public Participation in Scientific Research Look Like in GLOBE

GLOBE believes that engaging the "broader public" in the process of scientific investigations -- asking questions, collecting data, and interpreting results -- is a step worth taking. Any effort to provide students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and to contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment, aligns strongly with GLOBE's mission and vision. In addition, the additional measurements can only strengthen the database and its use by students, as well as scientists, for their research.

In general, people outside of school settings have not been able to contribute to the GLOBE database. GLOBE can expand its reach and influence by casting a wider net to include students in informal settings (summer camps, scouting experiences, etc.) and other members of the general public. Also it should be noted that, after 20 years, GLOBE currently has many alumni and retired teachers, partners and country coordinators who are not able to continue to contribute measurements to the database. Citizen Science makes their ongoing contributions possible and ensures that those who have invested time and energy in GLOBE know that their ongoing contributions are valued. Creating an expanded and inclusive community only makes GLOBE stronger.

The "Expansion to Citizen Science" is meant to engage new people, to strengthen our connection with alumni and retired GLOBE members, and to alert everyone to the full potential of GLOBE. In no way, does this expansion negate the need for teachers to be trained in the scientific protocols.  Indeed, specific areas of the GLOBE website and privileges will only be available to GLOBE trained and certified teachers. The Citizen Science Initiative may also serve to generate more interest among teachers in receiving traditional GLOBE training.

The GLOBE Program is developing safeguards to maintain the integrity of the Program, the validity of the database and your contributions as a valued community member:

  • GLOBE is working to ensure a degree of training in procedures to ensure consistency in data collection and accuracy of data analysis. This will occur through online PowerPoint teaching modules similar to those utilized by other CS projects such as CoCoRaHS (http://www.cocorahs.org/)
  • The data entered through the new CS mobile apps will be flagged as such in the GLOBE database, and individual data users can decide if and when to include CS datasets in their research.  These data will be included in GLOBE visualizations and will be available for student use.
  • Every effort will be made to ensure the accuracy and validity of CS data, and over time we will determine if the data from the broader public meet the same standards of accountability and quality established by the data collected by GLOBE-trained teachers and students.

Citizen Science is important, and GLOBE -- a leader in the field for 20 years -- is now poised to become even more influential.  By developing the means to connect the public with professional scientists, the GLOBE community will help answer questions that scientists might not be able to answer on their own.  Citizen science is an interesting, enjoyable and rewarding pastime that plays a huge role in improving our scientific understanding -- and new communication technologies, like mobile phone apps, mean that it has never been easier to get involved.

We plan to address CS at the upcoming 19th GLOBE Annual Partner Meeting and look forward to discussing this important topic with you. If you are not attending the meeting and have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. 


Tony Murphy signature
Dr. Tony Murphy  
Director, GLOBE Implementation Office


GLOBE 20th Anniversary