Contributory citizen science programs focused on ecological monitoring can produce fine-grained and expansive data sets across spatial and temporal scales. With this data collection potential, citizen scientists can significantly impact the ability to monitor ecological patterns. However, scientists still harbor skepticism about using citizen science data in their work, generally due to doubts about data quality. Numerous peer-reviewed articles have addressed data quality in citizen science. Yet, many of these methods are not useable by third-party scientists (scientists who are not directly involved in the citizen science program). In addition, these methods generally capture internal data quality rather than a dataset’s potential to be used for a specific purpose. Assessing data fitness for use represents a promising approach to evaluating data accuracy and quality for different applications and contexts. In this article, we employ a Spatial, Temporal, Aptness, and Application (STAAq) assessment approach to assess data fitness for use of citizen science datasets. We tested the STAAq assessment approach through a case study examining the distribution of caribou in Denali National Park and Preserve. Three different datasets were used in the test, Map of Life data (a global scale citizen science mobile application for recording species observations), Ride Observe and Record data (a program sponsored by the park staff where incentivized volunteers observe species in the park), and conventionally collected radio collar data. The STAAq assessment showed that the Map of Life and Ride Observe and Record program data are fit for monitoring caribou distribution in the park. This data fitness for use approach is a promising way to assess the external quality of a dataset and its fitness to address particular research or monitoring questions. This type of assessment may help citizen science skeptics see the value and potential of citizen science collected data and encourage the use of citizen science data by more scientists.
- citizen science
- data fitness
- data quality
- ecological monitoring
- volunteered geographic information
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics