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Citizen scientists rival experts in analysing land-cover data

31 July 2013

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Data gathered and analysed by non-experts can rival the quality of data from experts, shows a new IIASA study of crowdsourced data from its Geo-Wiki project.

Over the past 5 years, IIASA researchers on the Geo-Wiki project have been leading a team of citizen scientists who examine satellite data to categorise land cover or identify places where people live and farm. These data have led to several publications published in peer-reviewed journals.

"One question we always get is whether the analysis from laypeople is as good as that from experts. Can we rely on non-experts to provide accurate data analysis?" says IIASA researcher Linda See, who led the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers compared 53,000 data points analysed by more than 60 individuals, including experts and non-experts in remote sensing and geospatial sciences. The new study shows that non-experts were as good as experts at identifying human impact, a concept that has emerged from ecological sciences, in satellite land cover data.

Source: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)