Project details

A new collaborative European project seeks to empower citizens to collect and contribute data for use in policy formation and governance.

The €8.5 million, 4 year, COBWEB (Citizen OBservatory WEB) project will develop an "observatory framework" that will make it easier for citizens to collect environmental data suitable for use in research, decision making and policy formation. The project is built around UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), with test areas in Biosphere Reserves within the UK, Germany and Greece.

The COBWEB project is led by the University of Edinburgh, which put together a consortium of thirteen partners from five European countries: UK, Germany, Greece, Netherlands and Ireland. Funding comes from the EU’s FP 7 Programme, which is designed to respond to Europe's employment needs, competitiveness and quality of life.The infrastructure developed will explore the possibilities of crowd sourcing techniques around the concept of “people as sensors”, particularly the use of mobile devices for data collection and geographic information.

The Citizen OBservatory WEB project seeks to increase the value and interoperability of crowdsourcing technology to policy makers by enabling the fusion of citizen-sourced data with reference data from a range of sources including data published by public authorities. This will be achieved through operationalization of the European INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) Directive, compliant national SDIs (Spatial Data Infrastructures) and GEOSS (the Global Earth Organisation System of Systems).

Concentrating initially on the Welsh Dyfi Biosphere Reserve, the project aims to leverage the WNBR and the enthusiasm of local Biosphere Reserve communities for improved environmental decision making to help develop technology that will eventually be more widely applicable.

COBWEB Project Coordinator Chris Higgins, of EDINA said:

"Biosphere reserves are beautiful areas with people living in them who want to keep them that way.  Using smartphone technology to get citizens more involved in decision making is a hot research area.  Empowering people and improving information flow is vital to addressing a range of environmental issues."

Peter Burnhill, Director of EDINA said:

This work aims to enable the citizen to use the Mobile Internet to benefit the Earth in a direct and obvious way, locally and therefore globally. The project allows EDINA and the University of Edinburgh to build on previous experience in EU projects in geo-spatial research and development. Undoubtedly a significant challenge, it is also opportunity to provide leadership for international experts drawn from universities in five other countries and from organisations across Government, NGO and the commercial sectors - all committed to assist environmental sustainability.” 

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