26 September 2016

IIASA launches citizen science observatory

European citizens will soon be able to directly contribute to the analysis of land use change in Europe and beyond. A new observatory established by IIASA and funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program will combine satellite images with data collected by citizen scientists around Europe.

© alekseyliss | Adobe Stock Photo

© alekseyliss | Adobe Stock Photo

Land-use change is a major indicator for environmental research: as farmland or urban areas expand, they encroach on surrounding forests, grasslands, and other natural habitats. These changes can have far-reaching impacts on issues as broad as flood resilience, food security, air pollution, and biodiversity protection. Yet despite an international network of satellites providing images of the Earth, these changes remain difficult to monitor. A new IIASA-led project, LandSense, will link remote sensing data with modern participatory data collection methods that involve citizen scientists.

“Through citizen-powered science LandSense aims to deliver concrete, measureable and quality-assured ground-based data that will complement existing satellite monitoring systems,” says Steffen Fritz, head of the IIASA Earth Observation Systems group, and principal investigator on the project. “At the same time, LandSense will build multiple pathways for citizen empowerment that go beyond simple data collection by providing a range of engagement and collaboration tools that will allow the voices of citizens to be heard.”

Fritz and colleagues in the IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program are working with 16 partner institutions from around Europe to develop an engagement platform that hosts various services and tools for collecting and sharing data from satellites and citizen scientists. The services will be demonstrated through citizen science campaigns on monitoring resources in both urban and rural contexts across Europe, in select regions of Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Slovenia, and Serbia, as well as beyond in Indonesia.

In addition to creating tools for data collection, quality assurance, and interaction with the public, the project aims to drive innovation through collaboration with the private sector.

“There is currently no single marketplace that brings together the growing demand for ground-based data for land use monitoring”, Fritz explains. LandSense will build such a marketplace to attract a vast community of users across numerous disciplines and sectors and boost Europe’s role in the business of ground-based monitoring. The project not only promotes business innovation, but will also bring solutions to the market and facilitate the uptake of key services by the public sector as well as other potential customers.

“LandSense has the potential to create a step-change in land use and land cover monitoring that cannot be reached by improvements in satellite technology alone,” adds IIASA researcher Inian Moorthy, who is the LandSense project manager. “Our planned outcomes have considerable potential to lower expenditure costs on ground-based data collection and greatly extend the current sources of such data, thereby realizing innovations in the processing chain of land use and land cover monitoring activities both within and beyond Europe.”

More information: www.landsense.eu

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 689812. Project Name: LandSense 

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Last edited: 26 September 2016


Steffen Fritz

Program Director and Principal Research Scholar Strategic Initiatives Program

Principal Research Scholar Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Inian Moorthy

Research Scholar Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program


A new citizen observatory and innovation marketplace for land use and land cover monitoring


Citizen Science Day

11 Oct 2016


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313