Interoperability for Public Participation in Digitization Working Group

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Public participation in the digitization of biodiversity research specimens can simultaneously grow awareness of the value of the specimens and close the communities' huge digitization backlog (in the 100's of millions of specimens). A number of public participation tools focused on digitizing specimens (particularly transcribing and georeferencing them) have sprung up in the last three years. Despite these promising efforts, lack of interoperability is a major roadblock. Creating means to move data resources through the many digitization steps in ways that continue to grow public involvement are critical. This group works to build interoperability among the relevant actors within this emerging cyberinfrastructure. To express an interest in joining the working group, please contact Austin Mast or Libby Ellwood.


The working group seeks to enable the following activities:

  • Describing digitization "expeditions." In a few tools, subjects are packaged in "expeditions" (or "missions", etc.) based on compelling themes (e.g., specimens all from a local national park or all collected by a historical figure). This includes a consensus means of communicating the following among relevant actors: (1) digitization targets (e.g., the fields to transcribe) and assets (e.g., digital images to display for transcription) so that the public engagement tools can sufficiently represent the tasks; (2) expedition-specific picklists or controlled vocabularies for the digitization targets; (3) geographic scope, taxonomic scope, temporal scope, or other characteristics of the expedition that can be used by public participants to find records that they are motivated to digitize; (4) progress of digitization (e.g., x records transcribed y times); and (5) raw and/or consensus digitized content.
  • Determining and describing quality in the publicly contributed digitization content. This includes a consensus means of describing the public-participation mechanism for digitization (e.g., consensus among x transcriptions). It also includes linking to tools for quality assessment (e.g., determining if the location of a record being transcribed is an outlier in relation to existing records for the taxon).
  • Linking ongoing digitization expeditions to data visualization tools that enable the public to view data assembly in real-time (e.g., mapping of specimens from the expedition that have been georeferenced to date).
  • Determining and communicating the level of expertise of public participants among actors.
  • Other activities identified as important for interoperability by members of the group.


  • The group is currently planning a CitStitch Hackathon for December 2014.