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Using the 'myVolcano' mobile phone app for citizen science in St. Vincent and the Grenadines : a pilot study

Duncan, M.; Mee, K.; Hicks, A.; Engwell, S.; Robertson, R.; Forbes, M.; Ferdinand, I.; Jordan, C.; Loughlin, S.. 2017 Using the 'myVolcano' mobile phone app for citizen science in St. Vincent and the Grenadines : a pilot study. Nottingham, UK, British Geological Survey, 43pp. (OR/17/045) (Unpublished)

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Abstract/Summary

The British Geological Survey (BGS) has been working with Caribbean partners on the role of citizen science in increasing resilience to natural hazards. The work has largely focused on the potential use of the myVolcano smartphone app, which was developed by the BGS following the 2010 Eyafjallajökull and 2011 Grímsvötn eruptions in Iceland. During these eruptions the BGS asked the UK public to collect particle samples, subsequently analysing these for ash presence to map the distribution of ash fallout across the UK. These requests led to the development of the myVolcano app, which was designed to capture transboundary and distal observations of volcanic ash and emissions. The observations are made visible to other users via an interactive map built into the app. The map interface has global coverage and the data collection methods (free-text descriptions and photographs) are such that information about any natural hazard, anywhere in the world, can be captured. In 2015, BGS carried out an ESRC-DfID-NERC funded scoping study in collaboration with the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Centre (UWI SRC), to test the potential use of the app in environments affected by proximal volcanic hazards. The study focused on St. Vincent and the Grenadines and investigated the potential for capturing a wider variety of observations for use by the public, operational scientists and civil protection. The study, which included a combination of desk study and remote interviews, highlighted the potential for, and challenges of, using such an app for increasing resilience to natural hazards and the need for a follow-up study in St Vincent. In March 2017, a workshop and school activities were held in St. Vincent to collect feedback from potential users of myVolcano, hereafter referred to as the pilot study. Workshop participants came from across government, monitoring agencies, emergency response and telecommunications. As part of the workshop, a multi-hazard scenario was ‘played out’ to stimulate discussions on the usability of the app, data gathering and processing, and participants’ use of existing citizen science applications. Discussions developed around data validation and quality assurance, data sharing and presentation, local management of data by nominated scientists (e.g. to facilitate real-time decision making) and the associated need for a locally appropriate app (i.e. no one size fits all). This last point is particularly significant when considering the utility of an app in several countries – the user interface, at least, requires specific tailoring to the country’s needs. Using this feedback, the BGS Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme is currently funding collaborations with Caribbean partners in order to modify the app to meet the local requirements, including widening the multi-hazard application and enhancing two-way information sharing. Of particular importance is how best to share critical information with those making observations and how to make observations available to decision-makers and monitoring scientists in real-time (e.g. through local management of the app).

Item Type: Publication - Report (UNSPECIFIED)
Funders/Sponsors: British Geological Survey, UWI Seismic Research Centre, The National Emergency Management Organisation
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This item has been internally reviewed, but not externally peer-reviewed.
Date made live: 05 Mar 2018 16:43 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/519469

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