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News — 29 April, 2014

The Roles of Experts and the Public - Report Back from Commons Lab Event

HOT and our community are increasingly considered global response leaders. Our perspective and expertise provides a unique bridge between the OSM community and traditional actors. This includes the connective tissue within our mandate of humanitarianism and economic development as well as beyond into other sectors.

Roles of Experts and the Public

Today I attended an event at the Wilson Center entitled "Environmental Information: The Roles of Experts and the Public." The main speaker was Muki Haklay Professor of Geographic Information Science in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College London, as well as Director of the UCL Extreme Citizen Science group. Jay Benforado from the US Environmental Protection Agency also spoke in "response." (I've used the term "response" because Dr. Benforado mostly agreed with Muki Haklay.)

In his main talk Dr. Haklay spoke about three phases and change in environmental info.

  • 1st Phase: Initial creation of environmetal data was created by experts for experts.
  • 2nd Phase: Information created by experts for experts and the public.
  • 3rd Phase: Information by the public for the public with experts in support and facilitation roles. 

These phases are not so different from geographic information, though, of course, there is a large amount of environmental data with a geographic component. This session lead me to consider some key questions for the HOT community such as: 

When acting in an expert role how can HOT be better facilitators?  and What are the roles filled by public and by experts? 

OpenStreetMap is About the Community

 I think that HOT is in an unique position connecting the OpenStreetMap community to more traditional groups. We have the ability in this role to advocate for communities as well as facilitate with our available expertise. Sometimes it makes sense for HOT as a community to engage with other experts to assist in our community advocacy as well. An example of this would be previously partnering with University Gajah Mada to do a quality test of the OSM data collected in Indonesia (PDF).

Are there other experts we can help to facilitate community access? How can we facilitate expert understanding of the community as well?

I think both of these are very important aspects of what we do. HOT is privileged to be able to bring OSM to many areas that didn't previously have an active community. By faciltiating dialogues we can have more people interested in the possible uses of OSM as well as help experts understand why community mapping can be an important tool.

Within OpenStreetMap we also talk about how the project is not about the data so much as about the people. Without the people the data will die and not be updated. I think this view falls well into the the realm of civic science and the roles of the public.

If you have ideas about these commonalities and intersections, please add your thoughts in the comments below.