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Press Release

Environment Systems Begins Work on COBWEB Citizen Science Project

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's OBservatory WEB 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 integration with 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 Environment Systems’ will lead on a number of different work packages including the assessment, testing and validation of the data requirements, together with dissemination, exploitation and use. The company also has a significant role in stakeholder engagement, mobile data collection and the creation of a validation and quality system.

Steve Keyworth Environment Systems’ Commercial Director, said “This is a really exciting project which not only leverages our experience in Earth Observation and professional survey but also empowers citizens’ associations in environmental decision making. There will also be considerable shared learning and knowledge transfer that will help to produce application models that work across different European countries and become accepted as the de facto information system of the WNBR.”


Notes for Editors:

COBWEB is a large project which brings together expertise from 13 partners and 5 countries. The project aims to create a testbed environment which will enable citizens living within UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserves to collect environmental data using mobile devices. Information of use for operational and policy making will be generated by quality controlling the crowdsourced data and aggregating with Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) type reference data from authoritative sources. In the process the project aims to build up shared expertise in these new and developing technologies and understand how crowdsourcing/citizen science techniques combined with a Spatial Data Infrastructure can deliver both societal and commercial benefits.

COBWEB - Citizens OBservatory WEB – is funded under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP 7) in the Environment “Developing community-based environmental systems using innovative and novel earth observations applications” theme. EU FP7 reference number: 308513

About the UNESCO Biospheres
The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) is part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme which promotes North-South and South-South collaboration. The programme seeks to ensure environmental, economic and social sustainability through work across a network of 610 Biospheres in 117 countries across the world. More information can be found on the UNESCO website:

The COBWEB infrastructure will be initially trialled with communities and citizens in the Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere Reserve in Wales. Additional testing will take place in Greek and German Biospheres which provide alternative cultural and environmental contexts in which to trial the approach.

The COBWEB Project Partners are:

  • EDINA, part of the University of Edinburgh (Co-ordinator)

  • University College Dublin (UCD)

  • Environment Systems Limited

  • The University of Nottingham

  • Aberystwyth University

  • Welsh Government

  • Partneriaeth Eco Dyffryn Dyfi/ Eco Valley Partnership

  • Open Geospatial Consortium (Europe) Limited

  • Technische Universitaet Dresden

  • Secure Dimensions GmbH

  • University of Western Greece

  • OIKOM – Environmental Studies Ltd

  • GeoCat BV

William Allbrook, Environment Systems
Andy Rowland, Manager, Ecodyfi,, 07866 961851
Robin Farrar, Dyfi Biosphere Projects Facillitator, Ecodyfi,, 07717 102923
Arthur Dafis, Aberystwyth University Press Office,, 01970 621763
Chris Higgins, COBWEB Project Coordinator, EDINA,
Nicola Osborne, COBWEB Project Team, EDINA,

COBWEB Project Partners

EDINA - The University of Edinburgh (Co-ordinator)
EDINA is a national academic data centre based at the University of Edinburgh. It is designated by Jisc to support the activities of universities, colleges and research institutes across the UK. Jisc has been driving innovation in UK education and research for many years, with EDINA operating since 1995/96 as one of a number of organisations in the 'Jisc family' to develop and deliver online services.

The University of Edinburgh’s mission is the creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge. As a world-leading centre of academic excellence we aim to enhance our position as one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities and to measure our performance against the highest international standards. We aim to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing.

University College Dublin / National University of Ireland, Dublin
University College Dublin (UCD) is one of Europe’s leading research-intensive universities where undergraduate education, postgraduate masters and PhD training, research, innovation and community engagement form a dynamic continuum of activity.

The university was established in 1854 by John Henry Newman whose classic work “The Idea of a University” is one of the most enduring texts on the value of higher education and a source of inspiration for UCD’s current educational philosophy.

Environment Systems Limited
Environment Systems is an innovative and award winning environmental and geographic intelligence consultancy. We use advanced technology and mapping expertise to help government and businesses to understand and better manage our environment.  We deliver solutions to the environmental, agricultural and land sectors through the establishment of baselines, monitoring, ecosystem models, and the application of the evidence base to current policy. Our work across the UK and Europe includes consultancy and research services, data capture and analysis, and development of innovative solutions using remotely sensed data.

The University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham is committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring our students, producing world-leading research and benefitting the communities around our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia. Our purpose is to improve life for individuals and societies worldwide. By bold innovation and excellence in all that we do, we make both knowledge and discoveries matter.

Aberystwyth University
Aberystwyth University has a proud history dating back to 1872 – when it was established by the people of Wales as the first Welsh University. Since its early days the University has developed areas of great strength. We have exceptional commitment and results in both research and teaching and a firm friendship with the town and local community, on which we must build for the future. Those strengths, of course, come directly from the involvement and efforts of a whole range of exceptional people; with outstanding contributions from academic and professional support staff and students, working together to provide an excellent student experience and a fantastic place to work.

Welsh Government
The Welsh Government is the devolved Government for Wales. We are working to help improve the lives of people in Wales and make our nation a better place in which to live and work. We aim to be open and responsive to the needs of citizens and communities and are one of the few governments in the world that publishes Cabinet minutes and papers. Responsibility for most key areas of public life including health, education and environment is devolved. With new offices across Wales, including Merthyr Tydfil, Aberystwyth and Llandudno Junction, we are getting closer to the people we serve.

Ecodyfi (Partneriaeth Eco Dyffryn Dyfi Eco Valley Partnership)
Ecodyfi is the local regeneration organisation for the Dyfi Valley, in Mid Wales - a thriving bi-lingual community set in some of the UK's most stunning scenery. Ecodyfi has particular expertise and track record in community-based renewable energy, tourism, and encouraging and enabling more sustainable living, and supports the work of a number of cross-sector interest groups that work within the Dyfi Biosphere as well as the Dyfi Biosphere Partnership itself.

Open Geospatial Consortium (Europe) Limited
The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international industry consortium of 479 companies, government agencies and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available interface standards. OGC® Standards support interoperable solutions that "geo-enable" the Web, wireless and location-based services and mainstream IT. The standards empower technology developers to make complex spatial information and services accessible and useful with all kinds of applications.

Technische Universitaet Dresden
The TU Dresden is one of eleven German universities that were identified as an “excellence university”. TUD has about 36.500 students and almost 5319 employees, 507 professors among them, and, thus, is the largest university in Saxony, today. Having been committed to sciences and the engineering before the reunification of Germany, TU Dresden now is a multi-discipline university, also offering humanities and social sciences as well as medicine.

Secure Dimensions GmbH
Secure Dimensions GmbH is a Munich based company, established in 2009, which specialises in “Holistic Geosecurity”. Their expertise lies in ensuring security for geospatial data and web services using international open standard.

University of Western Greece
The University of Western Greece, located at the outskirts of the city of Agrinio, is the most recently founded University in Greece. It was founded in September of 2009 with Greek Law 3794/4-9-2009. We take a leading role in education, research and the development of innovative technologies in scientific and technological areas.

OIKOM – Environmental Studies LTD
OIKOM Environmental Studies LTD was established in Athens, Greece in 2007, by a group of scientists with over 15 years of prior experience in nature conservation. OIKOM has extensive experience in biological and environmental monitoring, protected area management, environmental awareness, information and dissemination, promotion of the natural environment and environmental impact assessment. Among other things, OIKOM has prepared the Specific Environmental Assessment and the Management Plan for Samaria National Park and has participated in the previous Management Plan of Mt Olympus.

GeoCat BV
Established in the Netherlands in 2007, GeoCat offers cutting-edge, customized software and services that make publishing geospatial data on the Internet easier and more efficient than ever. We operate in the fast-growing market of Spatial Data Infrastructure and geospatially-enabled technologies. Sustainable applications We build sustainable, evolving applications following the Free and Open Source Software philosophy and open standards. We have provided successful consulting services and products that contributed to the development of National Spatial Data Infrastructures for The Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Spain, Canada, Swiss, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Scotland, ESA and many others.