Designing Methods for Evaluating and Communicating the Quality of Volunteered Geographic Information

Lay Summary 

The recent emergence of the Web 2.0 has the potential to significantly change the way geospatial datasets are produced. While datasets were largely produced and distributed by government and industry mapping experts, recent tools such as OpenStreetMap now allow any Web user to contribute to the creation of large free geospatial datasets. This phenomenon, described as "Volunteered Geographic Information" (VGI), faced an initial skepticism among mapping experts but led to the creation of datasets that compete in accuracy with government maps. This generated an increasing interest from National Mapping Agencies and the mapping industry as it could potentially have a major impact on mapping processes, by having citizens collecting, updating or verifying geospatial data.

The potential economic impact of such change is huge for a world mapping industry which is already valued at tens of billions of $US. Beyond the economic impact, the distribution of high-quality free data is likely to have strong social impacts by allowing more informed decisions to be made in various fields. Assessing and informing users of the quality of maps produced by VGI will be key to the successful use of VGI maps in decision-making processes. Despite two studies published in 2010 that assessed the quality of VGI data from UK and France, there are still no appropriate methods for assessing and communicating the quality of VGI.

The goal of this research is to provide methods and tools for assessing and communicating the quality of VGI. The expected benefits include the creation of a safer framework surrounding the use of VGI in various decision-support contexts, resulting in minimization of risks of negative consequences that can arise from data misuse. We also expect the approach will improve the overall quality of VGI mapping products and hence benefit a broad range of map users.

NSERC Discovery Grants Program
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Geographic Information Systems
Industry Sectors 
Scientific Research and Development Services
Public Administration
Start date 
1 Jan 2012
End date 
31 Dec 2016