While we most commonly associate Google with its ability to search the Intertubes for our favorite science FAILs, the tech giant is also opening new doors for citizen science. A recent article in the Public Library of Science (PloS) ONE highlights a new mobile phone application, powered by Google Maps and Google’s Android operating system, that allows professional and citizen scientists to gather, submit, and access research data from the field.
The application, called EpiCollect, was initially designed for epedimiological and ecological studies but has potential for a number of other fields, including economics, public health, and resource allocation. Individual users can input data records (variables, photos, GPS location, etc) into EpiCollect from their mobile phone, which is synchronized to a central database. An accompanying web application, located at www.spatialepidemiology.net, provides a common location for mapping, visualization, and analysis of the data by everyone involved in the study. The two-way connectivity between the EpiCollect mobile application and the central database could increase the collection and collation of data for community projects, particular in resource-limited areas.
Importantly, EpiCollect was developed as a free software using Google’s open-source Android operating system. Anyone interested in using the software is encouraged to contact David Aanensen in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London. The EpiCollect website also provides three sample epidemological datasets and a facility to geocode your own spatial data.