Passive crowdsourcing of social media in environmental research: A systematic map

Andrea Ghermandi, Michael Sinclair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The analysis of data from social media and social networking sites may be instrumental in achieving a better understanding of human-environment interactions and in shaping future conservation and environmental management. In this study, we systematically map the application of social media data in environmental research. The quantitative review of 169 studies reveals that most studies focus on the analysis of people's behavior and perceptions of the environment, followed by environmental monitoring and applications in environmental planning and governance. The literature testifies to a very rapid growth in the field, with Twitter (52 studies) and Flickr (34 studies) being most frequently used as data sources. A growing number of studies combine data from multiple sites and jointly investigates multiple types of media. A broader, more qualitative review of the insights provided by the investigated studies suggests that while social media data offer unprecedented opportunities in terms of data volume, scale of analysis, and real-time monitoring, researchers are only starting to cope with the challenges of data's heterogeneity and noise levels, potential biases, ethics of data acquisition and use, and uncertainty about future data availability. Critical areas for the development of the field include integration of different types of information in data mashups, development of quality assurance procedures and ethical codes, improved integration with existing methods, and assurance of long-term, free and easy-to-access provision of public social media data for future environmental researchers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-47
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors


  • Crowdsourcing
  • Flickr
  • New spatial media
  • Social media
  • Twitter
  • Volunteered geographic information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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