Ethical Issues with Using Internet of Things Devices in Citizen Science Research: A Scoping Review

James Scheibner, Anna Jobin, Effy Vayena

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
68 Downloads (Pure)


Digital innovation is ever more present and increasingly integrated into citizen science research. However, smartphones and other connected devices come with specific features and characteristics and, in consequence, raise particular ethical issues. This article addresses this important intersection of citizen science and the Internet of Things by focusing on how such ethical issues are communicated in scholarly literature. To answer this research question, this article presents a scoping review of published scientific studies or case studies of scientific studies that utilize both citizen scientists and Internet of Things devices. Specifically, this scoping review protocol retrieved studies where the authors had included at least a short discussion of the ethical issues encountered during the research process. A full text analysis of relevant articles conducted inductively and deductively identified three main categories of ethical issues being communicated: autonomy and data privacy, data quality, and intellectual property. Based on these categories, this review offers an overview of the legal and social innovation implications raised. This review also provides recommendations for researchers who wish to innovatively integrate citizen scientists and Internet of Things devices into their research based on the strategies researchers took to resolve these ethical issues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number629649
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021


  • ethics
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • citizen science
  • scoping review
  • ethico-legal
  • sensing
  • smartphones
  • Mobile computing
  • smartphones and mobile computing
  • internet of the things (IoT)


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