Researcher Information

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This information serves as an introductory page for researchers interested in studying OpenStreetMap (OSM) and also presents the guidelines regarding contact by researchers within the OSM community.


OpenStreetMap is an editable map database built and maintained by volunteers and distributed under the Open Data Commons Open Database License. Mapping takes place not only at computers but also out in the world. From car trips to casual jogs, photos, videos, GPS traces, and hand-taken notes provide OSM with geospatial information. The mapping infrastructure, along with many of the associated OSM projects, is maintained and developed by volunteers as well. Computing and network resources are donated by universities and organizations. For more of an introduction to the OSM project, see the about page. You can also read about prior OSM research projects.

Map data for research

All map data are free to download by anyone via multiple methods (see Downloading data). Datasets that are available directly from OSM include the current database dump, database history dumps, and GPS trace dumps. Many other providers offer similar downloads as well as geographically smaller, and sometimes further quality-controlled, datasets. Any analysis you do with the data is of your own volition. If you are using OSM data as part of your research, make sure you are familiar with the legal requirements, including proper attribution to our project and not mixing the data with incompatibly-licensed data if it will be publicly available.

Citation requirements

If OpenStreetMap data is used in your analysis, the following should be included in your acknowledgements section: "Map data copyrighted OpenStreetMap contributors and available from". In addition, when OpenStreetMap data is introduced in the paper, a citation should be included to "OpenStreetMap contributors. (2015) Planet dump [Data file from $date of database dump$]. Retrieved from". This is formatted in APA style and should be adapted to whatever style is needed.


You may use this bibtex citation:

   author = {{OpenStreetMap contributors}},
   title = {{Planet dump retrieved from }},
   howpublished = "\url{ }",
   year = {2017},


If your research is related to either mechanically adding data or including data from other data sets in OpenStreetMap, this is what is called an import. Please take care in reading the guidelines and requirements so that you follow the correct process. The most important step is to discuss your plans with the community for feedback.

Contacting the community

Users who have chosen to participate in research surveys have joined the (not yet created?) research-announce mailing list. This should be your main method of communication with potential participants.

IRB Approval

Depending on the jurisdiction, research involving human subjects (e.g. interviews) may require approval of an Institutional Review Board or similar ethics board. Proposed projects should provide some information about the required the approval status of the project (or exemption given), detail whether users will be identified or anonymized in the data, and how this data will be stored.


Participation by users is non-compulsory and subject to their individual discretion.

Research access

It is preferred that the authors publish their results in an open access journal to promote the freedom of information and also improve accessibility. Note that the decision to or to not submit a manuscript to an open access journal could be a deciding factor as to whether some community members decide to participate or not.

If your data is not part of the submitted open access journal,

Discouraged actions

  • Contacting individual mappers on a large scale
  • Announcing research projects on OSM-talk related mailing lists
  • Adding fake data to test response times

Overseeing body

The organization of research projects related to OSM is managed by anyone? FTA as part of the Data Working Group is happy to serve as the contact point for this information and oversight.


  • Expand every section
  • What about opt-in option...use an already-established mailing list instead or maybe a user page indication?