The academic community frequently engages with OpenStreetMap (OSM) as a data source and research subject, acknowledging its complex and contextual nature. However, existing literature rarely considers the position of academic research in relation to the OSM community. In this paper we explore the extent and nature of engagement between the academic research community and the larger communities in OSM. An analysis of OSM-related publications from 2016 to 2019 and seven interviews conducted with members of one research group engaged in OSM-related research are described. The literature analysis seeks to uncover general engagement patterns while the interviews are used to identify possible causal structures explaining how these patterns may emerge within the context of a specific research group. Results indicate that academic papers generally show few signs of engagement and adopt data-oriented perspectives on the OSM project and product. The interviews expose that more complex perspectives and deeper engagement exist within the research group to which the interviewees belong, e.g., engaging in OSM mapping and direct interactions based on specific points-of-contact in the OSM community. Several conclusions and recommendations emerge, most notably: that every engagement with OSM includes an interpretive act which must be acknowledged and that the academic community should act to triangulate its interpretation of the data and OSM community by diversifying their engagement. This could be achieved through channels such as more direct interactions and inviting members of the OSM community to participate in the design and evaluation of research projects and programmes.
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- Community engagement
- Mapping community
- Research community