Citizens' Data for Air Pollution (CitiDAir)

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Occupational Medicine
Department Name: Research


Air pollution has figured prominently as one of the environmental crises of the day. There is now a market in consumer air monitors, which makes pollution monitoring more accessible to the public than before. Consumer monitors are distinguished from the pollution monitors used by researchers in terms of cost (these can be many times cheaper than research instruments), user friendliness, and quality (there is great uncertainty about the long-term reliability and accuracy of these monitors).
Because of the existing national monitoring stations for air pollution are relatively few, mathematical models are often used to fill in missing data. However, models still require ground-level calibration from monitors, so there is still a need for higher resolution monitoring across space and time for improving model estimates. Establishment of a high resolution monitoring network is still cost-prohibitive. Mobile monitoring is another potential way of obtaining this high resolution data. Citizens could be a form of mobile monitoring, and we will explore the feasibility of developing a campaign to measure air pollution across time and space with citizens as data collectors. We will also explore the possibility of using consumer air monitors to determine whether this effort could be citizen-led, rather than relying on researchers to supply monitoring equipment. We will also explore how people interact with the data collection process and the data they collect, as well as the benefits they receive from this activity, to better incorporate citizen science into future air pollution exposure research.

Technical Summary

We propose to conduct a feasibility study on expanding the spatial and temporal information on air pollution in a city by engaging citizens in collecting their own data using consumer grade air pollution monitors. The main objectives of the project would be: 1) Involve citizens in an instrument validation study comparing a consumer monitor and a research grade monitor; 2) Document/capture the citizen experience in participating in this study.

This feasibility study will provide information about the potential for using citizens to gather and expand existing data on air pollution in future projects. We will recruit a group of 12 adults to participate in the study. These will be recruited through our community group networks from previous work and through groups such as Sustrans, Keeping Scotland Beautiful, and Environmental Protection Scotland. They will be invited to carry around a set of personal monitoring equipment for up to 48 hours and to participate in a pre- and post-monitoring interview to discuss their expectations of and experience with the study, and also the data gathered to inform future study design.
The data analysis will involve statistical methods for comparing a non-reference instrument with a gold standard reference instrument. Data visualisation will be done using existing software. The pre-monitoring interview will examine the participant's perceptions about the monitoring devices to be used and what they hope to find out as a result of participating in the study. The post-monitoring interview will include an exploration of a visual representation of the participants' data with the researcher. This information will include exploration of the monitoring experience of the participant, the potential for future research in their community and what would be of interest, and how they would see the community having involvement in the design, data collection and analysis process.

Planned Impact

CitiDAir aims to examine how we can better engage people with environmental data. The participants in the study will benefit because they will have the opportunity to use air pollution monitoring equipment and to gain information about their own exposures to air pollution and how the activities and locations they encounter in their daily lives influence their exposure. The public will benefit because this feasibility study will help us develop ideas for co-designing future studies with citizens, to incorporate them into data collection, and to develop data products that are relevant to them. Governmental authorities, especially local authorities, will benefit because of the increased understanding of and engagement of citizens in environmental issues, such as air pollution. Low cost and consumer air pollution sensors are of interest to local authorities, but there is concern about how best to use them, due to questions about their data quality. CitiDAir will provide evidence for scaling up this study to be able to more effectively address these questions.


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