The quality of our air is important to all of us and we all have a part to play in maintain good air quality. This section contains information and reports on citizen science projects that aim to increase the understanding and engagement of individuals and communities in air quality.
Air quality & citizen science
In 2013, Scotland's environment web funded a research programme that looked at how citizen science techniques can be used to monitor urban air quality and drive behavioural change. Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) worked with Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), University of Aberdeen and The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) to design an air quality programme which would engage the public through citizen science. The objectives of the study were to:
- Identify how a citizen science approach could improve our understanding of urban air quality.
- Explore possible methodologies and tools that could be used for an outdoor air quality citizen science approach and scope out a set of project options.
- Design a series of citizen science projects specific to urban air quality.
- Build a partnership that will deliver the initial project, and promote future programmes of work within the area.
Reports urban air quality citizen science research project
Project overview report (PDF)
The overall aim of the research was to expand on the capabilities in the area of Citizen Science, building on the existing projects and networks including Scotland’s environment web, CAMERAS and Scotland Counts whilst linking across to air quality.
The overview report summarises the key findings, whilst more details can be found in the reports that cover each of the three phases of the project.
Phase 1: Review of methods and projects
Clean air is a basic requirement of life, yet across many urban areas air pollution can adversely impact on the health and the well-being of a large number of people.
Advances in air pollution sensor technology and widespread use of mobile electronic equipment are leading to an increase in our ability to gather relevant environmental and positional data. This creates that possibility of developing true mobile air quality sensors, thus potentially enhancing the spatial monitoring of air quality and making the link between data provision and observed environmental trends.
This report has mapped out the technologies and approaches currently available for air quality monitoring and provides an overview on how they could be applied in citizen science content.
Phase 2: Suggested programme of research projects
This report provides a short description of the main elements associated with a suggested series of citizen science projects in urban air quality. The programme is based on a review of current work in this area and discussions with the air quality citizen science advisory group.
Overviews of the proposed pilot projects are set out in the report, including summaries of further work areas in citizen science urban air quality.
Phase 3: Findings of the pilot studies
This report provides a summary of the pilot citizen science projects conducted in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestonpans, evaluating the practical use of citizen science studies within the constraints of existing low-cost technologies.
Two different approaches were selected for the pilot projects. One tested the use of stationary low-cost air quality monitoring within a secondary school, including their use within regular teaching activities. The second used a mobile setup (with small backpacks including the air quality monitor as well as a GPS for geo-referencing) for cyclists who were approached through the bike charities SPOKES and the Glasgow Bike Station, and through Transport Scotland.
The main effort was not on providing air quality measurements, but on testing the approaches, methods, devices and engagement with citizen scientists.
Air quality citizen science forum
As a result of the Urban Air Quality Citizen Science project, the Air Quality Citizen Science Forum was established. The group met in February 2015 to present on current research projects and discuss lessons learnt. Workshop type breakout sessions focused on how to engage more people in air quality citizen science. The workshop report presents the findings from the discussions on the day.
The meeting was attended by representatives from:
At the meeting, presentations were given on the following topics:
- Using ‘Scotland’s environment’ website to promote action on air quality in Scotland – Paul Griffiths, SEPA
- Lessons from community based monitoring in North America – Kerry Riddell, The Conservation Volunteers
- Have you heard about iSPEX? - Janet Khan, SEPA
- Supporting Scottish schools: The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network – Matt Keyse, OPAL
- Monitoring in Glasgow: A particular matter of synchronisation - Emilia Hanna, Friends of the Earth Scotland
- CEH Citizen Science – from practical guides to applied personal exposure monitoring – Stefan Reis, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
- CITI-SENSE and HEALS – citizen involvement in air quality assessment - Hilary Cowie, IOM
- Air quality teaching package for schools – Ben Jackson, SEPA
If you would like further information about this group and forthcoming meeting, please contact us.
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