COMPAIR pilot cities recently completed their Open Round experiments in which volunteers used sensors and digital technologies as part of a citizen science campaign designed to drive changes in lifestyles and local policies. Below we summarise the main activities, results and lessons learned during the penultimate pilot stage of the project. The full report is available here.
The Open Round follows COMPAIR’s Closed Round in which only project partners were involved in product development and testing. The closed round performed a benchmark of the available sensor devices. The Open Round built on this by involving citizens closely related to participating organisations involving them in data collection, analysis and visualisation while still developing the various products. It will be followed by a Public Round which will feature wider citizen involvement, also involve them in the data jams, policy hackathons and work on sustained behavioural change using matured products.
This report summarises the activities, results and lessons learned during the Open Round of the COMPAIR project. In the Open Round COMPAIR organised experiments in Athens, Berlin, Flanders, Sofia & Plovdiv in which we provided technology to citizen scientists with the aim of affecting local policy decisions and citizen behaviour. The Open Round ran from November 1st 2022 to 31st of October 2023.
Open Round citizen science experiments
In Athens the pilot focused on engaging citizens in behavioural changes to reduce their carbon footprint and improve air quality. To this end the Aegean University and pilot team developed and tested a Carbon Footprint Simulation Dashboard and distributed air quality sensors. Three experiments were conducted:
Engaging with senior citizens in the Neos Kosmos area
Replicating this engagement in the Kipseli area (Public Round, preparations during Open Round)
Using carbon footprint calculations to raise awareness on the impact of daily activities and increase the support base through the related policy tool (Public Round, preparations during Open Round)
Sensor installed on the window ledge in Neos Kosmos
In Berlin the pilot organised 2 experiments: mobile measurements to determine cyclist exposure stimulating behavioural change and the evaluation of a new parking scheme at the neighbourhood level. The first experiment aimed to assess people’s perception of air quality, their commuting habits, and their views on sustainability-related public policies, while filling in gaps in the official high-end air quality monitoring network as a side-benefit. In the second experiment changes were made to parking spaces to promote communal and sustainable uses, and COMPAIR aimed to assess their impact on traffic and air quality through traffic, particulate matter and black carbon measurements using sensors.
Final workshop of the mobile measurement campaign
In Flanders the pilot planned for 2 experiments: demonstrating the impact of a school street in Herzele and evaluating a local mobility plan in Ghent both through citizen science. The second case however was hampered by legal action against the introduction of the mobility plan, the current outlook is to have it implemented in late December 2023 and take it up as part of the Public Round.
Discussing school-street results at a Data Café in Herzele
In Plovdiv the pilot aimed to investigate the relationship between traffic intensity and levels of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) around school areas in the city. The key objectives were to raise awareness of air quality around schools and identify areas for improvement to both traffic intensity and air quality.
Workshop with school children in Plovdiv
In Sofia the pilot project comprised two distinct use cases addressing air quality challenges in the city. One use case focused on the introduction of a school bus service to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce air pollution in the vicinity of schools. The pilot aimed to measure the impact of the school bus service on outdoor air quality near the school and transport modes used by school children and raise awareness on air quality among students. The other use case focused on indoor air quality in a kindergarten. The pilot aimed to compare the existing indoor air quality monitoring system (Canary) with other sensors and test the effectiveness of window meshes in reducing air pollution indoors.
Student drawings after a workshop in Sofia
Results, challenges and lessons learned
Given the varying goals and context of each pilot, their approach was tailored and all of them featured one or more workshops to engage and/or recruit citizen scientists. All pilots faced significant challenges during the Open Round mainly due to delays in sensor delivery and technical issues with the devices or dashboards. In close cooperation with COMPAIR’s technical teams, the pilots managed to identify most issues and worked on them, to have improved products in place for the Public Round. Despite the challenges, the pilots managed to get to some interesting conclusions during the Open Round.
In Athens the main result is the successful involvement of senior citizens through the “Friendship Clubs” concept. In total, 21 sensors for particulate matter were distributed among participants in Neos Kosmos. The 21 participants - 16 of whom were senior citizens - collected data on particulate matter, humidity and temperature, while also filling out logbooks on activities that might correlate with the pollution levels. During the workshops and training as part of the “Friendship Clubs” concept, discussions were held on environmental issues with participants. Initial data analysis showed differences in pollution levels were attributable to local topography. Once measurements are up and running in the Kipseli area, further data analysis will be initiated as part of the Public Round and comparison of both regions, highlighting key differences and initiation of discussions with participants on logbook observations and activities influencing air quality, will be undertaken.
In Berlin 14 citizens, primarily from areas with fewer official measurement stations, participated in the mobile measurement campaign. Over eight weeks they performed mobile air quality measurements and engaged on the topic through workshops. During those workshops they received expert advice and were able to perform self-assessments on pollution exposures. At key points during the campaign the pilot evaluated behavioural changes through surveys. Regarding the parking ban, the pilot launched a local engagement campaign on the new parking scheme. Eight citizens became closely involved, 2 of whom lived in streets where the parking changes were implemented, while the rest served as a control group. The measurement campaign is still ongoing. It started mid-June and will continue until the end of October with parking changes introduced in July. An introductory workshop on the parking scheme, sensor assembly and air quality took place, followed by a workshop over summer looking at intermediate results. A final workshop is being planned to assess the parking scheme’s effects on traffic and air quality, with a focus on black carbon.
In Flanders the pilot deployed 37 traffic sensors in both locations (Herzele & Ghent) and 7 bcMeters and 3 Nitrosense devices in Herzele. Additionally, 2 Nitrosense devices were deployed at a reference site in Ghent for calibration and performance monitoring. Due to legal action against the mobility plan in Ghent, this use case is not reported on further in the report. In Herzele the pilot directly involved 1255 students (both primary and secondary school) through an educational package on traffic (primary) and an expert talk on the AI recognition system in Telraam (secondary). 29 inhabitants of Herzele were directly involved in data collection and analysis. They received training and information in 2 workshops (traffic & air quality).
Based on statistics available at the local level the pilot concluded that 28% or 348 participants represented a lower socio-economic demographic. Additionally, the traffic data collected by the citizen scientists clearly showed the positive effect of the school street. A great decrease in the number of vehicles in the school street was observed with only a minor increase in neighbouring streets. Two streets were identified as suffering a greater increase in traffic count with even illegal traffic moving in the opposite direction on a one-way street.
COMPAIR and the local authorities are investigating flanking measures to mitigate this. Based on these results, the local authority decided to (1) extend the school street implementation and (2) expand it to another school in their territory. The air quality picture is much less clear, mainly due to data loss from poor connectivity. A potential, very indicative effect can be elucidated on a handful of days with good data at key locations. It seems that on average, pollutant concentrations during school street activation are 19% lower in comparison to other times during the day and compared to other locations.
In Plovdiv, only Telraam devices (older Wi-Fi version), 2 bcMeters and 10 sensor.community PM sensors were deployed. The local team cooperated with the Deputy of Mayors for Ecology and Education to recruit primary schools, resulting in 2 schools participating. At one school the team focused on awareness on traffic and air pollution by setting up a mobile reference station, Telraam device and PM-sensor. At the other school the focus was on seasonal variations in PM levels. This school was located fairly close to a reference monitoring site, allowing the pilot to use that reference data as well. Preliminary data analysis for the school with the mobile station shows coinciding increases in traffic and NO2 corresponding to the school opening and closing hours. Non-school days showed lower overall NO2 concentrations. For particulate matter this relation was not clearly observed, however the influence of nearby roadworks was discernible.
Like Plovdiv, Sofia's use cases were severely hampered in their execution because of the lack of LTE-M network coverage for sensor data communication. In Sofia the local team deployed 10 sensor.community devices at two schools participating in the school bus project. Due to connectivity issues no other pollutants were monitored at this time. A survey that was conducted by the team showed that 33% of respondents (students) used the bus service, which was also evidenced in passenger counts. Based on these results, the service was extended for the entire school year of 2023-2024. Due to budget constraints, the installation of the window meshes at the kindergarten was delayed. The local team managed to deploy PM sensors, which showed correlations between outdoor PM levels and indoor PM levels measured by the Canary. The pilot hopes to demonstrate the effectiveness of the window meshes upon installation in the Public Round.
The activities in the Open Round allowed pilots to learn valuable lessons across the pilot cities. In Athens, the engagement of senior citizens in air pollution measurement was a success and their enthusiasm was noteworthy, although working with the elderly presents specific issues in troubleshooting device errors and overall device deployment plans. In Berlin, the challenges of participant registration and commitment highlighted the importance of clear communication. The "Data Café" approach - in which citizens can freely walk in and out to have in-depth discussions on the experiments, data and policy - was effective for knowledge sharing, while continuous support was crucial for maintaining participant involvement over prolonged periods. Focusing on structural issues that block behavioural change (like improved cycling infrastructure) can unlock individual behaviour change in cases where citizens have little leverage over their behavioural options.
In Flanders, local champions played a pivotal role. Adaptive planning was necessary to address unforeseen challenges. The "Data Café" approach also enhanced engagement, but extended data collection periods are essential for a more robust assessment. The Sofia and Plovdiv activities emphasised the importance of close cooperation with teachers for student engagement, along with transparent communication with parents about device functionality. Connectivity issues posed challenges in both Sofia and Plovdiv, providing a clear working point in light of a more connected European Union. In Plovdiv, trust-building with local stakeholders, addressing electricity grid limitations, and planning for more Wi-Fi-connected devices were other important take-aways.
These lessons will shape the Public Round of the COMPAIR project due to start November 1st 2023 and end June 30th 2024, enhancing our engagement, data collection, and communication with participants and stakeholders.