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Highlights from Local Citizen Science Labs: Berlin Meeting Update

Every six months or so, COMPAIR partners meet face-to-face to take stock of what has been achieved and to plan ahead. At the most recent meeting in Berlin, the consortium had plenty of time to cover these points and also have some fun in the rotunda, the state-of-the-art studio for the volumetric video capture established by Fraunhofer HHI, a project partner.


COMPAIR partners at a project meeting in Berlin

Local citizen science labs: Highlights from recent activities


Athens

The Athens pilot is working with citizens to bring about behavioural change that can help reduce individual carbon footprint and improve air quality. By organising citizen science campaigns and using purpose-built digital tools like the CO2 Calculator, the pilot aims to engage people in lifestyle changes, prioritising lower socioeconomic groups and the elderly. Two target locations were identified: Neos Kosmos and Kipseli. This is innovative for Athens as it’s the first time that an age-friendly citizen science campaign takes place in the capital.


A training workshop with senior citizens in Athens

A training workshop with senior citizens in Athens


So far the results have been positive, both in terms of feedback received and sensors deployed (39 active users, of which 36 are seniors). The main highlights include:

  • Innovative civic engagement in the measurement of carbon footprint and air pollution in the Greek capital

  • Positive feedback on citizen science experience and willingness to change lifestyles

  • 39 volunteers and counting

  • Participation of the elderly 92.3%


Activities of the Athens pilot will provide data and measurements of environmental indicators at a hyperlocal (street) level. The results will contribute to environmental planning for two inner-city areas with different socioeconomic characteristics. The effect of citizen science participation on individuals will be studied through solicited self-assessments (areas of interest are knowledge and skills, willingness to change behaviour, sense of belonging, environmental awareness, social network).


Berlin

The most significant success that COMPAIR’s Berlin pilot case was able to achieve can, on the one hand, be boiled down to the tangibles that were produced during its two campaigns. Seven workshops, three of which introduced the main concepts behind air quality in Berlin to interested participants, how measurements are conducted and how COMPAIR’s low-cost sensors (LCS) can be used to bridge data gaps, as well as the continuous use of the LCS by the citizens during the campaign, count towards these achievements. Yet involving a group of 25 citizens, getting them interested in experimenting with sensors and air quality data, and seeing them get excited about the results is, arguably, an even bigger, if less tangible, success story of the Berlin’s recent measurement campaign. It entails building a community of curious citizens from the bottom up who have gained invaluable experience and who wish to continue creating important knowledge - for themselves and other stakeholders - in future campaigns.


Final workshop of the mobile measurement campaign in Berlin

Final workshop of the mobile measurement campaign in Berlin


The main highlights include:

  • 2 completed measurement campaigns

  • 25 citizens involved

  • 3 training workshops

  • 2 interim workshops (“data cafés”)

  • 2 final workshops

  • Generation of new data on PM (particulate matter), black carbon and traffic at a neighbourhood level and city-wide

  • Community building


The knowledge and experience gained by participating citizens should incentivise them to spread the word about the COMPAIR campaigns and citizen science in general. They could act as multipliers/ambassadors to get more people involved in the process. Citizens who are part of an association can leverage its existing structures (e.g. rooms, meeting schedules, etc.) to define ideas, goals and methods of potential new citizen science campaigns, and successfully implement them in the future.


Flanders

The Flanders citizen science lab in COMPAIR focuses on the citizen science driven evaluation of local policy in a rural municipality and behavioural change through awareness raising and citizen science with primary school kids around aged 11 years old. In Herzele, a rural community in Flanders, COMPAIR gathered local stakeholders on traffic related issues such as air quality and safety in a school environment. Local policy makers and the intermunicipal agency devised the practical implementation of a school street.


A school street offers a solution to the traffic congestion and thus breaks the vicious circle. You close the street for half an hour at the beginning and end of the school day. Typically local volunteers and/or school staff help accomplish this using removable signs and fences. The environment around the school gate is becoming calmer and more pleasant. The space taken up by cars is freed up for pedestrians, cyclists, green spaces and meeting places.


COMPAIR partners recruited citizen scientists from Herzele to monitor traffic and air pollution using the sensors developed in the project. All schools in the area surrounding the school street - 2 primary schools, 1 high school - were involved in the project to raise awareness among students through classes on traffic and air quality, as well as monitoring activities. Apart from online campaigning, recruiting also happened through sending personal letters, a poster campaign for the public and a flyer campaign at schools.


School street café in Herzele 

School street café in Herzele 


The main highlights include

  • About 40 citizen scientists recruited among local citizens

  • Over 1200 students directly involved

  • Around 100 students engaging as citizen scientists monitoring their personal exposure and designing their own experiments

  • 28% with lower socioeconomic status

  • Citizen scientists also involved in policy formulation through the in-depth data café approach


COMPAIR’s citizen science measurements and the data analysis powered by the project dashboards convinced the local authority to move towards a more permanent implementation of the school street. Through one of the most successful engagement activities - a data café where citizens could freely walk in and out to sift through information on the project, explore data on dashboards and talk to traffic and environmental experts – the pilot team was able to have more insightful discussions with inhabitants on the school street implementation and gather both concerns and ideas for policy optimisation. One follow-up measure that was recommended and eventually implemented is a lower speed limit in an area that saw a small rise in cut-through traffic.


Plovdiv

The focus of COMPAIR citizen science lab in Plovdiv is to raise awareness about the impact of traffic on air pollution and to measure temporal variation of fine dust and other pollutants. For the experiments, two schools were selected: Dimitar Talev and Vasil Levski.


In the Dimitar Talev school, a mobile laboratory was placed in the courtyard, equipped with sensors for measuring air pollutants and atmospheric conditions. More than 800 students visited the laboratory between April and June 2023. In addition, COMPAIR organised classroom activities for 180 children studying environmental science, physics, and chemistry. Two sensors, one for traffic, another for PM monitoring, were installed in the classroom, with students able to access measurement data via COMPAIR dashboard.


Mobile laboratory in the Dimitar Talev school

Mobile laboratory in the Dimitar Talev school in Plovdiv


Air quality near the Vasil Levski school was measured by placing sensors in the homes of local residents. Training workshops for them as well as school children were organised to equip interested volunteers with everything they need to conduct quality monitoring.


The main highlights include

  • Promoting STEM education in two schools: Dimitar Talev and Vasil Levski

  • Endorsement by the local authority: two deputy mayors (‘Ecology and Healthcare’ and ‘Education, Business Development and European Policies’) signed invitations to schools to join the project activities

  • Diverse pool of participants: students, middle-aged citizens, the elderly all were engaged in citizen science

  • Wide media coverage of project activities

  • Mobile laboratory in the Dimitar Talev school

  • Primary school Dimitar Talev


The biggest newspaper for South Bulgaria (https://www.marica.bg/) and other online media outlets published several articles about COMPAIR activities in schools. Moreover, the campaigns were endorsed by the municipality of Plovdiv. Two deputy mayors (‘Ecology and Healthcare’ and ‘Education, Business Development and European Policies’) signed invitations to schools to join the project activities.


Sofia

Behavioural change and environmental sustainability should be promoted from an early age. That’s why children, especially from elementary schools, are the main target group of the Sofia pilot.


The pilot team organised a few co-creation workshops with students from the 4th grade who participated in the assembly of DIY sensors that were installed near their classrooms to measure outdoor air quality. The workshop activities included quizzes on air pollutants and measures to tackle them. Students were also introduced to local measures that the municipality is developing, such as school buses.


This measure is one of the successes of the Sofia team as after several testing periods, the school bus service was finally launched, providing first and fourth grade students with a sustainable and convenient means of transportation throughout the academic year. The service is available for the two biggest schools in Sofia, as well as some smaller ones, while covering in both morning and afternoon school shifts.


Motivated by the active and sustainable mobility, students drew some pictures and wrote a poem based on their understanding of air quality and care for the environment.


Students' artistic expression after the workshop in Sofia

Students' artistic expression after the workshop in Sofia


The main highlights include:

  • Introducing school children to citizen science, air quality, and local measures

  • Working with the two biggest schools in Sofia on the implementation of the school bus service

  • Measuring air quality around schools and along the bus route

  • Stimulating creativity and environmental awareness among participating students


Participating students are now well aware about air pollution, its causes and harmful effects, as well as how to mitigate them. Students can avail of the school bus that services 11 neighbourhoods and provides an alternative mode of transportation to private cars.


Next steps

All five locations are or will soon start looking for more volunteers to join their campaigns. If you are interested, let us know via contact form on the home page or individual pilot pages.


Kicking-off this May is our webinar series where we are going to cover local results in more detail, plus additional aspects of the project such as sensors used and apps developed.


Then at the end of summer we are going to publish an online course on how to use citizen science to unleash innovation in smart cities. The course will be free, self-paced and certified, requiring about five hours of study in total.


Be sure to follow us to keep abreast of this and other news.

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