COMPAIR is a 3 year project, starting in November 2021, working with local authorities and citizens to run citizen science experiments to supplement gaps in official air quality data to (a) co-create more effective social actions and (b) influence city policy. Together these actions will contribute towards healthier and greener cities for all.
Consisting of 15 organisations from 6 different European countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, and The Netherlands, the initiative is led by Digital Vlaanderen.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has
- Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist
What is Citizen Science?
Participatory research known as Citizen Science is an approach in which citizens and communities work together on research challenges. Citizen Science was first brought to mainstream attention by large scientific organisations across the world that understood that harnessing the computing power of citizen volunteers was the answer to processing and understanding the large amounts of data they needed in their research.
Bodies like NASA have made thousands of important discoveries by tapping into people’s inquisitive nature and the desire to better understand the world around them. The Galaxy Zoo initiative, between 2007 and 2014, mobilised over a million people to help classify galaxies by examining photos which contributed to professional researchers developing a new model of galaxy evolution. Today, initiatives like DreamLab harnesses the unused processing power of thousands of citizen smartphones whilst they sleep to help scientists identify existing drugs and food-based molecules that could benefit COVID-19 patients.
Once the preserve of ‘geeks’ and computer experts, new advances in technology means everybody today has the opportunity to be a citizen scientist in a manner that matches their interests and skills.
The near ubiquity of mobile phones with GPS, and a proliferation of social networks means anyone can be a ‘sensor’ or build their own low-cost sensors and instantly collect and submit data.
COMPAIR sets out to make citizen science outputs actionable on a personal level, and turn it into a valuable data source for environmental policy making in urban environments. Not only will the project provide innovative, advanced tools and standards for improving both the quality of citizen science outputs and its use in both local and city decision making mechanisms, it will also focus on how to forge better collaborations between citizen scientists, policy makers and the wider social fabric comprising business and NGOs, among others, thus creating actionable recommendations for policy, science and practice to drive a new era of sustainable innovation and co-creation.
COMPAIR will explore how citizen science, if well organized, can contribute to the many elements needed to realize efficient and effective environmental change, such as the availability of reliable data; personal and societal involvement and awareness; open and participaton.