Citizens' Observatories for Environment. First Experiences from Oslo and Europe
Air quality and climate change are subject to increased concern to the public. Comprehensive public information is available from the authorities, coming from quality assured public monitoring systems, but there seem to be important barriers to information uptake by the public, and little relevance to each individual person or group.
The CITI-SENSE project developed and tested components of environmental monitoring and information systems based on innovative and novel Earth Observation capabilities. The applications focused on the citizens' immediate environment regarding urban air quality, environmental quality of urban public spaces and indoor air quality in schools.
The CITI-SENSE approach was to develop Citizens' Observatories (COs), a collaborative concept that focuses on the empowerment of citizens to influence their community policy and decision-making. Several novel technologies, especially a variety of micro sensors, mobile applications
and communication solutions, enabled this approach technically.
The concept of CITI-SENSE citizen observatories rested on realizing the chain "sensors-platform-products-users" with the following elements: technologies for distributed monitoring (sensors); information and communication technologies (platform); information products and services (products); and citizen involvement in both monitoring and societal decisions (users). The main novel contributions were:
* Studies of motivations and barriers to citizen involvement with environmental decision making
* Development of tools for citizens monitoring of urban environment
* Deployment of low-cost micro sensor devices and innovative data fusion and scientific analyses
* Combining new sensing technology, ICT Cloud platform with IoT, Big Data and App/Portal services and participatory methods in products and services.
To demonstrate the CO concept and capabilities, we established and for over six months, operated the largest ever sensor network for air quality comprising of 334 units deployed across Europe. We involved nearly 400 volunteers in nine cities to test our personal monitoring devices. We established 24 individual COs (8 COs for outdoor air quality, 12 COs for indoor air quality in schools and 4 COs for personal comfort in public spaces) in the following nine cities across Europe: Barcelona (ES), Belgrade (RS), Edinburgh (UK), Haifa (IL), Ljubljana (SI), Oslo (NO), Ostrava (CZ), Vienna (A) and Vitoria-Gasteiz (ES). We involved volunteers in co-development of sensor devices, visualisation solutions and other tools used in the project. Our air perception app was downloaded and actively used by more than 1200 persons. With the help of the sensor network and additional observation tools, we collected more than 9.4 million observations in the last year of the project.
In any public decisions, people need to be in focus. We developed and applied participatory methods for each individual CO. We collected citizens? feedback on environmental issues through evaluation questionnaires and in-depth focus group discussions and interviews. We have also collected feedback on our tools and services. The results have also helped the providers of the different tools to improve their products. Based on our experiences, we provide a list of lessons learned to support similar initiatives within Citizens' Observatories and Citizen Science.
CITI-SENSE operated within an open e-collaboration framework with projects funded under the same call. Methodologies and standards for data archiving, discovery and access within the GEOSS framework were be coherent with initiatives such as GEO, INSPIRE and GMES. CITI-SENSE also made CO information available through the GEOSS infrastructure.
The resulting products and services are available through the Citizens' Observatories Web Portal (http://co.citi-sense.eu).
CITI-SENSE is a multi-disciplinary project that aims to support citizens to participate in environmental decisions, and to enrich environmental observation systems by citizens' observations. To achieve its objectives, the project needs to develop methods spanning (1) monitoring using low-cost sensors, (2) ICT infrastructure for linking this information with other observing systems, (3) development of information tools and products for citizens and researchers, and (4) development of participatory methods and methods for user involvement). CITI-SENSE thus rests on three pillars: technological platforms for distributed monitoring; information and communication technologies; and societal involvement. Three pilot case studies in nine cities in Europe includi ng Oslo, focus on services related to environmental issues of societal concern: combined environmental exposure and health associated with air quality; own activities and their relation to air quality and climate, noise and development of public spaces, a nd indoor air at schools. Conflicts of interest, accountability and distributional effects will be studied in an additional case study with focus on participation of different social groups. The case studies will be designed in collaboration with citizens groups and decision makers. Distributed data collection will be supported by innovative static, portable and personal devices (low-cost reliable micro sensor packs) that communicate with data repositories through mobile phones or internet.
CITI-SENSE i s designed for close cooperation between researchers and citizens and includes a broad portfolio of plans for tailor made dissemination activities. It brings together a broad range of actors from all over the world. The Norwegian partners are from private research sector (NILU, SINTEF), patient organisations (NAAF) and SMEs (OBEO), and represent the cross disciplinary character of the project.