Citizen Science Is in the Air – Engagement Mechanisms from Technology-Mediated Citizen Science Projects Addressing Air Pollution

  • Gavin McCroryEmail author
  • Carina Veeckman
  • Laurence Claeys
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10673)


Environmental data is collected at unprecedented scales and speeds, targeting diverse societal challenges, and through the inclusion of multiple stakeholders. Yet, an understanding of enabling technologies involved in the engagement of citizens appear largely outside of the realm of air pollution. Recently, different air pollution projects have been rolled out in Europe and abroad; a structured analysis, however, of the way citizens are involved in these type of projects does not yet exist. In contribution to the ongoing EU-Funded project hackAIR, this paper therefore explores this research gap on the topic of air pollution and citizen science through the following question: Which engagement mechanisms can be identified in existing air pollution citizen science projects? We combine multiple literature sources, employ a systematic case study analysis and conduct seven qualitative interviews with key experts to target citizen science projects related to air pollution. Several mechanisms emerged at the interface between air pollution, citizen participation and knowledge production. These include: (1) Scale, (2) User-involvement and co-creation, (3) Communication, and (4) User motivation and aspects of behaviour. Despite its growing reputation in digital innovation, a majority of the mapped projects do not explicitly engage in any co-creation process. Multiple project insights suggest the importance of non-academic stakeholders as agents for communication and engagement. Campaign-based gamification can prove successful in establishing urgency in local contexts. Common engagement barriers include issues in the data contribution, science communication, technical project limitations, scaling and the critical nature of distributed sensors. This preliminary research offers a fruitful approach in assessing and comparing initiatives, and can enrich our understanding of the contribution that air pollution technology can have in citizen science.


Citizen science Air pollution Open technology Community sensing Grassroots sensing 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gavin McCrory
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carina Veeckman
    • 1
  • Laurence Claeys
    • 1
  1. 1.imec - SMIT, Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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