Kosovo Science for Change: background

Kosovo Science for Change

citizen science

'Science for Change' is a pilot citizen science project in Kosovo. It's now possible for people to make measurements of air quality and other forms of pollution in their own communities, and DIY digital measuring devices make it possible to map & share data in real time over the internet. In this project, the community is at the heart of the scientific inquiry; not just measuring data, but deciding what and where it is important to measure, and taking part in analysing the results. The participants will be able to use the data for advocacy to improve their situations, based on the enforcement of legal standards and environmental principles. In the process they will learn skills related to science & technology, increase their understanding of the impact of pollution on health and wellbeing, and feel in a stronger position to ask questions and take action.

smart citizen kit

smart citizen kit

data

While citizen science doesn't solve problems by itself, it is part of a process that is important for the whole of Kosovo, where air quality degradation is estimated by the World Bank to cost the country at least 100 million Euros each year due to deaths, illnesses and time off work{1}. It is also vital for the future to know what is in the environment, as studies have shown that children are the most affected (with lead contamination affecting IQ levels). It is not acceptable for governments and corporations to ignore the issues, either by not monitoring the pollution or by keeping the information secret. One of the first communities the project will work with are people living near the Kosovo A and B power plants.

The methods used to measure the air quality will be a mix of the Smart Citizen arduino-based digital sensor{2} and diffusion tubes which are analysed at the lab for measurements of nitrous oxides and sulphur dioxide{3}. There are also plans to test for heavy metal contamination (such as lead) and particulates - the small particles in the air (labelled PM2.5 and PM10) which are known to have serious health consequences. Data collection points will be decided by the communities, and measurements will be taken over four or five months. Data from the digital sensors will be live on the internet, and will be added to a map along with the lab measurements. The aim is to create open data and make it available online.

Pepys Estate noisemap

Pepys Estate noisemap

impact

Different communities from around Kosovo will be invited to take part in the project launch, a weekend event where we will co-design the pilot project, learn how to use the tools and discuss the different ways to have an impact. The project partners include the Unicef Innovations Lab{4}, which has a track record of participatory work with young people in Kosovo, and the team that has delivered digital innovation by running a series of Social Innovation Camps. It has been advised and inspired by projects such as Excites at UCL{5}, Mapping for Change{6} and Global Community Monitor{7} and is following the model of 'civic science' set out by the innovative Public Lab{8}. If the pilot project is a success it can be extended to look at water quality and soil quality, as well as expanded with a range of techniques ranging from balloon mapping{9} to radiation {10}.

  1. The World Bank, 2013. Kosovo - Country Environmental Analysis (CEA), Available at: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/01/17485553/kosovo-country-environmental-analysis-kosovo-country-environmental-analysis-cea
  2. Smart Citizen. Available at: http://smartcitizen.me/
  3. Gradko, 2012. Nitrogen Oxide Diffusion Tubes, Nitrogen Dioxide Diffusion Tubes. Available at: http://www.gradko.com/environmental/products/nitrogen-oxides.shtml
  4. UNICEF, Innovations Lab Kosovo. Available at: http://kosovoinnovations.org/
  5. UCL, Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS). Available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/excites/
  6. Mapping for Change. Mapping for Change. Available at: http://www.mappingforchange.org.uk/
  7. Global Community Monitor. Available at: http://www.gcmonitor.org/
  8. Public Lab: a DIY environmental science community. Available at: http://publiclab.org/
  9. Balloon & Kite Mapping. Available at: http://publiclab.org/wiki/balloon-mapping
  10. Safecast. Available at: http://blog.safecast.org/