Participatory Patterns in an International Air Quality Monitoring Initiative

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 27;10(8):e0136763. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136763. eCollection 2015.


The issue of sustainability is at the top of the political and societal agenda, being considered of extreme importance and urgency. Human individual action impacts the environment both locally (e.g., local air/water quality, noise disturbance) and globally (e.g., climate change, resource use). Urban environments represent a crucial example, with an increasing realization that the most effective way of producing a change is involving the citizens themselves in monitoring campaigns (a citizen science bottom-up approach). This is possible by developing novel technologies and IT infrastructures enabling large citizen participation. Here, in the wider framework of one of the first such projects, we show results from an international competition where citizens were involved in mobile air pollution monitoring using low cost sensing devices, combined with a web-based game to monitor perceived levels of pollution. Measures of shift in perceptions over the course of the campaign are provided, together with insights into participatory patterns emerging from this study. Interesting effects related to inertia and to direct involvement in measurement activities rather than indirect information exposure are also highlighted, indicating that direct involvement can enhance learning and environmental awareness. In the future, this could result in better adoption of policies towards decreasing pollution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Awareness
  • Community Participation*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • International Agencies


  • Air Pollutants

Grant support

This research has been supported by the EveryAware project funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies program (IST-FET) of the European Commission under the EU RD contract IST-265432. SONY-CSL Computer Science Lab provided support in the form of salaries for author VL, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of this author are articulated in the “author contributions” section. The other funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.