Tackling Data Quality When Using Low-Cost Air Quality Sensors in Citizen Science Projects
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionFrontiers in Environmental Science. 2021, 9, 733634. 10.3389/fenvs.2021.733634
Using low-cost air quality sensors (LCS) in citizen science projects opens many possibilities. LCS can provide an opportunity for the citizens to collect and contribute with their own air quality data. However, low data quality is often an issue when using LCS and with it a risk of unrealistic expectations of a higher degree of empowerment than what is possible. If the data quality and intended use of the data is not harmonized, conclusions may be drawn on the wrong basis and data can be rendered unusable. Ensuring high data quality is demanding in terms of labor and resources. The expertise, sensor performance assessment, post-processing, as well as the general workload required will depend strongly on the purpose and intended use of the air quality data. It is therefore a balancing act to ensure that the data quality is high enough for the specific purpose, while minimizing the validation effort. The aim of this perspective paper is to increase awareness of data quality issues and provide strategies to minimizing labor intensity and expenses while maintaining adequate QA/QC for robust applications of LCS in citizen science projects. We believe that air quality measurements performed by citizens can be better utilized with increased awareness about data quality and measurement requirements, in combination with improved metadata collection. Well-documented metadata can not only increase the value and usefulness for the actors collecting the data, but it also the foundation for assessment of potential integration of the data collected by citizens in a broader perspective.