Public Lab Research note

Democratizing Science Using Code

by ruthnwaiganjo | January 14, 2021 15:31 14 Jan 15:31 | #25465 | #25465

Six weeks ago, I officially joined the Public Lab Community as an intern. My primary task has been redesigning the dashboard. I wanted to work with Public Lab because of the community and my love for science. The community is always welcoming and learning from each other. It is no surprise that the product provided by Public Lab is used by a community that encourages openness and learning from one another.

The purpose of Public Lab is to democratize science which means making science accessible to everyone. I felt the impact of Public Lab when I joined the air quality meetup. A lady shared how a factory within their community had been emitting dangerous gases. Their health would deteriorate because of this. It was challenging holding the corporation that owned the factory accountable. However, through the collective effort of the community, they were able to ensure that the government held the factory accountable and eventually shut it down. A result of the community collecting air samples over time, identifying the chemical levels within the samples, and sharing the data among each other. They used the data to investigate the air pollution caused by the factory and shared their findings with the government. Public Lab’s mission is to pursue environmental justice through community science and open technology. This mission was evident during the air quality meetup.

Air quality is not the only discussion within Public Lab’s community. Other topics include; Water, Soil, Climate, and so much more. Public Lab provides a platform in which research notes on different topics can be shared and discussed. When you log in to the site, the first page you see is the dashboard displaying the activity feed of all the posts made. My current task is to redesign the dashboard and switch the feed from activity to topics.

The dashboard redesign will make the interface user friendly and improve user experience. A topic-based feed reduces the number of items a user has to view. It shifts the focus on the user and provides them with some form of control of their feed which they can update based on the topics they subscribe or unsubscribe to.

Dashboard Currently image description

Dashboard Redesign

image description

Images from my local version of Public Lab

Once the dashboard is no longer displaying the activity of all posts, the user can view all posts updates on the notes page. It was the first page I worked on before beginning with the redesign. You can view all the Research notes, Questions, Wiki, and Comments via this page.

Before joining this project, I considered myself a backend developer, with little involvement working on the user interface. Through this redesign, I’ve been able to work on my frontend skills and learn more about improving an application from a user’s perspective. I’ve had some challenges along the way such as understanding the codebase and manipulating the database to retrieve the information I need but I have been getting a lot of input from the community.

I have enjoyed working with the community that creates the Public Lab platform and learning from the community that uses the platform. Everyone involved is doing a wonderful job democratizing science.


@ruthnwaiganjo - we were so glad to have you join! Can't wait to start using all the new redesign features on the dashboard.

For Outreachy followers, you can learn more about the Public Lab Air Quality Research Area Review that Ruth attended on our YouTube channel:

Thank you @amocorro 😃

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Hi Ruth, the new dashboard is really coming alive now and it's great to see how you're building on a deeper understanding of Public Lab's mission as you approach this work! Keep it up!!! 🎉

Thanks Warren 😃 It's been a pleasure working with you all

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