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Law and Policy

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How do laws, regulations, policies, and community science affect each other? Community-collected data has the power to prompt local, state, or federal action by alerting government agencies to an issue. At the same time, laws will affect how community scientists can collect their data for maximum potential impact.

Some subjects that you might see included here in the future:

  • How can community-sourced data be used to impact or enforce regulations at the local, tribal, state, or federal level?
  • What can community members do to improve their chances of having impact through legal channels?
  • How do laws and agencies enable or impair the ability of communities to collect and contribute data?

This page is a place to collect and organize resources on law and policy, and their relationships with community-led science. Visit the law-and-policy tag page to see the latest community posts about law and policy on Public Lab, and get updates on this topic by subscribing:

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What other resources related to law and policy would be helpful to collect here? Please edit this wiki!

Questions on law and policy

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Title Author Updated Likes Comments
What constitutes transit violations in Wisconsin? @kamau19 about 2 years ago 2
What constitutes an air quality violation in Wisconsin? @stevie over 2 years ago 3
Has odor ever been used against an industry in court? @stevie over 2 years ago 4
What are good resources, or things look look for, in reviewing environmental permits? @stevie almost 3 years ago 2
What is a good way to track vehicular traffic? @stevie almost 3 years ago 14
How do I find out who is responsible for maintaining the roadway by my house? @stevie almost 3 years ago 3
How are gravel and asphalt companies regulated? @stevie almost 3 years ago 1
What type of permits are required for gravel and asphalt processing facilities? @stevie almost 3 years ago 1
Do the same regulations that apply to drones apply to balloon mapping? @Morgan over 3 years ago 3
How do you find industrial WPDES permit details? @gretchengehrke over 3 years ago 2
Does your state have air quality standards for hydrogen sulfide? @gretchengehrke over 3 years ago 0
Does Pennsylvania have air quality standards for hydrogen sulfide? @gretchengehrke over 3 years ago 1
Are there occupational exposure rules limiting exposure to hydrogen sulfide? @gretchengehrke over 3 years ago 1
Are there air quality standards for hydrogen sulfide? @gretchengehrke over 3 years ago 1
Looking for open data resources to track public permitting processes. @kgradow1 over 3 years ago 1
Where can I find models for community-university data co-ownership? @nshapiro over 3 years ago 18
Are there any exemptions under the NPDES? @stevie over 4 years ago 5
What types of NPDES permits are there? @stevie over 4 years ago 3
How do environmental monitoring methods become recognized or official by US regulatory agencies? @stevie over 4 years ago 4
How can I find out what environmental monitoring methods are recognized by regulatory agencies? @stevie over 4 years ago 2
Who can vouch for, or interpret, evidence in court, and how is it weighed? @warren over 4 years ago 2
What are the limits to what can be interpreted from a photograph without an expert witness? @warren over 4 years ago 0
What are ways to strengthen photographic evidence in court? @warren over 4 years ago 0
What's the best way to archive/store a timelapse video? @warren over 4 years ago 3
Question: What is the Open Source Community's Take the MIT License? @nshapiro almost 5 years ago 10
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Activities related to law and policy

Activities on Public Lab that have been tagged with law-and-policy will appear here

Add an activity  or request an activity guide you don't see listed

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.


The posts below include discussions and information on how community-collected data can become evidence in a legal case.

Environmental Evidence Project - Introduction: beginning the conversation on how community-collected data can be used as evidence to stimulate action.

The Many Types of Evidence: outlining the different kinds of data that someone might collect as evidence and how they differ from each other.

Interview: Chris Nidel on environmental evidence in court: interview with an attorney who shares insights on what can make community-sourced data admissible in court (short answer: there is no easy answer and no guarantees).

Community-sourced data and legal issues

Each of us has our own way of thinking about and doing community science. The posts linked below describe an approach to community science from the perspective of @lenagd, an attorney with extensive experience in environmental law. Within the posts you’ll find:

A three-step approach to using community-sourced data in the legal system:

Step 1. Identifying the problem: how it should work + common legal obstacles
Step 2. Gathering the evidence: how it should work + common legal obstacles
Step 3. Turning evidence into action: how it should work + common legal obstacles

You can find the full posts on “Citizen Science Investigations: aka 'Common Legal Issues when using Community Sourced Data'” here:

Part 1: How it should work
Part 2: Why it doesn’t always work

Regulations within topic areas on Public Lab

Much of the resources and activity on the Public Lab website are organized by Topic areas--for example, air quality, water quality, and land use. On each Topic’s wiki page (see an example linked below), we’re hoping to include background on what laws and regulations exist and where gaps are, plus examples and stories of how community science can interact with the regulatory world. These sections could cover:

1. Regulations related to the Topic

  • Federal level regulations (e.g., set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US)
  • How to find other regulations that may exist at your state level
  • What’s currently hot in the regulatory world

2. Examples and stories of what community-collected data can do with regulations in this Topic area

  • Stimulate government investigation
  • Be used directly by agencies in their assessment
  • Be used in lawsuits

We hope that the stories will demonstrate the power of local community knowledge and expertise and inspire others who are seeking to address an environmental concern.

If you have ideas, examples, or stories to share, please edit this wiki or consider posting a research note!

Share a research note

Indoor air quality

Regulations on indoor air quality: check out this example of what Topic pages could include on federal and state regulations and policies.

Air quality (outdoor)

US EPA standards: national ambient air quality standards set by the EPA, following the Clean Air Act.


Regulations and policy on microplastics