"Research area reviews" are ways we work to grow and organize our shared information on a topic area on Public Lab. The goal is to synthesize and refresh resources on a topic (a.k.a. a research area) so that they are as current as possible and useful to the community. On a topic’s wiki page, you’ll find information on how to get started in research, tool development, and advocacy for a topic, and some next step challenges that remain. You’ll also find many ways to share your ideas, questions, and findings with the Public Lab community.
Research area review events
A key part of a research area review is getting together to talk and connect with each other on a topic and relevant tools! Below, you’ll find recordings from the most recent public event for a research area review, plus links to resources shared on the call.
December 16, 2020: Air quality research area review
Wrapping up Public Lab’s latest research area review on air quality, we held a virtual get-together on community air monitoring. We saw highlights of updated air quality resources on the Public Lab website, talked about local air monitoring projects across the US, and shared goals, questions, and tips with each other.
Joining us to share their ongoing projects and experiences in community air monitoring:
- @MsSema and @mashalawais, responding to the ITC fire in the Houston, TX area, by developing lower-cost, real-time monitors and a mobile alert system for benzene and other emissions from petrochemical facilities.
- Deborah Mills, Wendy Brawer, Veronica Olivotto, and Mary Jo Burke of LES Breathe: developing a community-run air monitoring, reporting, and remediation network in the Lower East Side of New York City.
- Gustavo Aguirre Jr., Kern County Director at the Central California Environmental Justice Network, with experience in Bucket Brigades, driving changes in air quality policy in California, and engaging youth in air quality monitoring.
- @eustatic of Healthy Gulf, focusing on particulate matter monitoring and interested in ways to prevent community burnout in the face of chronic issues, plus immediate remediation as part of FEMA responses.
- @kgradow1, @jjcreedon, and Ethan McMahon of the US EPA, also joined the call to share questions and ideas.
Check out a summary of the research area review on air quality here, including highlights of some of the ongoing questions and challenges discussed on the call.
- LES Breathe: https://eastriverparkaction.org/breathe/
- Denny Larson’s organizing legacy around bucket brigades: https://rosefdn.org/in-memoriam-denny-larson/
- Public Lab’s latest posts on air quality: https://publiclab.org/tag/air-quality
- Public Lab’s main wiki page on air quality: https://publiclab.org/air-quality
- Issue brief - “Benzene Air Monitors For Fenceline Communities” by @MsSema: https://publiclab.org/n/25090
- Issue brief - “Impacted Communities - Citizen Science in a "No Zoning" City from Strategy to Solutions” by @mashalawais: https://publiclab.org/n/25143
- More Background on the ITC fire in Deer Park, TX: https://www.sierraclub.org/texas/blog/2019/03/itc-disaster-and-what-could-be-air-and-water
- DIY air filters: https://publiclab.org/notes/Melissa/08-26-2015/inexpensive-hepa-filter-fan-project-to-reduce-air-pollution, and another approach meant to reduce strain on the fan: https://tombuildsstuff.blogspot.com/2013/06/better-box-fan-air-purifier.html
- EPA Air Sensor toolbox: https://www.epa.gov/air-sensor-toolbox
- South Coast Air Quality Management District's SPEC-AQ sensor testing program: http://www.aqmd.gov/aq-spec, and sensor evaluations (field/lab): http://www.aqmd.gov/aq-spec/evaluations
- ISeeChange app with Air Pollution investigation: https://www.iseechange.org/investigations/5749ffb4245032597e8c6445/
- EPA National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) maps with background on cancer risk from air pollution in your area: https://gispub.epa.gov/NATA/
- Community science soil testing: https://csresources.org/own-a-soil-sampling-toolkit/wj3w1zntelhqex1356dar6fyot667a
- Air quality database activity: https://publiclab.org/notes/bhamster/11-30-2020/comparing-air-quality-databases-a-fun-activity
- Emergency Response Management Website gives relative risk presented by facilities. E.g., map of Houston / Pasadena / Deer Park, and Port Arthur https://erma.noaa.gov/gulfofmexico/#/layers=3+10717+37899&x=-95.00123&y=29.64326&z=9.3&panel=legend
- TERC + Global Community Monitor (GCM) overview of how to set up a campaign: https://publiclab.org/notes/kgradow1/10-30-2020/statistics-for-action-air-quality-guide
- South Durban Community Environmental Alliance resource guide on identifying chemicals by smell: https://publiclab.org/notes/kgradow1/10-31-2020/smells-that-kill-how-to-identify-odours
- Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) study on benzene emissions after recent changes made to the Clean Air Act: https://www.environmentalintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Benzene-Report-2.6.20.pdf
- Coalition Against Death Alley in Louisiana: https://www.enddeathalley.org/
- Air Watch Bay Area: http://www.airwatchbayarea.org/#home
- CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University: https://cmucreatelab.org/home
Past research area reviews
Click here for an archive of the research area reviews listed below, including video recordings and all links shared on the call.
September 23, 2020: Microplastics research area review
Who does research area reviews?
Anyone can help with a research area review! As the research coordinator at Public Lab, @bhamster organizes and runs a regular cycle of reviews to make sure we’re keeping our topic areas up-to-date. If you’re interested in helping out or offering ideas, please get in touch by leaving a comment on this post.
What happens during a review?
Currently, research area reviews involve:
- Choosing a topic to review.
- People with interest in or experience with the topic contributing and shaping the review by:
- Posting or answering questions
- Sharing knowledge in research notes
- Relating experiences and stories in conversations and community calls
- Documenting methods and tools and their uses
- Digging deeper into leads from conversations by gathering information and resources from beyond Public Lab.
- Organizing and synthesizing materials from Public Lab and beyond, covering methods and tool development; community stories and projects; relevant regulations, policy, and advocacy; next step challenges.
- Updating the topic’s wiki page and creating new research notes.
- Hosting an open online event to share stories, questions and answers, highlights from the review, and to welcome all to research the topic whether they are newcomers or seasoned researchers.
- Posting summaries of events and the review.
The review process outlined above built upon previous thinking on research area reviews (here and here), which can also be broken down into more distinct phases and distributed tasks in the following way:
Phase 1: Information Gathering
In Phase 1, the goal is to sift through and update all the existing resources on PublicLab.org related to a topic. This could include checking in on other projects' updates as well, and if there's been a previous review, that's also a great place to start.
Phase 2: Convening
Phase 2 involves hosting an Open Call to bring folks together, to go through the collected materials from Phase 1, identify gaps and plan next steps.
Phase 3: Synthesizing
In Phase 3, the notes from the call and the newly collected materials, shared goals, and tasks are organized and shared on PublicLab.org, tying the review together in a single post.
This table gives more details on the tasks and can serve as a template to organize the phases of a more distributed research area review:
|Phase||Task Type||Who can do this||Difficulty||Task||I'll do this!|
|1||Garden||Anyone||Easy||Go through posts in the area and make sure they are properly tagged||LINK|
|1||Share||Anyone||Easy||Post questions on the topic area you have, or that you’re not able to find answers to on Public Lab.||LINK|
|1||Garden||One person||Medium||Make sure the wiki page has clear format||LINK|
|1||Research||Anyone||Hard||Help find answers to unanswered questions||LINK|
|1||Facilitate||Anyone||Hard||Invite, listen to, and record new stories related to the topic||LINK|
|2||Share||Anyone||Easy||Attend the open topic call and collaborate||LINK|
|2||Facilitate||One person||Medium||Host the public online meeting for group to collaborate to: Highlighting findings, ID gaps in available resources, highlight challenges in this research area||LINK|
|3||Synthesize||Anyone||Hard||Review existing material and call summary and write an update post on it with materials gathered||LINK|
|3||Research||One person||Hard||Follow up on gaps identified from the group and post materials to help support information around those gaps.||LINK|
Want to talk about a topic outside a research area review?
Anytime! We want to hear from you. Join us for an Open Call, hosted every Tuesday at 12 pm PT / 3 pm ET. These informal calls are a great way to connect with Public Lab community members on projects, ideas, and questions. You can find more info on Open Call and how to join here.
And you can learn more about other kinds of Public Lab events and check out our events calendar here: publiclab.org/events