A case study in the use of open hardware for citizen science: Safecast

Reading through a fascinating report on the common design collective intelligence, I came across this use case that discusses the use of open hardware for citizen science, which might inspire or help to further nail down our movement. Develop a large-scale environmental monitoring project using open hardware, data, and software.

Safecast is an international voluntary organization dedicated to open citizen science for environmental monitoring. It was founded shortly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. It manages a global open data network for radiation and air quality monitoring and supports citizen-based environmental monitoring.

The Geiger counters used by volunteer citizen scientists are made from open hardware. New volunteers and monitoring networks can therefore easily buy or build their own devices, or use existing models to modify and create new versions of the counters. As it was originally a portable device, there are now several different tools available for volunteers to collect data, including car-mounted sensors as well as drones. The collection, sharing, and visualization of radiation data is supported by open-source software and data. Thanks to this combination of the various components of the digital commons, the platform and its vast network of volunteers have collected the largest open dataset of background radiation measurements ever collected, with over 150 million readings to date and a number that continues to grow every day. The project has recently been adapted to the conflict in Ukraine. The #bGeigies4Ukraine campaign sent bGeigies to Ukrainian volunteers to map radiation in the country. Since May 2022, over 300,000 new radiation measurements in Ukraine have been added to the Safecast database and online map.

What if the development of open hardware around communities of practice to generate data for research in other areas of social and human science also became the way to develop open scientific hardware?

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