This week was about citizen sensing/citizen science. It’s basically about a bunch of people trying to do environmental research by themselves without depending on any governmental/corporative aid.
There are citizen science organisations and each group works on a different area, from the level of fumes in London to the level of radioactive contamination in Japan.
One of the organisations introduced in the lecture was Safecast (http://blog.safecast.org/).
As a Japanese citizen, of course I already knew about it but personally never trusted the organisation itself or the data they produce.
They have been doing DIY geiger counter project recently, but the geiger counter is a tricky thing to use, it’s very difficult to correctly measure the actual contamination level. Even if you measure the same place, each device shows a different numerical value and it fluctuates easily depending on various factors.
So I’m quite suspicious about the idea of the “DIY” geiger counter because usually DIY stuff are typically less reliable than the commercial ones.
However more than anything, Safecast’s largest problem is the fact that they only measure aerial radioactivity. Dosing radioactive substances through food and water is the most dangerous thing. Safecast seems to me that they are trying to make Japan look like a safe place to live by only showing the low level of aerial radioactive contamination.
The following is Safecast’s view on contamination in food
FAQ: Contaminated Food In Japan
“SAFECAST is not equipped yet to do our own food measurements, but we cooperate with independent food measurement labs and constantly monitor both official and independent results.”
Citizen science allows people to have data which have not been published by officials. However the preciseness of the data is critical, false data can easily cause unnecessary panic. It’s also possible that data collected by the public is used by corporatives to make profits. Therefore it’s important to decide what data to open and what not to.