EAGER - Citizen Science for Infrastructure Monitoring at the Neighborhood Level
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In the pursuit of safe and reliable infrastructure systems, monitoring data are collected to assess the condition, usage, and in-service performance of these systems. For large-scale infrastructure, monitoring data are often collected using a variety of sensor technologies and periodic field inspections. For neighborhood scale infrastructure, however, these data remain limited in both quantity and quality. While participatory data sources provide an opportunity for producing these data, very little is known about how and when to collect valid and reliable participatory data in lieu of, or in addition to, physical measurements. Through support of this award, fundamental research will be pursued to design and test protocols and tools for collecting infrastructure monitoring data at the neighborhood level by volunteer citizen scientists. This EArly-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) project will contribute to understanding the factors that influence the reliability and validity of citizen-generated infrastructure monitoring data, with focus on stormwater infrastructure. Successful implementation of protocols and tools for collecting infrastructure monitoring data by residents would accelerate the production of high-quality data at the neighborhood level, benefiting multiple stakeholders, including local communities, infrastructure engineers, urban planners, and researchers. This is especially impactful in neighborhoods with socially and physically vulnerable populations, such as those in Houston where this study will take place. This research will advance the scholarly momentum of an interdisciplinary team of investigators from civil engineering, urban planning, sociology, and public health to better understand how and when to engage members of the general public in collecting infrastructure monitoring data. The questions that guide the design of this study are: (1) What factors influence the reliability and validity of citizen-generated infrastructure monitoring data at the neighborhood level and (2) How can our understanding of these factors be employed to develop protocols and tools for collecting high-quality infrastructure monitoring data by members of the general public? Draft protocols and tools will be designed, tested in field trials, validated, and refined in an iterative process. Neighborhoods in the Houston metropolitan area will be used as the study area, with focus on stormwater infrastructure. The field trials will include the collection of observational data (collected by citizen scientists), measurement-based data (collected by engineering professionals), and feedback data (gathered through workshops and a closing questionnaire). The engineering professionals will use a mobile laser scanning and camera unit to collect the measurement-based data (e.g., location, geometry, and condition of stormwater drainage assets). Through this iterative process, we will identify the methodological issues in citizen science data (as they apply to stormwater infrastructure monitoring) and maximize the fidelity of the protocols and tools. New empirical data, obtained from the field trials, will enable testing hypotheses about the agreement between data collected by citizen scientists (observational dataset) and data collected by professionals (measurement-based dataset), and incorporating the participants perspective in the data collection process (feedback dataset).