2021 OpenAQ Community Survey Results

A Special Note to the OpenAQ Community:

Thank you very much for sharing your insights on how you utilize the OpenAQ platform, how you’re engaging with the community, how OpenAQ’s work can improve and expand to meet your air inequality-fighting needs, and how you envision contributing to the platform in the future. We plan to incorporate these findings to improve the OpenAQ Platform and strengthen the OpenAQ Community this year and beyond. Below, we share the survey results.

Objectives of the survey:

  • To understand how the OpenAQ Community is using the data platform
  • To identify the current challenges/barriers faced by the community
  • To collect stories of how OpenAQ has impacted community members’ work
  • To receive direct feedback from the community on how to improve the platform with tools and platform enhancements

Please Note: The OpenAQ Survey was conducted in February and March 2021 and we received 78 responses from around the globe. While the sample size of this survey does not represent every voice in the OpenAQ community, we feel that it provides key insights into our community. We have also incorporated the free responses into the lessons learned available here. As we move forward, we will continue to find new ways for engagement.

2020 vs 2021 survey

The countries that users were based out of shifted its focus more toward India (9.8% in 2020) than the United States (40.2% in 2020), but these two countries still took up a majority of the demographics. (40.2% and 9.8% in 2020 compared to 2021 with 37.2% and 11.5% respectively.) This also coincided with India gathering more use in the 2021 survey of what countries are OpenAQ community members interested in.

The way people access the OpenAQ Platform has changed slightly since last year. API access increased from 30% to 32%. Website Data Download tool increased from 22.6% to 29%. The Website Map or Comparison tool increased from 14.3% to 18%.


We need to engage both youth and older adults as key constituents in the fight against air pollution

Figure 1: Which age category do OpenAQ community members belong to?

The average age of community members was between the ages of 25–39 by 49.4% and 40–59 by 39%, as shown in Figure 1.

Low female representation in the OpenAQ community reflects challenges in the air quality ecosystem. We need to continue to prioritize and elevate a gender lens and people of color in our engagement with and feedback from air quality advocates

Figure 2 : Which gender do OpenAQ community members most identify with?

Of the OpenAQ Platform community members surveyed, the gender identification was 62% male and 37% female, as shown in Figure 2.

While non-existent data and data coverage gaps remain significant in many parts of the world, data access, interpretation and coordination remain an enormous barrier to fighting clean air.

Figure 3 : Biggest Barriers to achieving clean air in the Community

The biggest barriers to achieving clean air in the community was mostly due to lack of Public engagements along with lack of coordinated management. . That being said 38.9% replied that they could not find data within the Open Air Quality platform, as seen in Figure 3, which skewed heavily to areas with lack of data coverage (Africa, Central Asia)

While there is a good response from community representatives living and/or working in several key countries in the Global South, there is much more that we need to do to increase our global engagement and continue to advocate for and promote filling air quality coverage gaps in the Global South. (Figures 4 5 and 6)

Figure 4 : Which countries do community members’ air quality work involve or impact?

Note : More than 1 country could be selected.

The majority of survey respondents who answered this question about data reside in the United States, (37.2% of community members), followed by India with 11.5% and the United Kingdom with 9%. The largest demographic of community members comes from a vast demographic of 24 countries making up 42.3% of the population. Almost all community members would request data on air quality pertaining to their own or neighboring regions, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 5 : Among community members who replied “Non-Existent AQ data” as a major barrier, where are they based?

Figure 6 : Among community members who replied “Non-Existent AQ data” as a major barrier, where do they conduct their air quality work?

Of the users that answered “Non-Existent AQ Data”, a majority of the users were from the United States, United Kingdom, and India; as seen in Figure 5. When looking through the same community members that answered “Non-Existent AQ Data” in what countries their air quality work involves or impact, a majority of the responses were throughout Africa, Central Asia, and European regions, as seen in Figure 6.

While our community continues to represent a fairly wide range of stakeholders, we can do more to engage with both journalists and students.

Figure 7 : Which fields best describe your occupation?

The most common occupation that describes community members of the platform is Atmospheric Science at 35.1% along with Software Development at 26%. Government policy, public health science, and community activism make up a major demographic block of the OpenAQ user base, as seen in Figure 7.

While we continue to see user access data in a number of ways, there are opportunities to promote use of current and develop new tools and toolkits that increase engagement and meet the needs of both existing and new community members. (Figure 8 and 9)

Figure 8 : How do people access the data on the OpenAQ Platform?

The way most community members access the data on the OpenAQ platform is through the API with one third of total access. The website Data Download Tool and Website Map Comparison Tool remain to be very popular tools used for analysis. The Database Snapshot tool had lower exposure at only 7% of community members, as seen in Figure 8.

Figure 9 : Which Tools are used on the OpenAQ Platform.

The most often used tools at OpenAQ are the Air Quality Snapshot Tool and the Averaging Tool. The Research Tool, Athena, and QA/QC Checks Tool were all used less frequently, as seen in Figure 9. Although note that most community members do not use any of the data & research tools provided.

Scope of data used is fairly evenly distributed, but we will need to continue to provide additional insights about scale of data usage in the future

Figure 10: Geographic Scope of OpenAQ Data Used

The geographic scope of the data has a fairly even distribution of all areas, with city scale data being in the highest demand compared to the rest at 68% used in all projects, as seen in Figure 10.

While there is greater access of reference grade data, the recent addition of low-cost sensor data has already been accessed and is expected to increase in the future

Figure 11 : Types of data accessed on the OpenAQ Platform

The data most often requested was from Reference Grade sensors at 57% opposed to Low-Cost Sensors at 43% usage, as seen in Figure 11.

While Software developers most frequently use the API and Scientific Research Users the website download, there continues to be continued opportunities for use of current tools as well as the development of new tools that assist with QA/QC and/or colocation. Based on this survey, these new tools are of greatest interest to those who identified as scientific/researcher users or involved in Community Activism. (Figures 12–16)

Figure 12 : Scientific / Research Users Access of OpenAQ Data

Scientific and research based community members of the OpenAQ platform most commonly use the Website Data Download Tool along with the API. They were also surveyed at requesting a QA/QC tool at 7.96 and a co-location tool at 8.37 out of 10 on their averaged responses.

Figure 13 : Software Developer User Access of OpenAQ Data

Software development based community members of the OpenAQ platform most commonly use just the API to access data. They were also surveyed at requesting a QA/QC tool at 6.47 and a co-location tool at 5.56 out of 10 on their averaged responses.

Figure 14 : Community Activism User Access of OpenAQ Data

Community activism community members of the OpenAQ platform most commonly use the API, website data download tool, and the map/comparison tool to access their data. They were also surveyed at requesting a QA/QC tool at 6.5 and a co-location tool at 7.33 out of 10 on their averaged responses.

Figure 15 : Government Policy Maker User Access of OpenAQ Data

Government policy maker community members of the OpenAQ platform most commonly use the website data download tool and the API tool to access their data. There were no responses to using the S3 Bucket or other applications/tools from this demographic. They were also surveyed at requesting a QA/QC tool at 7.33 and a co-location tool at 8.08 out of 10 on their averaged responses.

Figure 16 : Community Member receptions to adding new tools to the OpenAQ Platform

Comparing the responses from the different demographics, it is apparent that the scientific / research community along with the community activism / government policy demographics would be more interested in the implementation of either a QA/QC Tool or a Co-Location tool.

If you have any questions about the Community Survey, please contact Chisato Calvert at chisato@openaq.org.

We're making an open, real-time air quality data hub because we think it'll let people do amazing things. Want to help out? Find us at openaq.org.