This fall, OpenAQ conducted a survey to better understand the needs of our global community.
The responses we received from around the globe do not represent every voice in the OpenAQ community but do provide key insights to inform our work.
Who took the survey?
The majority of respondents indicated that the geographical scope and impact of their work are global or in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the respondents associated their occupation with atmospheric science, followed by education and community engagement.
70% of respondents identified as male; 26% of respondents identified as female. More than half of respondents are in the 25–39 age range, 32% in the 40–59 range.
How do people learn about OpenAQ?
Personal communications via a colleague or friend is the top way that respondents learned about OpenAQ. OpenAQ’s website, presence in conferences, and presence on X (formerly Twitter) are other ways that respondents learned about OpenAQ. This highlights the power of human connections, even in the data world!
The top reasons respondents use OpenAQ include:
- The data are easy to access.
- The data complements other sources of data I work with.
- I support OpenAQ’s efforts to make data universally accessible.
The majority of the respondents reported using OpenAQ Explorer as the primary way they access data in OpenAQ. Meanwhile, 40% of the respondents use the API. Check out the two newest ways to interact with the API: our Python wrapper and Command Line Interface (CLI) client. Watch out for even more new tools in the coming year!
Data Usage and Interest
An equal percentage of respondents answered that they access air sensor data and reference grade data. OpenAQ will continue to increase data coverage for both. Similarly, an equal percentage of respondents access near real-time data and historical data. This points to the breadth of use of the data in OpenAQ.
The top pollutants accessed in OpenAQ are PM2.5, NO2, O3 and PM10. We recognize that PM10 data from certain air sensors may be unreliable (see our FAQ), but its presence in the platform does allow for deeper investigation by researchers.
Other Data Sources; Validation and Modeling
Some users complement the ground-level air quality data obtained from OpenAQ with other types of data, such as satellite data, as well as accessing ground-level data from additional data sources not hosted on OpenAQ. Many users seek quality assurance, additional descriptive data, thorough data provenance, and the addition of forecasting models. Data resources, tools and models recommended by several respondents, but outside the scope of the data provided in OpenAQ, are listed in our FAQ (under “Where can I find more data, tools and resources on air quality?) and in our Awesome List.
OpenAQ fills an important role in data provision by providing the data closest to what is reported by the instruments; it is one of our four key criteria for fully open data (see “Four Key Criteria for Fully Open Air Quality Data” in Open Air Quality Data: The Global Landscape, 2022).
What do people appreciate about using the OpenAQ Platform?
User-friendliness and broad data usage. Respondents find that OpenAQ is more user-friendly than other global platforms and that the OpenAQ platform continues to make it easy for researchers to access the data in a well-structured format for research purposes.
Such open-ended comments as the following recharged our sense of purpose:
“The efforts of OpenAQ are making it remarkably easy for researchers to access the data in a well-structured format and use it for research purposes. Governments across the world should officially support OpenAQ to keep making shared efforts towards curbing air pollution without wasting money and efforts in doing the same work locally.”
“Air quality has been a very under-researched field in our continent, which makes it to be left out in the planning processes and thus might lead to future problems. Therefore OpenAQ platform has been instrumental in making the data available for research and as well as help curb the challenge early enough.”
“My work in air quality spans the globe, so I need to be able to quickly find and access air quality data from different countries and regions. OpenAQ provides an easy access point for global ground-based air quality monitoring data.”
“OpenAQ, an invaluable resource for air quality data, is the cornerstone of our collective fight against air pollution. It empowers experts with robust data and awakens citizen scientists to the realities of our atmosphere. A beacon of transparency, it allows us all to breathe easier as we understand, engage with, and ultimately improve the air we share.”
“I have become an open air quality advocate because of OpenAQ.”
What obstacles does the community face in fighting air inequality?
When asked what barriers they face in the grander scheme of air quality issues, respondents said:
- Lack of infrastructure (internet, monitoring equipment) and funding (for data access, for monitoring)
- Lack of open data (AQ data, instrument conditions, historical data)
- Data simply does not exist
- Not the spatial resolution and temporal coverage that the user needs (e.g., not as fine-grained)
- Lack of user knowledge or training
- Lack of data analysis tools
- Language barriers
- Lack of standardization and uniformity in data reporting
- The validity of data is not recognized
Clearly, this is an opportunity to allocate funding to air quality monitoring. Clean Air Fund reports that of all philanthropic funding, only 0.1% of philanthropic funding goes to air quality (Clean Air Fund, Philanthropic Funding for Air Quality 2022). Increasing this funding and investing it in government air quality monitoring could positively affect one billion people worldwide (OpenAQ, Open Air Quality Data: The Global Landscape, 2022).
We thank all of you who shared your voice. You confirmed that we are on the right track in equipping users of all abilities with more tools to access, understand and use the OpenAQ platform. To fill your needs, we are also working to increase reliability, provide simple user instructions and more training, expand metadata and data coverage, and more!
In addition, together with you, we are advocating for more air quality monitoring and greater data transparency.
If you have any questions or clarifications about the results or have air quality data to share with us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or join our active conversations on Slack: bit.ly/JoinOpenAQSlack