In recent years, increasing attention to climate change issues ultimately led to greater citizen awareness. At the same time, many movements have emerged, either institutional or not, demonstrating the proactive and key role that citizens can take in this challenge. A crucial aspect that citizens face every day, especially in major European cities, is air pollution. Indeed, choices regarding mobility, energy use and waste management have a direct impact on the quality of the environment. However, a meaningful and cohesive involvement of citizens and of the private sector in the definition of guidelines to contrast air pollution is still missing.
In this context, the Interuniversity Research Centre on Public Economics (CRIEP) of the University of Padua participates in SOCIO-BEE (wearables and droneS fOr CIty socio-environmental Observations and BEhavioral ChangE), a research project worth about €5.5 million, funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme and following the commitment of the European Green Deal. The project, which began on 1 October 2021, has a three-year duration and involves a partnership of 18 public and private entities from 7 European countries.
SOCIO-BEE relies on the idea that a scheme of community engagement, fostered by social innovation practices combined with Citizen Science, through emerging technologies and playful interaction, can bridge the gap between the capacity of communities to adopt more sustainable behaviours and the actual adoption of pro-environmental behaviours. This concept is framed in the project through the metaphor of bees’ behaviour, where bees stand for the different roles that actors can take according to their level of involvement in actions against air pollution. The other subjects represented by the metaphor are the bears, namely the stakeholders involved, and the hives of Citizen Science, which will be tested in three pilots directed to three segments of the population: young adults, the elderly, and commuters.
SOCIO-BEE integrates the necessary technological support with strategies for the continuous involvement of the population in contrasting air pollution on an urban scale. SOCIO-BEE aims to a good level of replication, so as to extend project results beyond its lifetime. Hence, the aim of the project is to raise citizens’ awareness on air pollution and to promote more responsible behaviour through their direct involvement, starting from the measurement and monitoring of air quality, and interacting with environmental action groups, local sponsors, voluntary organisations and local administrations.
Contributing to the achievement of this goal, CRIEP’s work in the project will partly be directed to the study of the possibilities for the integration of data collected by citizens in public decision-making processes and, more specifically, in those that demonstrate potential environmental impacts. In addition, CRIEP will investigate how to evaluate Citizen Science projects from a public administration’s point of view, to define guidelines and recommendations for institutions, looking into the replicability of project results. The sustainability and dissemination of the proposed solutions will be guaranteed by proposing a series of public-private partnership schemes and innovative and targeted means of communication to optimize the exploitation and accessibility to project’s results.