UofL’s Envirome Institute creates Louisville Data Commons to support community health research

An important mission of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville is to encourage citizens to participate in research to understand and improve the health of our community. A new online data resource hosted by the Envirome Institute will allow citizen scientists and researchers to access and contribute to public knowledge about the health of the air, water and soil in Greater Louisville.

Louisville Data Commons is a new online data repository available to anyone interested in the state of our local environment or involved in citizen science or related data-gathering projects.

“For many years, we have been fortunate to have a strong Metro Government open data portal, a resource for sharing data gathered by the city. However, there is not a place to store and review data gathered by citizens that could ultimately help us gain a better understanding of our city,” said Ted Smith, PhD, director of the Center for Healthy Air, Water and Soil of the UofL Envirome Institute.

“The growth of citizen science and the excitement around low-cost sensors has highlighted the great need to have a place where information gathered by our community, in our community, about our community can be made available to our whole community and governed by our community,” Smith said.

To provide credibility for the data, Louisville Data Commons is hosted by the Envirome Institute and governed by a volunteer board of community members. These community members will ensure the data sets maintained on the site are reliable, objective and useful to researchers. Members of the volunteer board will review data submitted by the public or non-profit organizations prior to making it available within the portal.

An example of the need for objective third-party validation of data is the recently released odor-reporting app, “Smell My City.” Members of the community expressed concern whether the data could be altered and sought assurance that the data was protected. Louisville Data Commons now archives reports from Smell My City that has been validated by a public process and maintained for future research by anyone using the portal.

Other sources of data will include information gathered by Brightside and Internet of Things sensors, as well as local environmental information provided by the federal government. As more residents discover new things to measure and share in the future, additional data can be held and shared on this portal.

“Louisville Data Commons is a great example of educational institutions, community partners and Louisville Metro Government working together to create a new tool to help local innovators change lives for the better,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “That’s the type of collaboration and focus on big ideas that we need as we work to become a city where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Data may be uploaded to LouisvilleDataCommons.org by individuals, citizen scientists or non-profit organizations and may include information related to sensor projects, air or water quality, weather, odors, noise or other community health characteristics. Other data related to the city of Louisville also may be approved. The data is reviewed by at least two members of the Louisville Data Commons committee prior to being published to ensure validity and appropriateness.

The current Louisville Data Commons committee includes Smith, Grace Simrall, chief of civic innovation and technology for Louisville Metro Government, Aaron Drake, a technology consultant, and Nur Ozgener, a Brightside board member.

“Louisville Metro Government is proud to be a part of the Louisville Data Commons. We are focused on using innovation to address the challenges residents face each day and on expanding access to the digital tools and skills of the future,” Simrall said. “As we work toward these goals, the community needs access to data and good partners.”

The Louisville Data Commons portal uses open source data portal platform CKAN.

Source: UofL’s Envirome Institute creates Louisville Data Commons to support community health research (UofL News, Aug. 13, 2019)