The analysis of public social media data has become quite popular (and common) amongst researchers. Safecast’s work following the earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is an excellent example of a project that crowdsourced difficult to obtain data: radiation contamination data collected by Geiger counters.
Safecast is also a unique example because the project was designed to give the affected population itself improved situational awareness of the greatest radiation risks in Japan. The Japanese government was unhelpful in releasing the radiation contamination data they had to the public, so members of the public responded by collecting their own. They designed car-based Geiger counters and enlisted taxis and delivery services to cover additional ground. Safecast’s work required redesigning Geiger counters for modern times, and they succeeded in building cheaper, more compact, and open source units than existed when they themselves went looking. Safecast has now sold over 250 of these units in Kickstarter campaigns. Safecast is now expanding to monitor air pollution in Los Angeles.