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Digital Reporting of Household Contaminants to Study Participants

This is the second phase of a two phase Silent Spring Institute project that explores how to present study participants with data on chemicals in their homes and bodies. The goal of this phase is to create a digital report-back system that allows participants with varying scientific and computer literacy to learn about their results.

All people are exposed to chemicals present in the air and dust in homes. Exposure scientists often measure concentrations of these chemicals, but rarely complete the time consuming process of reporting individualized results to study participants. In addition to the substantial resource barrier, the exact sources and health effects of these emerging contaminants are not well-established, so it can be difficult to present this information to people in a way that is accurate, meaningful, and empowering. Yet providing this information to individuals benefits both scientists and communities.

Relevant research:

Silent Spring Institute environmental health researchers are leading an interdisciplinary team including Harvard University computer scientists, Harvard School of Public Health environmental health researchers, and Brown University sociologists to create better tools for communicating results to diverse study participants. Building from our past and ongoing interviews with study participants, we will use Contextual Design and Value Sensitive Design methods to create a user centered report-back tool. The tool will be suited to a range of participant preferences and abilities; for example, individuals with a passive information seeking style are likely to prefer guided tours of information with limited navigation options, while those with proactive information seeking styles will prefer an open interface that offers fast navigation through numerous choices. The report-back tool will be field tested in a CDC public housing study and made available through an open source license for use by other researchers. We expect it will:

Role: Identify computer scientist collaborators and translate information within interdisciplinary team. Key contributor to project concept development and proposal writing.