Five years after the disaster at a nuclear power station in Fukushima in 2011 , information on radiation levels in the area continues to be scarce. Although there have been no confirmed cases of deaths or radation sickness caused by the accident, many people formally living in the region continue to be anxious about how safe the area really is. With a lack of information from the Japanese government, a group of scientists based in Japan and other countries founded Safecast, a citizen science project to crowdsource the collection of data on radiation levels around Fukushima. Now, five years after the project was launched, Safecast has collected over 35 million readings of background radiation and, in their own words “maintains the largest open dataset of background radiation measurements ever collected”. They are currently working on expanding to also measure air quality in addition to radiation levels.
Safecast represents an interesting example of how professional scientists, working in traditional institutions, can crowdsource activities such as data collection in ways which both facilitate research and provide desired services. The involvement in the project of people like the venture capitalist Joi Ito and use of the Kickstarter website to raise funds also demonstrates the significance of the private sector. The intersection of at least three different groups (citizens, scientists and businessmen) with diverse interests, motivations and goals highlights how identifying the boundaries between traditional categories like the public and the private, and non-profit and profit-making is becoming increasingly difficult.