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This page is a glossary of terms seen and used around Public Lab. On this page you'll find more information about some of the words use to describe Public Lab:


Open Community

Public Lab is a community anyone can participate in online and in person. Public Lab spaces include in-person events, google groups, and call-in spaces. All Public Lab spaces are open to anyone and are subject to the code of conduct.

To have your contributions attributed to you online, create a profile on which you can use on all Public Lab websites. Creating an online profile is not required to participate in Public Lab.


The Public Lab nonprofit is a 501(c)3 entity that supports the broader Public Lab community through providing resources, infrastructure and people support for the larger community. It is governed by a Board of Directors and is the body that employees the Public Lab staff.

Board of Directors

The Board is governed by the bylaws of the organization. The Board is a volunteer group of individuals who, to the best of their abilities, make policy and assume fiduciary responsibility for the full realization of the organization’s mission, goals, stability and security. The board is responsible for the hiring and firing of the Executive Director and overseeing the work of the Executive Director.

Working groups

These are groups that are composed of nonprofit staff members, contractors, Organizers, and community members that collectively work on tasks. Current examples of working groups include: “web”, “organizers”, and “moderation.” For current lists of working groups see


The Kits Initiative creates, assembles, and distributes kits (in the store) from the open research designs of the Public Lab community and affiliated individuals, organizations, and companies. Revenue from the Kits program directly supports the Public Lab nonprofit


Community member

Anyone who interacts with Public Lab through any channel online or offline.


Public Lab Fellows are individuals who are paid by the Public Lab nonprofit over different terms to take part in developing and applying Do-It-Yourself pollution monitoring techniques and advocacy. The Public Lab non-profit supports peer production for community environmental health under three program areas: Open Land, Open Air, Open Water.


The Co-Fellows program provides funding and resources for two-person teams to develop and implement projects defined by a community need. Of the two-fellow team, typically one fellow would be actively working on a specific environmental issue and one fellow would come from a technical background. Co-Fellows receive stipends to support the development of their project.

Initiative Fellow

The role of an Initiative Fellow is to lead the day-to-day management of programmatic hardware and software development in their initiative area, to coordinate with Public Lab’s outreach team on events planning and community engagement, and to participate in monthly meetups and Public Lab’s annual conference. Initiative fellows provide support to community members for tool research and development, connect communities tackling similar issues, and coordinate closely with Public Lab staff. Fellows receive various levels of support from Public Lab including stipends and support for workspace, materials, and travel.

Sprint Fellow

The role of the Sprint Fellow is to support focused, project-based responsibilities in one of the three Initiatives (Open Air, Water and Land), such as overcoming a specific research or development hurdle. These fellowships are designed to be more nimble and based on immediate, concrete needs, whether that be related to a tool or a community-defined need. Sprint Fellows receive stipends to support workshops, travel and workspace for 3-6 month periods.


Organizers are community members who are leaders in the Public Lab community, and have an interest in the way the Public Lab community collaborates and grows. Typically but not exclusively, these are people who are both key organizers in their local communities as well as key contributors to the broader Public Lab community through work on things such as the website, communications, events, and on the ground projects. Organizers often host events or moderate discussion lists, and help shepherd the Public Lab community in other ways. The organizers list is always expanding; anyone can be nominated or nominate themselves.

Ways to Communicate


The purpose of the Public Lab Blog is to capture the “who” in Public Lab. It is a space for people to share out the stories beyond the research results, and in more depth than the discussion lists.

Mailing Lists

The Public Lab mailing lists (Google Groups) are where much of the discussion happens in Public Lab. There are both Topical Mailing Lists for discussions about tools, hardware and software development, field techniques, real world and educational applications as well as Regional Mailing Lists where people connect with other Public Labbers in their area, announce/coordinate local events and meetups, borrow equipment and ask for local help.

Public Lab Q&A

The Public Lab question/answer system is designed to help connect people who have environmental questions with those who can help to answer them or provide resources on the subject. Anyone with a Public Lab account can ask or answer questions.

Research Note

Research notes are the primary way we share what we learn and critique one another's work. Research notes can include: photos, examples of things that you’ve done or made, requests for troubleshooting, proposals for new projects, announcements of events, and reports from field tests or meetups. Research notes are only editable by their authors.


Research notes can be written as activities for people to do to replicate something someone has tried. The focus of activities is to "show each other how to do something" rather than just tell people about something you've done.

Wiki page

Wiki pages are web pages that anyone can create or edit. They are used to collect information, documentation, and instructions. Unlike research notes which are only editable by the authors, wikis can be updated or edited by anyone with a Public Lab profile.


Methods and Techniques pages are built to help explain a certain way in which someone can do environmental monitoring. They can include information on tools, protocols, or strategies for environmental monitoring. Method pages often include information about what environmental problem the method might be useful for, the limitations of the method, supporting literature, activities and questions related to the method.



The Public Lab Barnraising is the closest thing we have to a Public Lab conference -- but with an emphasis on "doing stuff together" rather than just presenting/talking. We come together to develop tools, toolkits, supporting materials such as guides and tutorials, test the tools and develop new research directions and projects. The Annual Barnraising event is held each fall in Louisiana. Barnraisings are retreat style. More information about Barnraisings can be found at

Regional Barnraising

The Regional Barnraising is an annual event that happens between the spring and summer in a new location each year. The events are designed to help facilitate connection within a specific area and usually around a particular topic. Much like the Annual Barnraising, the Regional event is hosted in an unconference style. More information about Barnraisings can be found at

Open Call

Open Call is a time every month when Public Lab opens a phone line and live online link for anyone to call in. The calls are scheduled on the first Thursday of every month and alternate between 12:30PM and 7PM eastern time (US). People use the Open Call to talk to other Public Labbers, discuss projects, ideas and how to get involved. The call-in numbers and link to join are posted on the on the event calendar on the page.


OpenHour is a monthly interactive seminar hosted by the Public Lab Community both online through google hangout and a chat room, and also in in-person meetups. The topics of OpenHour vary from presentations on tools and methods, discussions on environmental issues, to approaches to data-based advocacy. OpenHours happen live, but also archive on the OpenHour page.


Workshops are local gatherings that focus on a specific topic and can be hosted by anyone. Workshop can focus on anything from community organizing, to methods exploration and activities. Learn more about hosting events here.