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I’m 17 and will be joining a UG physics program soon. I’ve done a lot of DIY projects over the years, ranging from electric arc speakers to air-quality and climate-control systems. Most of my projects involved Arduinos.

I’ve been thinking of conducting a five-year study on air quality and climate change using ten sensors (gas, dust, temperature, and humidity) and an Arduino. I will collect data for five years and then conclude my findings.

  • Can I publish such research anywhere?
  • Do these type of projects have any value or are they a waste of time?
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    Welcome to Academia SE. Please give us some time to answer your question. Also, I removed your last question since multiple (distinct) questions per question do not fit our format well and it was very broad on its own. – Wrzlprmft Apr 20 '18 at 10:38
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    Which question would you like to answer with your study? – The Doctor Apr 20 '18 at 10:43
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    I just want to know how much of an impact climate change and vehicular pollution has on air quality. I want to know if such independent studies will do any good in my career , maybe not this specific project , but . – theenigma017 Apr 20 '18 at 10:48
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    If nothing else, an informal, blog-like write up of your findings would be valuable as a writing sample down the line if you need it. – Azor Ahai Apr 20 '18 at 16:45
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    Keep in mind there is a difference between research and engineering. Engineers do research too, but engineering work is not typically publishable, whereas research is. "I built a thing" might be something you can get in your local newspaper and you could cite this in an application/resume, but "I built a thing" isn't publishable research, it's engineering. – Bryan Krause Apr 20 '18 at 18:54
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You are asking whether you will be able to publish these data and use it as an edge. It all depends, as user2768's answer mentions, on the value that your work has. Specifically, you have to come up with a valid and important research question that you work will answer. For example,

  • the 5-year or even 10-year array of data for a number of sensors staying in your basement are useless

  • the online tool to monitor the dust quantity in the air in your neighbourhood is useful as a community project, is likely to be useful to your neighbours / town administration, and can be commercialized, but is unlikely to turn into a scientific article. I know of such a service in my city, and you can take some inspiration from it: Tion CityAir.

  • monitoring gas release and dust particle concentration next to a nearby industry plant or landfill is useful. It can become particularly useful if the administration of the plant / landfill is about to introduce some environmental safety measures and is seeking to quantify their efficiency. In this case, your research will be answering a well-defined question: "Are enter new safety measures here improving the air quality?". This is valuable and publishable. In this case, 5-year arrays of data are not required; most important is to monitor the air quality some time before the planned safety upgrade and some time after; I'd suggest at least three months before and after.

Bottom line: starting a 5-year data flow is easy. Coming up with a valid design of experiment is harder.

Specific points to account when planning an air quality monitoring experiment:

  • Are your gas sensors able to monitor the exact gases you are interested in? If you are targeting plant monitoring, ammonia and sulfur oxides come to mind, but there might be so much more.

  • What particular dust particles you are able to quantify? For the environmental safety applications, PM2.5 particles are often the most risk-inducing.

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It is great that you have worked on such projects at such an early age and I wish you all the best for your physics degree.

You want to know whether there's value in your projects.

First, you need to consider what you want, perhaps in terms of commercialisation, impact, or ... That is, you need to establish what "value" means to you. Then you can establish (perhaps with our help) whether you should start "a 5 year study on Air quality & climate change using 10 arduino sensors (gas , dust , temp & humidity) and an arduino."

Secondly, you need to establish how you can achieve what you want. You've mentioned that you'll have breaks during your physics degree. (That detail has been edited out, see the archived version.) But, those breaks are short and you'll need longer to conduct your five-year study.

I think these points need further thought before you can decide whether results can be published and whether it is worth your time.

Can I publish such research anywhere?

I think it is better to consider whether you should publish, rather than whether you can publish. This has been dealt with elsewhere (it was written for mathematics, but it applies to physics too):

I would advise almost any junior high school student not to think about publishing their mathematical work. Note that I did not say to stop or slow down in the learning and doing of mathematics in any way. In fact, the point is that the publication process is something that is done by professionals largely for reasons of professional exigency and not because it is pleasant or educational in its own right. When I work with PhD students to try to get their first paper published, there comes a point where they realize that the amount of effort to do so (even after all the theorems are proven) is something like 2-10 times as much as they expected...Moreover, undergraduates who do summer math research are now being much more pressured to write up their results -- even when they are not really significant, and even when they were largely put up to the results by their faculty mentors -- and this is very worrisome.

The OP is significantly older, but I think the point holds.

  • But , it takes only a few days to set up the 5yr project after the initial setup the sensor data will automatically stream to my laptop daily ( until something goes wrong ) so it wont consume my semester breaks , i want to know whether it is of any use to my degree – theenigma017 Apr 20 '18 at 10:43
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    The setup time wasn't apparent from your initial question. Nonetheless, running a five-year project does have an overhead (just in terms of time, if nothing else). What does i want to know whether it is of any use to my degree mean? I can say that the project will probably be good for your advancement. You might even be able to get some degree credits for it. (You just need an opportunity to write an essay on it or use it as the basis for your dissertation.) Longer-term, it might even create employment opportunities, if results can be commercialised. – user2768 Apr 20 '18 at 10:44
  • Yeah i just need the opportunity. But can i publish this on my own like an article ? , Independently ? Will it add to my resume !? Will doing such projects give me any edge over the competition , say i when i apply to a grad. school ? – theenigma017 Apr 20 '18 at 10:52
  • I think you should consider the points I have raised before focusing on whether you should publish an article. There are many-many factors that need to be considered before that point. – user2768 Apr 20 '18 at 11:02
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    Nonetheless, looking forward, I suggest reading academia.stackexchange.com/questions/81975/… from I would advise almost any junior high school student not to think about publishing their mathematical work. You are considerable older, but, many of the points still apply, e.g., the publication process is something that is done by professionals largely for reasons of professional exigency and not because it is pleasant or educational in its own right. – user2768 Apr 20 '18 at 11:02
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The other answers for this question are good, but I'm going to follow a different path.

Besides the raw data you gather, whether relevant to others or not, you should document your process, including any hardware and software solutions you use or create.

If you get good data for yourself, others may want to gather that same type of data for themselves, after reading your blog (or whatever). You will gain experience in building, designing, and maintaining your equipment, which can be invaluable to others who may want to avoid all the trial and error you already have done.

You may be able to provide schematics/diagrams, parts lists, or even kits to these like minded people. Given enough time, effort, and interest, you may even find people who want to add to your project, growing it into a larger study.

With more people come more data points. What you are doing now might not be a research paper, but it could be if you have 1000 people/devices spread across a (large) section of geography. Given that they would be using the same designs (procedures, equipment, and software), it could be fairly easy to correlate the data into a something that actually means something to more than just your neighbors.

Even if that doesn't go anywhere, you might have a nice side business with selling the kits.

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Other answers have adequately addressed the question of whether your proposed project is publishable and, indeed, whether you should publish it at all. This one focuses on addressing whether it is valuable.

In this regard, I think it really depends on what you expect to get out of it. I would argue that this sort of personal project is definitely valuable in that it is a way to practice the collection and analysis of data. It could be a talking point going forward and, though it may not be useful as a research credit, it would do a good job of demonstrating your work ethic. There are many soft and hard skills involved in this sort of project that are useful independent of whether the data produced is valuable.

If you want to do it and you think it won't cost you much in time or resources, then go for it. If you're worried about the commitment, plan for a smaller data gathering period. You'll get something out of the project, if only by proving that you can do the project.

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