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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is OxAir?

OxAir is partnership of independent experts, individuals and organisations with a common interest in the quality of air in Oxford. It was founded by Empathy Sustainability with the support of Oxford University in 2016 with the intention to measure air pollution from a human perspective and to gain new insights into the spatial and temporal distribution of it across Oxford city.


How is OxAir funded?

Up to 2019 OxAir has largely been run with people giving their professional time for free.  Oxford University provided some early funding to purchase and test equipment. As of 2019, we have secured around 12-months funding from DEFRA via our partner Oxford City Council. This funding will support the Council in their commitment to Local Air Quality Management (LAQM).


What is the goal of OxAir?

We aim to generate reliable, meaningful air quality data for key routes and open spaces in Oxford using sensors at fixed locations and also mounted on different modes of transport e.g. walking, cycling, bus and car. With this data we aim to inform policy decisions, raise public awareness and support personal behaviours to reduce emissions and exposure. In so doing, we hope to generate best practice protocols for lower cost reliable measurements that other cities, communities and citizen science groups can follow.


Why is OxAir necessary?

Whilst air quality in Oxford is on average getting better, averages and static measurement approaches don’t capture real world human exposures to air pollution. In everyday life we are exposed to many short-term peaks in air pollution, for example rush-hour.  Research has shown that these peaks are important because they can bring on acute health effects, as well as contribute to long-term negative health impacts. We want to provide residents with information to reduce their exposures, their contribution to short-term peak pollution concentrations as well as generate data that will support the choice of the best methods to prevent this pollution in the years to come. There is no safe level of air pollution.


How are schools involved in the project?

Schools are a key component of the research project, as children are particularly sensitive air pollution. OxAir is interested in examining the contribution of driving and daily drop-offs to local air quality conditions.  We have initially selected 20 schools at which we will deploy our sensors. This selection is informed by a detailed spatial and demographic analysis conducted by our lead public health researcher. More schools may be added to the project over the course of the year.


What is different about OxAir?

OxAir is at the forefront of using affordable, portable, reliable air quality sensing equipment and combining this with local knowledge and community engagement to generate a clearer picture of what air quality looks like across Oxford city. OxAir sensors will characterise fine scale spatial and temporal variations in pollution which are needed to develop the latest, efficient local transport policies and to improve the evidence base on human exposures.  


Innovation through collaboration and diversity: OxAir is a diverse group of public servants, researchers, consultants, businesses and residents who bring added value through their differing perspectives on air quality priorities, capabilities and responsibilities.


Who are OxAir?

The key partners are: Oxford City Council, Empathy Sustainability, Ricardo EE, Apertum, Oxford University Estates Dept, public health and social science researchers at Birmingham University and Oxford University, and liaising with Oxfordshire County Council, community groups and business collaborators.


Can I get involved?


Yes, you can help out in a number of ways:

​1.  Join our email list to stay updated on the OxAir project

2. Stay tuned for upcoming workshops, presentations and other opportunities to engage with the OxAir project. 

Who else is participating in this project?

  • Oxfordshire County Council Public Health Team

  • Pedal & Post

  • Oxford Bus Company

  • The Oxford Pedestrians Association

  • Royal Cars

  • O2 (Low Carbon Oxford North)

  • Institute of Applied Health Research / Clinical researcher in Public Health

  • Oxford schools


Further detail:

OxAir aims to explore the development of the next generation in Local Air Quality Measurement (LAQM) tools that can deliver an evidence base on the spatial and temporal scales needed by local policy development today and in the future.

By engaging with stakeholders, involving them in project delivery and making project outcomes accessible at all levels OxAir aims to promote awareness and behaviour change. As part of the work programme we aim to explore;

  • A high-resolution evidence base that can contribute to;

    • improved, well informed, accelerated policies

    • fostering engagement between policy makers, the public and pressure groups

    • education via projects with schools and communities

    • helping monitor progress to target and avoidance of AQ displacement issues (no harm)

  • Differential changes in NO2 and PM levels in Oxford e.g. road-to-road variations and diurnal cycles with the Council’s monitoring acting as a reference point of absolute values

  • Day-to-day personal exposure to air pollution at high spatio-temporal resolutions

  • Best practice / standard operating procedures (SOP) for ambient AQ sensors

  • General and public service user needs for AQ information to promote understanding, behaviour change, personal and local government decision making

  • Web based tools to facilitate and educate on choices that are relevant to Oxford’s residents and visitors



  • Better local evidence base on peaks, timing, location and sources of air pollution.

  • Higher spatial and temporal resolutions in the evidence base

  • Improved data to support CBA of major policy interventions

  • Improved information and engagement with the public on sources, effects of air pollution and behaviours and travel choices to limit it.

  • Progress towards improved estimates of personal exposure of air pollution.

  • Simple, replicable standard operating procedures for AQ sensors (SOPs) that scale to other locations

  • An easy access, impartial platform to share information on the performance of sensors


We anticipate that outputs from these exploratory activities will allow Oxford residents, urban planners and decision makers to take more tangibly account for the factors that lead to increased local emissions, concentrations and personal exposures. By facilitating knowledge exchange OxAir will allow residents to envision how they might adapt day-to-day behaviours and reduce both their emissions and exposure, such as changing commuting routes and/or time of travel.


In order to achieve our goals of improved local AQ evidence, public engagement & behavioural change, reliable data is essential. This cannot be achieved with traditional high quality AQ monitoring as it is extremely expensive & generally static. Likewise, modelling studies also have their limitations. OxAir offers a highly cost-effective way of delivering the local air quality evidence & encouraging improvements in air quality.


Benefits arising from the project:

OxAir aims to trial sensor technologies to deliver a new, improved local evidence base and in so doing inform policy, develop policy and engage citizens to make positive changes to improve AQ and personal exposure. The provision of local information is efficiently and cost effectively delivered using OxAir’s networks which brings together a technical and socially inclusive collaboration of the key stakeholders including policy, transportation companies, community groups, universities, researchers and local schools.


OxAir has potential to develop a model & benchmark for other cities to follow.

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