Takagi Fund for Citizen Science

Takagi Fund for Citizen Science—Providing Training and Encouraging Collaboration among Grassroots Groups Monitoring Radiation to Promote Healthy Communities
Location:Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere
Grant: ¥9,600,000 (approx. US$113,000; 3-year project)

JCIE’s Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund is providing a grant to the Tokyo-based Takagi Fund for Citizen Science to assist its efforts to educate and promote collaboration among grassroots groups in the Fukushima region and elsewhere that have been dealing with radioactive contamination. This grant, which seeks to empower communities to make informed decisions about factors affecting their health, was made possible by several of the donors to the JCIE fund.

When the March 11 tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, it cut electrical lines and disabled the plant’s generators, causing a power outage that led to a full meltdown. This led to radiation leaks into the atmosphere and into nearby ocean waters. Residents within a 12.5-mile radius—approximately 140,000 people—were evacuated, and many others moved away out of concern about the health risks. For those who stayed in the surrounding areas, serious concerns remain about the health impact of the radiation. In response, mothers groups, neighborhood associations, and other grassroots organizations began purchasing their own radiation detectors to test radiation levels in the soil, water, and food rather than relying solely on testing by the government and research institutes.

The Takagi Fund is an organization established in 2001 with the mission of creating and empowering “citizen scientists” who have sufficient scientific knowledge to think critically and debate issues involving science and technology. It acts as an intermediary organization that channels donations from citizens to support grassroot activities. In its 2011 round of grant making, the Takagi Fund received many applications from groups carrying out radiation testing, and it subsequently began funding these activities.

In the course of that process, however, they realized that the next step needed is to strengthen the framework for collaboration between these groups and technical experts and to facilitate more accurate and systematic gathering and sharing of data among the various groups conducting this work. With greater training and technical knowledge, for example, these groups will be able to more accurately measure radiation and interpret the data they are recording. Meanwhile, having larger sample sets will give them a greater basis for drawing conclusions from their data. This will help ensure that isolated readings are put into the proper scientific context, avoiding both unnecessary panic and a false sense of security.

Using this grant, the Takagi Fund will hold a number of research seminars throughout the year that will target these grassroots groups involved in radiation monitoring, offering technical lectures to provide them with information on the fast-changing situation regarding radiation, as well as workshops to discuss the challenges each organization faces in collecting more accurate data and in sharing the results with society. They will also build a website that will let the groups pool their data and experiences from the different collection sites. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide these grassroots groups with a more scientific basis for their work and empower the people in these communities to make informed decisions that will help them lead healthy and secure lives.

Click here to watch a video from the NY Times that offers background on the problem and on citizen responses.