Environmental health issues are becoming more challenging, and addressing them requires new approaches to research design and decision-making processes. Participatory research approaches, in which researchers and communities are involved in all aspects of a research study, can improve study outcomes and foster greater data accessibility and utility as well as increase public transparency. Here we review varied concepts of participatory research, describe how it complements and overlaps with community engagement and environmental justice, examine its intersection with emerging environmental sensor technologies, and discuss the strengths and limitations of participatory research. Although participatory research includes methodological challenges, such as biases in data collection and data quality, it has been found to increase the relevance of research questions, result in better knowledge production, and impact health policies. Improved research partnerships among government agencies, academia, and communities can increase scientific rigor, build community capacity, and produce sustainable outcomes.


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