What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.


  • Play to Cure: Genes in Space Health

    Play to Cure: Genes in Space

    Free mobile game that uses the collective force of players to analyze real genetic data

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Hannah Keartland DATES: Ongoing
  • Fatty Acids: The 6th Taste? (Denver, Colo.) More Science

    Fatty Acids: The 6th Taste? (Denver, Colo.)

    Help Denver’s community-based Genetics of Taste Lab explore the possibility that there are more than just the five known tastes of sweet, sour, salty, umami (savory) and bitter

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Nicole Garneau/Richard Mattes DATES: Ongoing
  • The Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET) More Science

    The Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET)

    Conduct year-round beached bird surveys in order to identify and record information about bird mortality along the eastern coast of the United States

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Julie Ellis, Research Assistant Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health (BEACH) Program Health

    Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health (BEACH) Program

    Help monitor the health of Washington State beaches

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Debby Sargeant, BEACH Program Manager DATES: Ongoing
  • Clock Your Sleep Everyday Science

    Clock Your Sleep

    Track your slumber in the city that never sleeps, and elsewhere

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  • EteRNA Biology


    Game lets citizen scientists participate in creating large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Rhiju Das, Assistant Professor/Adrien Treuille, Assistant Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • The Smell Experience Project Health

    The Smell Experience Project

    Help researchers understand how and why a person’s sense of smell might change over time

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Dolores Malaspina, MD, MSPH, Director of InSPIRES DATES: Ongoing
  • How Radioactive Is Our Ocean? Health

    How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?

    Help U.S. marine scientists monitor the spread of radiation across the Pacific Ocean from Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Ken Buesseler, Senior Scientist DATES: Ongoing
  • Flusurvey Health


    Feeling sick in the U.K. or Europe? At least it won’t interfere with your citizen science work

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Alma Adler & John Edmunds (UK) DATES: Ongoing
  • NanoDoc Health


    An online game that allows bioengineers and the general public to design new nanoparticle strategies towards the treatment of cancer

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sangeeta Bhatia, Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) Health

    Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB)

    Form a citizen-science bucket brigade to study the environmental health of your community

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  • American Gut Health

    American Gut

    An open-source, community-driven effort to characterize the microbial diversity of the American public

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  • Eyewire Health


    Help scientists help make discoveries about the neural structure of the retina

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sebastian Seung DATES: Ongoing
  • World Water Monitoring Day Health

    World Water Monitoring Day

    Test your local water and share the results globally

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: various regional scientists DATES: Thursday, March 22, 2012 - Monday, December 31, 2012
  • Phylo Health


    Help researchers use bioinformatics to better study the origins of certain genetic diseases

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jerome Waldispuhl and Mathieu Blanchette DATES: Ongoing
  • Health Tracking Network [Project Closed to New Participants] Health

    Health Tracking Network [Project Closed to New Participants]

    Help researchers better understand influenza, the common cold and stomach flu. Note: This project is now closed to new participants

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Devon Brewer DATES: Ongoing
  • PiggyDemic Health


    Become part of a social-networking effort to understand and fight viral threats

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gal Almogy and Nir Ben-Tal, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department DATES: Ongoing
  • SoundCitizen Health


    A community-based water sampling network based in Washington's Puget Sound region

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Rick Keil, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
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