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.


  • Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) More Science

    Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)

    Citizen scientists join a community of observers to measure and map precipitation

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Nolan Doesken, Climatologist and Senior Research Associate DATES: Ongoing
  • Project <i>MonarchHealth</i> More Science

    Project MonarchHealth

    Help scientists better understand host-parasite interactions in monarch butterflies

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sonia Altizer, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • The Valley of the Khans More Science

    The Valley of the Khans

    For more than 100 years, National Geographic explorers have unraveled the mysteries of the past. Now it's your turn

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Albert Yu-Min Lin, Research Scientist DATES: Ongoing
  • The WildLab More Science

    The WildLab

    Play an important role in gathering data about birds and their habitat, using mobile technology as a scientific tool

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jared Lamenzo, Director, The WildLab DATES: Ongoing
  • SoundCitizen Health


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

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Rick Keil, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Lost Ladybug Project More Science

    Lost Ladybug Project

    Help entomologists better understand ladybug species distribution across North America

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: John Losey, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Citizen Sky Space

    Citizen Sky

    Help scientists solve the mystery of epsilon Aurigae, a mysterious, bright, eclipsing binary variable star that has baffled scientists since 1821

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arne Henden, Project Principal Investigator DATES: Ongoing
  • The Great Sunflower Project More Science

    The Great Sunflower Project

    Help scientists study pollination by planting flowers and tracking bee traffic

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gretchen LeBuhn, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Stardust@Home Space


    Help find the first pristine interstellar dust particles ever brought to Earth

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Bryan Mendez, Space Science Education and Public Outreach Specialist DATES: Ongoing
  • <i></i> Global Amphibian Blitz More Science Global Amphibian Blitz

    Citizen scientists observe and record data to census the world's shrinking amphibian population in the name of science and conservation

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Scott Loarie DATES: Ongoing
  • BeeSpotter More Science


    More than 75 percent of the planet's flowering plants depend on pollinators (mostly insects) in order to reproduce. Among the most important pollinators are the 5,000+ species of bees in the family Apidae, a group that includes honey bees and bumble bees

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: May Berenbaum, Professor and Department Head DATES: Ongoing
  • Old Weather More Science

    Old Weather

    To better understand how weather will behave in the future, researchers need to understand how weather has behaved in the past

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Philip Brohan, Climate Scientist DATES: Ongoing
  • Project BudBurst More Science

    Project BudBurst

    A network of citizen scientists across the U.S. who monitor plants as the seasons change

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sandra Henderson, Co-Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Wisconsin Bat Monitoring Program More Science

    Wisconsin Bat Monitoring Program

    As deadly white-nose syndrome moves toward Wisconsin's borders, citizens are called upon to help investigate the threat through the collection of data about these nocturnal insectivores

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jeanette Kelly, Citizen Science Center Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology: eBird More Science

    Cornell Lab of Ornithology: eBird

    Calling all birders! eBird is one of several Cornell Lab citizen-science projects aimed at better understanding our feathered friends as well as other wildlife

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Janis Dickinson DATES: Ongoing
  • Participatory Urban Sensing Technology

    Participatory Urban Sensing

    Through the use of sensors built into your mobile phone (cameras, motion sensors and GPS) and Web services that can aggregate and interpret the assembled information, a new collective capacity is emerging: one in which people like you participate in sensing and analyzing aspects of life that were previously invisible

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Deborah Estrin DATES: Ongoing
  • Scuttle Fly Study Evolution

    Scuttle Fly Study

    Researchers want your help collecting scuttle flies (Megaselia scalaris) from as many localities as possible across the U.S. in order to study the genetic factors that determine the sex of these insects

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Suzanne McGaugh DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Planet Hunters Space

    Zooniverse: Planet Hunters

    Use data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft to find undiscovered planets outside our solar system

    More »
    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Debra Fischer DATES: Ongoing
  • Foldit Online Protein Puzzle More Science

    Foldit Online Protein Puzzle

    An online game that has players solve 3-D puzzles to help scientists understand protein folding

    More »

Email this Article