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.


  • NOVA RNA VirtuaLab Technology

    NOVA RNA VirtuaLab

    Find the patterns that dictate RNA design

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Adrien Treuille, Computer Scientist DATES: Ongoing
  • Wildlife Tracker Technology

    Wildlife Tracker

    Help scientists study the impacts of habitat fragmentation on wild animals by tagging photos taken by motion-detecting cameras

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Yiwei Wang, PhD candidate DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Operation War Diary Technology

    Zooniverse: Operation War Diary

    Researchers need help transcribing regimental diaries describing events in the lives of British soldiers during the First World War

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Luke Smith, Digital Lead, First World War Centenary Program DATES: Ongoing
  • Update: EyeWire Technology

    Update: EyeWire

    Help researchers make the scientific leaps necessary to understand the brain’s higher functions

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Sebastian Seung, professor of computer science DATES: Ongoing
  • Ocean Sampling Day (OSD) More Science

    Ocean Sampling Day (OSD)

    Help marine scientists worldwide study ocean samples taken during the 2014 summer solstice

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Julia Schnetzer, Ph.D. student DATES: Saturday, June 21, 2014 - Saturday, June 21, 2014
  • Mountain Watch More Science

    Mountain Watch

    Hikers, families, school groups and conservationists can help scientists make observations along the U.S.’s Eastern Appalachian mountains and other northeast areas

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Georgia Murray, Staff Scientist DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse Condor Watch Technology

    Zooniverse Condor Watch

    Help researchers better understand the social dynamic of condors by identifying them in photos taken all across California

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  • iSeeChange More Science


    Contribute to a socially networked weather Almanac for communities to collectively journal climate observations, questions and decisions against near-real time climate information

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Julia Kumari Drapkin DATES: Ongoing
  • SatCam Technology


    Capture observations of sky and ground conditions at the same time that an Earth observation satellite is overhead

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  • Clock Your Sleep More Science

    Clock Your Sleep

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

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  • Air Visibility Monitoring More Science

    Air Visibility Monitoring

    Help USC researchers study air visibility using an Android smartphone and app

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gaurav Sukhatme, Professor and Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Happy Match More Science

    Happy Match

    In this twist on the on the classic quiz game, players participate in scientific research by classifying photos of animal, plant and insect species

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Kevin Crowston and Jun Wang DATES: Ongoing
  • EteRNA Health


    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
  • Forgotten Island More Science

    Forgotten Island

    Contribute to scientific knowledge while playing this adventure game

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Kevin Crowston and Jun Wang DATES: Ongoing
  • Marine Animal Identification Network (MAIN) More Science

    Marine Animal Identification Network (MAIN)

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  • 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
  • Zooniverse: Project Star Date M83 More Science

    Zooniverse: Project Star Date M83

    Study Hubble telescope images to help identify the ages of the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy’s (M83) many star clusters.

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  • Astro Drone Crowdsourcing Game Technology

    Astro Drone Crowdsourcing Game

    If you own a Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter, you can participate in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Astro Drone crowdsourcing game to help improve robot vision

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Paul K. Gerke, I.G. Sprinkhuizen-Kuyper, Guido C.H.E. de Croon DATES: Ongoing

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