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.


  • iCoast: Did the Coast Change? More Science

    iCoast: Did the Coast Change?

    Help U.S. Geological Survey scientists study storm aftermaths and coastal changes

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  • Zooniverse: Sunspotter Space

    Zooniverse: Sunspotter

    Help organize sunspot images in order of complexity to better understand and predict how the Sun's magnetic activity affects the Earth

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Paul Higgins 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
  • Zooniverse: Cyclone Center Energy & Sustainability

    Zooniverse: Cyclone Center

    Help scientists analyze more than 30 years of tropical cyclone satellite imagery

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  • 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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  • 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
  • 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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  • Weddell Seal Population Count More Science

    Weddell Seal Population Count

    Help scientists in the field monitor the Weddell seal population in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jay Rotella, Robert Garrott and Don Siniff DATES: Ongoing
  • AgeGuess Mind & Brain


    A citizen science project that lets you guess people's ages--without fear of offending them!

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Uli Steiner and Dusan Misevic 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
  • Zooniverse: Plankton Portal More Science

    Zooniverse: Plankton Portal

    No plankton = No life in the ocean

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Robert Cowen DATES: Ongoing
  • The VerbCorner Project Mind & Brain

    The VerbCorner Project

    Help researchers better understand the role of verbs in communication

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Joshua Hartshorne, Post-Doctoral Fellow DATES: Ongoing
  • Space Warps [Zooniverse] Space

    Space Warps [Zooniverse]

    Help spot rare gravitational lenses in the distant universe

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arfon Smith, Director of Citizen Science DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Notes from Nature More Science

    Zooniverse: Notes from Nature

    Help make information about natural history collections available via the Internet

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arfon Smith, Director of Citizen Science DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Snapshot Serengeti More Science

    Zooniverse: Snapshot Serengeti

    Help researchers identify animals photographed in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park—from the safety and comfort of your computer

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Craig Packer, Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • <i>National Geographic</i> Genographic 2.0 More Science

    National Geographic Genographic 2.0

    Citizen scientists can learn more about their genetic makeup and history, helping National Geographic researchers in the process

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Spencer Wells, Explorer-in-Residence DATES: Ongoing
  • uBiome Technology


    Help researchers map the human microbiome, the microorganisms that inhabit every inch of our skin as well as our ears, mouth, sinuses, genitals and gut

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Zach Apte, Will Ludington, Jessica Richman DATES: Ongoing

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