Why take part in citizen science?
From astronomy to zoology, wildlife surveys to exploring diaries from the First World War – if you have a passion or a curious mind there should be a project to suit you.
The principal behind citizen science is to use the power of collaborative volunteer research to explore or collect huge data sets. These are ones that researchers simply couldn’t manage by themselves, and that computers aren’t up to the task of analysing.
Take part and you could contribute to a genuine scientific breakthrough that changes our understanding of the world.
Who’s it good for?
If you love the great outdoors there are lots of wildlife surveys to get involved with. Family friendly opportunities are available too, like worm and bug counts.
If you want to microvolunteer then there’s a huge range projects you can dip into online as and when you want, for as little or as long as you fancy. So it’s great if you are looking for something low-commitment, or maybe you have mobility issues. For housebound parents it’s a quick something to try once the kids are in bed.
Where you can you do it?
Wildlife surveys tend to be done outdoors, or at least looking out of your kitchen window. Many of the projects are online though and you can do them at home, in the office, on holiday… anywhere you have an internet connection.
What does it involve?
It depends on the project, but there are two main sorts. Either observing the world, recording what you see and submitting the data. Or going through pre-existing data – such as star photos – and logging what you find.
Many projects require no specialist knowledge or skills – anything you need to know is explained when you take part. Others draw on the knowledge of amateur gardeners, bird spotters, naturalists, star gazers…
Who does it help?
There are a huge range of subjects for citizen science projects including astronomy, photo-tagging, wildlife surveys, public health, air pollution, weather… What they all do is use data sets to help understand the world around us.
Many of the online actions are one off – so you can dip into citizen science as and when you have a moment. Some surveys focus on the natural world in a brief burst – called a bioblitz – and others track it for longer periods. It’s possible to choose a project that suits the level of commitment you are looking for.
Zooniverse has a wide range of online citizen science projects – from hunting for comets, to tagging penguins, to exploring the secret lives of artists through their notebooks. And microvolunteering site Help from Home has a section specifically devoted to citizen science opportunities
There are a huge number of nature related surveys to get involved with. Some are ongoing, such as the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden BirdWatch and The Woodland Trusts’ Nature’s Calendar, which tracks the seasons. Others cover a specific time period – like the Big Butterfly Count in July and August or the Garden BioBlitz which is for 24 hours in June.
If you are really smitten the Natural History Museum, apart from having their own projects for you to take part in, even has downloadable resources to enable you to set up your very own citizen science project.