In citizen science, the public participates voluntarily in the scientific process to address real-world problems. This may include forming research questions, conducting scientific experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, making new discoveries, developing technologies and applications, and solving complex problems. This work can also go by other names such as “community science” or “participatory science.”

A grid of six photos. Top row, left to right: Two people stand on a beach holding measuring sticks, a shark swimming through the water, and two people sitting in front of a microscope. Bottom row, left to right: Whales surface to feed, a person smiling at the camera, and a sea bird starting its flight from the water.
Citizen scientists can contribute to a variety of projects across NOAA.  (Image credit: NOAA Office of Education)

NOAA has a rich tradition of supporting such collaborative work, which continues to this day. Volunteers support a range of projects that do everything from improving our country's weather forecasts to protecting and managing marine species to charting the seafloor.

NOAA's Office of Education supports citizen science by helping to manage a Citizen Science Community of Practice, coordinating a catalog of projects, and representing the agency in broader efforts.

NOAA citizen science projects attracted more than 564,000 participants who contributed 1.3 million volunteer hours in fiscal year 2022 alone. Citizen science was named one of six NOAA Science and Technology Focus Areas that help our agency achieve transformational advances in mission performance and efficiency. NOAA released its Citizen Science Strategy in 2021 to provide a path to engage the public in support of key mission areas.. In 2023, NOAA released its Citizen Science Action Plan, which details how NOAA will advance public participation in the work that we do.

1.3 million
volunteer hours
in fiscal year 2022.
participated in NOAA citizen science efforts in fiscal year 2022.
1 of 6
science and technology focus areas
guide transformative advancements in the quality and timeliness of NOAA’s products and services.

Project catalog

NOAA supports more than 60 citizen science projects. You can search through these projects to find information about local and national projects you may be interested in. Please go to catalog of projects and select NOAA in the "View by Agency" field.

Broader efforts

NOAA is an active member of the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science. This community helped create a Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit. This toolkit helps federal practitioners find resources to develop, implement, and improve citizen science projects. Additionally, NOAA is active within the Association for Advancing Participatory Sciences offsite link, formally known as the Citizen Science Association, which provides a coordination mechanism for the field.

Citizen science in action