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Citizen science and crowdsourcing

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. 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.

Students working on sea urchin studies with University of Hawaii Sea Grant.
Students working on sea urchin studies with University of Hawaii Sea Grant. (Pelika Andrade/University of Hawaii Sea Grant)

NOAA's Office of Education supports citizen science by helping to manage a community of practice, coordinating a catalog of 60 projects in the CitizenScience.gov catalog, and representing the agency in broader efforts.

NOAA citizen science project attracted over 550,000 participants, who contributed 16 million observations and 1.2 million volunteer hours in 2019 alone. Citizen science was named one of six NOAA Science and Technology Focus Areas that help out agency achieve transformational advances in mission performance and efficiency. NOAA released its Citizen Science Strategy in January of 2021 to provide a path to better observe, predict, and understand the environment, and manage and conserve natural resources by harnessing the power of the crowd.

NOAA Community of Practice

NOAA launched a NOAA Citizen Science Community of Practice in 2013. The community is facilitated by and relies on grassroots participation from community members throughout the agency. It primarily works to:

  • compile best practices,
  • share resources, and
  • maintain a searchable database of NOAA's citizen science projects.

This community has grown steadily to include over 220 members. It is estimated that the projects represented by this community result in more than half a million volunteer hours per year (equal to more than 239 person-years of effort).

If you would like more information on the Community of Practice, please email John McLaughlin and Laura Oremland.

Project catalog

NOAA's Office of Education supports a catalog of citizen science projects. This catalog is searchable to help you find information about local and national projects you may be interested in. It is part of the CitizenScience.gov catalog of projects (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 pitch, develop, implement, and improve citizen science and crowdsourcing projects. Additionally, NOAA is active within the Citizen Science Associationoffsite link which provides a coordination mechanism for the field.