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There are numerous colonial archaeological sites on the campus of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland. Citizen scientists sift through soil to uncover artifacts that will give insight how the land was used by the previous owner. (credit: Copyright 2017 Smithsonian Environmental Research Center)

Thanks to You this Citizen Science Day

By: John McLaughlin, Program Manager
12 April 2018

This Saturday is the third annual Citizen Science Day. The day “celebrates the work of citizen scientists and the diversity of citizen science projects across the world, encourages the public to get involved, and connects people to the power of citizen science.” These are worthy goals. However, I would like to reflect now on how we connect people through citizen science, not just to citizen science. The willingness of participants and practitioners to join together and work collaboratively is a hallmark of our projects that allows them to be successful.

The Build a Community section of our Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit begins with this advice to project managers: “Citizen science and crowdsourcing projects rely on a community of participants and professionals. You will need to address the challenge of building and sustaining a trusting relationship with your community, which will include people with many different things to contribute and reasons for participating.” It is the volunteer participants that power these communities. Even the most thoughtfully designed project involving highly capable professionals would be merely an empty vessel without participants. On behalf of the projects our site supports, I want to express heartfelt gratitude to you amazing volunteers who share your time and diverse expertise to help improve our understanding of the world around us. Thank you!

If you explore the over four-hundred projects in the Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Catalog you will notice the overwhelming majority are run through partnerships. Federal government agencies work with a wide range of organizations to sponsor and support these efforts. We are thankful for our partners who bring unique capabilities and ideas that result in a richer set of opportunities. The Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act (a section of Public Law 114–329), signed in 2017, supports such partnerships. It states: “The head of each Federal science agency engaged in crowdsourcing or citizen science under this section, or the heads of multiple Federal science agencies working cooperatively, may enter into a contract or other agreement to share administrative duties for such projects with (A) a for profit or nonprofit private sector entity, including a private institution of higher education; (B) a State, tribal, local, or foreign government agency, including a public institution of higher education; or (C) a public-private partnership”.

This site,, supports the efforts of two groups that work collaboratively across multiple agencies in the federal government to advance crowdsourcing and citizen science use and practice. The larger and older of the two is the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, a grassroots community open to all federal practitioners working on, funding, or just interested in learning more about crowdsourcing and citizen science. If you are a federal practitioner, please join us.

Connecting people is a critical part of what we do. Let’s celebrate the value of these collaborations. Wishing you a happy Citizen Science Day 2018!