About the Toolkit
The Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit helps federal employees use crowdsourcing and citizen science in their work. It provides five basic process steps for planning, designing and carrying out a crowdsourcing or citizen science project. At each step, you’ll find a list of tips you can use to keep your project on track. In addition to the tips, you’ll find case studies with success stories and some of the challenges that project developers faced. The case studies can serve as models, inspiring you to plan your own project.
You will also find gateways to a range of other resources related to open innovation, challenges and prizes, and open government.
Citizen science and crowdsourcing can help you engage the public in your work and collect data that might otherwise be beyond your reach. You can use these approaches to:
- Enhance Scientific Research – Citizen science and crowdsourcing help enhance and accelerate scientific research through group discovery and co-creation of knowledge. For instance, volunteers can collect data over large areas and long periods of time – and sometimes increase the frequency of observations – in ways that Federal agencies may not be able to do, given geographic and resource constraints. Volunteers also can provide unique perspectives and local expertise for interpreting data. In addition, the human eye and brain allow volunteers to categorize millions of objects (like galaxies) or find solutions to complex problems that computer algorithms may not be able to solve.
- Address Societal Needs – Citizen science and crowdsourcing projects not only augment and enhance the scientific process but also address other societal needs while drawing on a vast reservoir of untapped resources – the skills, dedication, and ingenuity of the American people. Diverse participation by all parts of society helps bring in new ideas and insights and contributes to solutions. Citizen science and crowdsourcing can be applied to address a range of societal needs that Federal agencies address in executing their missions, ranging from enhancing the accuracy of prediction markets to tagging and transcribing national archive records.
- Provide Hands-on STEM Learning and Increase STEM Literacy – Whether as youth or as adults, participants in crowdsourcing and citizen science projects have the opportunity to acquire a life-long enthusiasm for science, along with valuable skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). For students, working on “real-world” problems can make classroom learning experiences more exciting. For adults, working on crowdsourcing or citizen science projects can help them advance their knowledge and skills while contributing to the larger scientific enterprise. Volunteers gain hands-on experience with the scientific process, and they can apply what they learn in everyday life. Their experiences may also lead them to get involved in community decisionmaking, because active participation in citizen science and crowdsourcing projects helps members of the public and communities gain STEM literacy and learn about issues important to them.
You can get additional information and support from the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science. This group of more than 35 agencies meets regularly to share lessons learned and develop best practices for crowdsourcing and citizen science.
The additional resources below can help you find and join a project, conduct research and review best practices:
- The Wilson Center and SciStarter offer extensive project databases so you can find, join and contribute to science through recreational activities and citizen science research. If you represent a citizen science organization, these databases can help you find eager participants.
- CitSci.org provides tools for the entire research process, including creating new projects, managing project members, building custom data sheets, analyzing collected data and gathering participant feedback. As a member of CitSci.org, you can investigate your own scientific questions or jump on board as a volunteer for an existing project.
- CitizenScience.org supports organizers of all initiatives that involve public participants in scientific research. The site hosts a project inventory, a toolkit for best practices, a reference database, a discussion forum and contexts for citizen science inspiration.