The SciStarter team is hitting the road.

By lshell | March 11, 2019 11:15 am
feaa13de-09fc-424c-a412-835f6aae94a5The best part of our work is meeting the people who power citizen science either by visiting and joining SciStarter, engaging in projects, or sharing, saving, or facilitating projects and events.
If you’re receiving this message, that includes YOU! We’d love to meet you in person at any of the following events. Fingers crossed that one of them takes place near you. If so, please come say “hi!”
The SciStarter Team

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Citizen Science and March Mammal Madness

By Guest | March 8, 2019 2:19 pm

The 7th annual March Mammal Madness Tournament (MMM) is upon us! What is MMM, you ask? Only the most engaging, riveting, and scientifically accurate bracket-based tournament around! Eighty-two contenders enter, but only one (or this year, perhaps two) will be the Champion!

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Review of Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy

By Guest | February 28, 2019 4:33 pm

book coverSusanne Hecker, Muki Haklay, Anne Bowser, Zen Makuch, Johannes Vogel & Aletta Bonn. (2018). Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. University College London Press.

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SciStarter, researchers, regulators, and community residents collaborate to test air quality sensors

By Guest | February 26, 2019 3:11 pm

In early 2018, Scistarter and Arizona State University began the process of collaborating with a local community, Boulder Ridge, to measure the quality of its air. Boulder Ridge is a 55 and older retirement community in Phoenix. Over the past three years, Boulder Ridge residents began to notice increased blasting, crushing, and trucking out of rock and dirt from an open stone mine next door operated by Southwest Rock Products, LLC. On days when there were no blasts or trucks, the residents noted significantly less dust in the air and on their cars and houses. However, they felt they had no way to scientifically test and validate whether the air quality changed as a result of the mine’s activities.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, tools

Take Pictures of Your (Six-Legged) Roommates for Science

By Guest | February 22, 2019 12:40 pm

Modern Americans spend nearly 90% of their lives indoors. Yet despite all that time inside, we know remarkably little about the life that shares our indoor spaces. This spring, a team at North Carolina State University hopes to change that by asking students to document the creatures they find in their dorms, homes, and apartments for a citizen science project called “Never Home Alone @ NCSU.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment, Insects
MORE ABOUT: NCSU, Never Home Alone

Citizen Science Day 2019: Add Real Scientific Research to Your Library Programming!

By cnickerson | February 14, 2019 2:18 pm

From the NIH/ National Network of Libraries of Medicine


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CATEGORIZED UNDER: citizen science day, Event

New citizen science tools database to discover and access the right instruments

By Julia Travers | February 14, 2019 12:55 pm

Citizen science (public participation in scientific research) often calls for tools you won’t find lying around the house, such as a rain gauge to record precipitation or an air quality sensor.

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Learning Through Citizen Science: Enhancing Opportunities By Design

By cnickerson | February 13, 2019 12:03 am

report cover

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine,  “Learning Through Citizen Science: Enhancing Opportunities by Design” in now available in print.

“In the last twenty years, citizen science has blossomed as a way to engage a broad range of individuals in doing science. Citizen science projects focus on, but are not limited to, nonscientists participating in the processes of scientific research, with the intended goal of advancing and using scientific knowledge. A rich range of projects extend this focus in myriad directions, and the boundaries of citizen science as a field are not clearly delineated. Citizen science involves a growing community of professional practitioners, participants, and stakeholders, and a thriving collection of projects. While citizen science is often recognized for its potential to engage the public in science, it is also uniquely positioned to support and extend participants’ learning in science.

Contemporary understandings of science learning continue to advance. Indeed, modern theories of learning recognize that science learning is complex and multifaceted. Learning is affected by factors that are individual, social, cultural, and institutional, and learning occurs in virtually any context and at every age. Current understandings of science learning also suggest that science learning extends well beyond content knowledge in a domain to include understanding of the nature and methods of science.

Learning Through Citizen Science: Enhancing Opportunities by Design discusses the potential of citizen science to support science learning and identifies promising practices and programs that exemplify the promising practices. This report also lays out a research agenda that can fill gaps in the current understanding of how citizen science can support science learning and enhance science education.”

Find highlights from the report here.

Among the authors is Darlene Cavalier, Founder of SciStarter, and Professor of Practice at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, In the News, Research

About SciStarter’s “Participant API,” used by 50+ citizen science projects (and counting)

By Darlene Cavalier | February 12, 2019 3:45 pm

I thought it would be helpful to provide a description of what SciStarter’s Participant API is and why a growing number of projects and platforms are implementing it and becoming SciStarter Affiliates in the process.

A little background. SciStarter had been “merely” a database where project scientists would add their projects and citizen scientists would find projects. As PBS, Discover, NSTA and others started embedding our Project Finder, more and more people were able to discover and engage in citizen science. As a research platform, one that imports and exports records with the GAO’s Federal Inventory of Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing database ( and others, SciStarter is a useful tool to understand the landscape of projects and have a basic understanding of what projects people are viewing, saving, and clicking to join. But once someone clicked on a project and left our site, we had no idea of whether or not they actually engaged in the project.

Through National Science Foundation-funded research, we spent a lot of time interviewing citizen scientists and project leaders and we learned that people engage in multiple projects at any given time. We also discovered growing interest among: 1) citizen scientists who wanted to track their contributions across all their projects; 2) higher ed institutions (including Arizona State University, where I work) who wanted to translate that collective evidence into some form of accreditation; 3) classrooms and organizations (including the Girl Scouts of USA) who wanted to provide curated projects to their students/members *and* have evidence of engagement across those projects; and 4) researchers and practitioners who wanted to study the movement, barriers, and outcomes of citizen science across the landscape (this is typically analyzed in silos within a single project or platform).

All of these would depend on our ability to know whether someone participated in a project, which project, and how frequently.


To this end, the National Science Foundation provided support for SciStarter, in collaboration with ASU and NC State University, to create digital tools (we call them ” SciStarter Affiliate Tools”) that center around a “Participant API”. More than 60+ projects and platforms now use the affiliate tools to record and share “events” from their website and app and transmit the reports to SciStarter.

The “event” is a contribution. This might be an observation shared through the app or website, or it might be an online classification, depending on the project. For apps that have multiple projects or protocols, each event report includes the project or protocol ID. This does not interrupt the user’s experience. This information only takes into account SciStarter users.  The API uses safe, encrypted methods so the project can easily check to see if a citizen scientist who is contributing to their project is a SciStarter user. We don’t see or save emails, nor do the projects using the API.  We adhere to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws. We are transparent on our end and we ask projects to include a visible confirmation message for anyone coming from SciStarter. We clarify this process on a stand-alone cookies page, and, if someone requests that we remove their SciStarter profile, we delete all historic data as well.

This enables projects that use the API to understand what other projects their anonymized participants (from SciStarter) view, save, join and contribute to, in addition to their project. This enables citizen scientists to have evidence of their contributions across projects and platforms. This enables teachers, scout leaders, and other facilitators to support their members’ progress and have evidence of participation (including the frequency of participation).

By way of a few examples:Girl Scouts USA customized a portal on SciStarter and selected a handful of projects that fit their criteria for their Outdoor STEM badge: Think Like a Citizen Scientist. Troop leaders are directed to the portal on SciStarter where they view information on the curated projects. They select and assign projects to their troops. As the troops contribute to the projects–even if they contribute through apps or other websites–their contributions are credited in their dashboard and shared with their troop leader who can then award badges once the girls completed the assignment. Girl Scouts USA has an administrative level analytics dashboard on SciStarter so they can gain a better understanding of engagement, retention, attrition, and interest levels at the troop and council levels. They use this information to improve their Outdoor STEM badge programs.

Broward County School District in FL, NC State University, and a host of corporate volunteer programs customized similar portals on SciStarter and their communities reap the same benefits of easily discovering curated, vetted projects aligned with their interests and locations (including those that use the Participant API), and producing evidence of engagement across projects. This data is so valuable to project owners and organizational partners because it provides quantifiable analytics to help them understand the effectiveness of their program and to help them better understand and respond to the needs of their communities.

We are building something similar for the NOAA-funded project led by the Museum of Science ( )  to engage diverse groups of participants at 28 science centers around the United States in active learning and resilience planning around heat waves, sea level rise, extreme precipitation, and drought.  This project also hinges on the use of the affiliate tools so we can report out information on engagement levels and whether or not this approach leads to ongoing engagement in citizen science (and, if so, in what types of projects).

SciStarter and ASU (with support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services) recently launched similar programs and portals with public libraries through the development of Citizen Science Kits for loan through libraries. We provide tools for projects that require or can be enhanced through the use of sensors or tools/instruments. The projects currently featured in the kits, use the Affiliate Tools.  The research centers around our ability to support libraries as community hubs for citizen science and the Participant API enables us to learn whether or not participants 1) engage in projects, 2) sustain engagement and, if so, in what types of projects.

NSF recently provided SciStarter additional support to host a SciStarter Affiliate Tools workshop at the Citizen Science Association conference on 3/12 in North Carolina. At the workshop, we will onboard dozens of additional projects to support their integration of the Participant API. (NSF Abstract #1845241 “Practitioner Workshop for Deploying SciStarter Affiliate Tools to Support Strategic STEM Learning”). 

Taken together, these efforts help scale participation, measure outcomes, and lay the groundwork for accreditation.

Are you a project leader or platform developer interested in becoming a SciStarter Affiliate? Are you an organization interested in customizing a portal on SciStarter to engage your community in curated projects and access critical analytics to understand engagement levels? Contact to let us know.


Darlene Cavalier


What’s not to LOVE about Citizen Science?

By lshell | February 10, 2019 3:57 pm

ScienceConversationHeartAdvance research about heart health, early childhood development, animal lifespans, and more.

Then, mark your calendars! Citizen Science Day is April 13. Sign up to join the global Megathon and help us accelerate research on Alzheimer’s! Participate from home or join a team at a local library.

Librarians: Check out the free Citizen Science Day webinars featured below. Then register your library if you’d like to get involved in Citizen Science Day 2019.

The SciStarter Team

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Citizen Science Salon

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Citizen Science Salon, brought to you by SciStarter, is where science enthusiasts can join forces with top researchers. We'll feature weekly collaborative, crowdsourced, and DIY research projects that relate to what you're reading about in Discover, so you can take science into your own hands. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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