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Basic Information about Citizen Science

Think of what you could achieve if you had a team of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people gathering data to support your work. You could move mountains… or you could help EPA make huge strides in protecting the air, water and land we are obligated to protect.  The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality earned more than 275 percent return on investment of resources spent on volunteer water monitoring. 5.7 million Nature’s Notebook observations related to plants and animals gathered from 1-2 million citizen science volunteers have contributed to 17 peer-reviewed scientific publications.  What could citizen science do for your project?

What is citizen science?

Citizen science uses the collective strength of communities and the public to identify research questions, collect and analyze data, interpret results, make new discoveries, and develop technologies and applications – all to understand and solve environmental problems.

Learn more in the CitizenScience.gov Resource Library.

How does citizen science help EPA?

Citizen science provides EPA with the following benefits:

  • Fills data gaps by gathering crowdsourced data that would be hard to obtain due to time, geographic, or resource constraints.
  • Leverages resources by using the efforts of a large group of people to research environmental problems that EPA may not have the resources to pursue.
  • Builds meaningful relationships with communities to increase environmental engagement and problem solving and with states and tribes to promote open government.

How is EPA supporting citizen science?

EPA supports citizen science by conducting citizen science projects; supporting external work through grants and in-kind support; and developing resources for community work. For example, EPA provides technical support, such as equipment training, for citizen scientists, as well as assistance to EPA employees in completing Information Collection Requests to collect citizen science data.

Learn more about EPA-supported citizen science projects.

How can I learn more about citizen science in the federal government?

Visit CitizenScience.gov to explore citizen science projects supported at federal agencies, join the federal community of practice, and view a toolkit that can be used to plan crowdsourcing or citizen science projects.

Has Congress authorized EPA and other federal agencies to use citizen science?

You can read the citizen science statutory authority in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act that grants federal agencies direct and explicit authority to use citizen science and crowdsourcing approaches to advance agency missions and facilitate broader participation in the innovation process.

How are states and tribes using citizen science?

States and tribes are increasingly using citizen science to achieve environmental results. For example, EPA provides funding to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to run the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program that trains volunteers across the state to monitor and sample local waterways. Additionally, tribes in the Great Lakes region are interested in how citizen science can be used for issues such as water quality and invasive species. EPA will continue to partner with states and tribes to build on our relationships and to promote citizen science at the local level.

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