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Media Advisory 12-020

Webcast Briefing: Two "Firsts" Give Citizen Science New Prominence in Addressing Societal Problems

NSF invites reporters to participate in a live webcast on citizen science on Tuesday, July 31, at 3:00 p.m. EDT

Photo showing two students taking notes on seasonal changes in plants for Project Budburst.

Students collect data on the timing of seasonal changes in plants for Project BudBurst.

July 26, 2012

View a webcast with David Hanych of the National Science Foundation, Sandra Henderson of NEON, and Henry Reges of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network.

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Hundreds of thousands of volunteers--so called "citizen scientists"--annually make major contributions to studies of ecology, climate change, biodiversity, weather, astronomy, seismology, cell biology, and other disciplines. Additionally, the number of citizen science groups is rapidly increasing, in part because the Internet and new applications afford quick and effective communication between citizen scientists and scientists.

The increasing prominence of citizen science is being marked by two important "firsts":

The first journal issue exclusively devoted to citizen science: The August 2012 Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, which is published by the Ecological Society of America (ESA), is titled Citizen Science-New Pathways to Public Involvement in Research and is available for free download starting at 12:01 a.m. on August 1 on the Frontiers website. This issue is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The first cross-disciplinary conference on citizen science: "A Conference on Public Participation in Scientific Research" will be held on August 4 and 5 in Portland, Ore., in conjunction with ESA's annual meeting. Members of the media interested in attending the conference should contact ESA's press office in advance. Conference co-organizers include NSF's National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).

What:This webcast will cover how citizen scientists are helping to advance science, the rapid growth and future of citizen science, and the Frontiers issue and conference on citizen science.

Why:Citizen science is a timely topic because:
  • Many citizen science projects are ideal for parents, camps, scouting clubs, and other organizations that lead outdoor educational activities during the summer.
  • Citizen scientists include people of varied demographics and backgrounds, including families, retirees, concerned individuals, K-12 and college classes, organizations, and even prison inmates.
  • The diversity of citizen science groups enable volunteers to contribute in varied ways--including conducting fieldwork, transforming their backyards into bird-friendly habitats, and devoting their home computers' idle time to the search for pulsars or to earthquake detection.
  • As research budgets are strained, citizen scientists provide boots on the ground that produce large volumes of data that are otherwise unobtainable despite the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated scientific monitoring and observing instruments.
When:The live webcast will be held on July 31, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. EDT, and will be archived on NSF's website.

Who:Questions from the media will be answered during the webcast by:

Sandra Henderson, guest editor of Special Issue: Citizen Science. Henderson is also a senior education specialist at NEON and director of NEON's Project BudBurst, an NSF-funded citizen science group that monitors plants as seasons change.

David Hanych, an NSF program director who manages many NSF-funded citizen science projects.

How:Reporters may participate via teleconference or Internet. Contact Lily Whiteman at for instructions and required passcodes.

FOR HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTOS: Contact Lily Whiteman at


Media Contacts
Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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