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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.
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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.

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,

Related Websites
General overview article on citizen science:
Article on citizen science groups devoted to birds:
Article on citizen science group that helps detect earthquakes:
NSF video on citizen science:
Article on award-winning volunteer precipitation network:
Slide show on about citizen science:
Article about important milestone reached by citizen science group:
Interview with editor of "Sky & Telescope" about contributions of citizen scientists to astronomy:
Website that provides resources to support citizen science groups:
NSF press release about discovery of pulsar by citizen scientists:
Article about prison inmates who conduct ecological research:
NSF-funded comprehensive website about the development, impacts, and overall field of citizen science:
Portal to Cornell Lab of Ornithology citizen science projects, almost all of which are funded by NSF or were started with NSF funding:
A directory of citizen science programs:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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Image of David Hanych, program director at National Science Foundation.
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Webcast: Two "firsts" give citizen science new prominence in addressing societal problems
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Cover of Aug. 2012 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment devoted to citizen science.
Cover of issue of "Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment" devoted to citizen science.
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Poster: Conference on Public Participation in Scientific Research, Aug. 4-5, 2012, Portland, Oregon.
Scientists, educators, web designers, data managers and people from other disciplines will attend.
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