When non-scientists undertake activities that support scientific research (for example data collection or analysis) we call it ‘citizen science’ – a type of volunteering for science! Studies show that volunteering is good for us – it can improve our overall wellbeing and help us connect with others and build our social network. Moreover, researchers believe that volunteering can help protect us from depression and anxiety, and help create better self-regard. Taking part in citizen science can also improve your scientific literacy and help you learn new skills – research shows that mastering new skills helps us recover from work.
Physical activity and spending (socially distanced!) time outside is an important part of recovery from work. However, if you’re bored with jogging or taking the same walk over and over again – you can combine your time outdoors with helping science, for example by taking photos or writing observations about wildlife. Below, we list several citizen science projects you can take part in while enjoying the outdoors:
- Nature’s Calendar: Help the Woodland Trust track the effects of weather and climate change on wildlife near you. Register for a free account and take a look at a list of species you can record. ‘It’s important to choose locations that you visit regularly (at least once or twice a week) so that you notice when an event happens to the species you are recording for the first time.’
- City Nature Challenge: this project encourages people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe. By taking part you will help document nature in cities – making it easier for scientists to study and protect it. To take part, create an account on the iNaturalist website and download their free app.
- Earth Challenge 2020 Plastic Pollution: Visit the project’s website to download the Plastics Pollution App, which ‘allows anyone to take a picture of plastic pollution, anywhere’. These photos, which the accompanying information about where they were taken, will help scientists track plastic pollution and mitigate the damage caused by it.
- National Plant Monitoring Scheme: this project is suitable for ‘anyone interested in nature who can identify plants, or who is keen to learn’. After registering for a free account and getting a 1km square allocated, you will be asked to visit your ‘square’ and fill a survey.
Citizen science at home
There are many ways to volunteer for science without leaving your home: you can support science by playing computer games, classifying galaxies or taking part in quizzes and tests. Below, we outline a few projects that we think you may enjoy:
- Foldit: an online puzzle video game about protein folding, lets you contribute to different research projects. Citizen scientists’ contributions help researchers target and eradicate diseases.
- Learn to be a better writer: take part in this study to ‘read a news article about a scientific finding, highlight sentences of the news article and answer questions about the article’. Take part to help advance the study of technology use and receive feedback on how you performed.
- London Bird Records: help the London Natural History Society digitise bird-watching record cards. ‘Most of these record cards haven’t been examined since they were first written by the original recorder, so you might discover something surprising!’. Visit the Zooniverse citizen science platform to take part in this project.
- Penguin Watch: Help scientists study penguins by classifying video footage. This will help the Penguin Watch scientists ‘to monitor, understand and protect these species’.
- EWORKLIFE survey: you also participate in our online survey, which aims to understand how people are coping with transitioning to ‘work from home’ during lockdown. Besides receiving personalised advice, you will help us create and refine tools that let people stay focused on work and recover after work.