in Nature, November Writing Challenge, Science

5 Citizen Science Projects You Can Take Part in Right Now

I’ve written about science activism and advocacy before, but what about actually doing science?

Well, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can science right now! One of the big problems modern scientists face is the sheer quantity of data they need to crunch through.

That’s where you come in. By helping to process the data you can not only spot significant results yourself but also help train computer systems to do the same job. Here are some cool ones to get you started.

1. Search for gravitational waves

Alright, so the ship’s sailed on being the first to detect gravitational waves. But the search for more is still ongoing.

One of the problems faced by the team is glitches in the detector data, so the Gravity Spy project will help with identifying and categorising the glitches so they can get to the really interesting data.

2. Fight tuberculosis and antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a big problem, so making sure we use antibiotics effectively is very important. Tuberculosis still kills millions of people every year so finding effective treatments is literally a matter of life and death.

You can help tackle both by taking part in Bash The Bug. You’re shown images of samples and your job is to determine how effective the antibiotic treatment was and what dosage was needed.

This helps the researchers learn more about what traits in the bacterial genome lead to changes in antibiotic resistance. That then helps doctors treat people with TB by being able to use the correct antibiotic at the correct dosage.

Chris Wood / Nicola Fawcett, Modernising Medical Microbiology

3.Track elephants and other rainforest wildlife

Elephant Expedition is kind of like a virtual safari. Hidden cameras in the rainforest of Gabon are collecting images and it’s your job to identify what wildlife they pick up.

The main focus is African forest elephants but you might also see chimps, leopards or gorillas, among others. A lot of of the images don’t have any wildlife, but that only makes it more exciting when you do find something, just like a real safari trip 😉

By helping to track the elephants you’ll be helping researchers know where they are, that their behaviour is like and how they can be protected.

4. Digitise old weather records

Having records is great, but to do the most useful stuff they really need to be digitised.

There is a large collection of old weather records covering Europe, so now help is needed to get them into a workable form. That’s where Weather Rescue comes in.

The data will be really useful for looking at historical climate patterns which gives a baseline against which to compare our current changing climate.

5. Spot exotic particles at CERN

The Higgs boson has already been found, of course, but the search for more weird and wonderful “exotic” particles continues.

By joining the Higgs Hunters project and helping spot anomalies in the data coming out of the LHC, you might even be contributing to the next big discovery in physics!

That’s just a taster, but there are tons of projects available on The Zooniverse with new ones being added all the time.

Even just a few minutes a day, perhaps while you’re having a well-earned tea or coffee break, could be a real help to important projects.

This article was written as part of my November writing challenge, a NaNoWriMo-inspired attempt to write one short, snappy article a day in November. Please excuse brevity, but let me know if I’ve missed anything important!