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"Citizen science" is a term often used to describe research conducted by members of the general public, usually as part of a collaborative project with scientists or professionals in a field of study. These projects give volunteers the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the scientific process, engage with others interested in the work, and make research more widely available to the public.
The project sites below are just a few of the many available; a general internet search for "citizen science" will find many more results. Those below were selected primarily because of their relevance to federal government information, but also because they offer opportunities that you can do online.
By the People
This Library of Congress initiative invites you to transcribe, review, and tag digitized images of manuscripts and typed materials from the Library’s collections. Current "campaigns" include Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote; Letters to Lincoln; Civil War; Walt Whitman at 200; Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words; and a few more.
Cities at Night
This project aims to create a map, similar to Google maps, of the earth at night using night time color photographs taken by astronauts onboard the ISS. This is a European project, with NASA as one of several partners.
This National Archives initiative lets you tag, transcribe and add comments to NARA records to make them more accessible and searchable. Current "missions" include the Alaska Road Commission; TVA Family Removal and Population Readjustment Case Files, 1937-1948; America's Scenic Byways; Amistad court files; and a few more.
FIX IT+ volunteers correct transcripts for the historic programs available in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation. A wide variety of programs is available to choose from, and you can sort programs by collection, title, level of completeness, or duration.
The National Map Corps
Volunteers in this project can contribute to the National Map by editing structures - such as schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations, cemeteries, and other public buildings - in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Old Weather volunteers explore, mark, and transcribe historic ship's logs from the 19th and early 20th centuries, providing better access to data about past weather and sea-ice conditions and the course and events of voyages. Current "voyages" include Naval Rendezvous: U.S. Navy, Coast Guard & Revenue Cutter Service in the Arctic seas; and Arctic whaling voyages.
SciStarter – online projects
SciStarter is international in scope and not technically a government site, though it does include some federal projects. This link goes directly to a list of projects that can be done online; you can also limit to a topic or age group of interest.
Smithsonian Transcription Center
Smithsonian volunteers transcribe historic documents and collection records to facilitate research. You can browse for projects from a specific museum or archive (e.g. Freedmen's Bureau, National Museum of American History) or theme (e.g. endangered languages, women's history, world cultures). A link to "see all projects" is available when you mouse over the Projects link in the top menu bar.
While not a government resource, Zooniverse is "the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research." The site includes many citizen science projects from a range of subject areas, including the arts, climate, history, literature, nature, and more. A drop-down lets you focus on "most popular," "most help needed," or "most recently launched" projects.