Blog Post

Preliminary Outcomes from CitSciMonth 2020

by Vivienne Byrd, Darlene Cavalier, and Caroline Nickerson

First: thank you. Even with the unprecedented challenges, so many of you came together to make Global Citizen Science Month 2020 (April) a success. We are crunching numbers and assessing formative and summative evaluations so we can share a comprehensive report. In the interim, here are some quick stats: 

You practitioners sure know how to pivot…

In just one month, more than 100 NEW virtual Citizen Science Month events were rapidly added to SciStarter, since COVID-19. An additional 100+/- existing, in-person events were postponed until the summer or fall and, understandably, others were canceled.  Find the full list of events on the Citizen Science Month website under “Featured Events.” 

That’s more than 200 Citizen Science Month events, and SciStarter co-hosted an average of two Zoom events every day in April.  Find recordings of events on SciStarter’s Citizen Science Videos page.

…and libraries, science centers, and educators played big roles this year.

Libraries, science centers, cultural institutions, and schools turned “inside out” by taking their expertise, collections, and programs to the public through online citizen science events. Citizen science provides a variety of opportunities to engage in meaningful research anytime, anywhere. In April, educators and other facilitators (including parents, museum professionals, librarians, and others), despite extremely difficult situations, turned to citizen science as a flexible resource to provide their communities with informative, replicable, and expandable activities to do from home. 

The addition of virtual events provided much-needed structure and support not often included in stand-alone projects. Participants: 1) heard from project scientists and other experts, who explained the goals of the projects and why they launched them; 2) engaged in projects in real-time, following step-by-step instructions as explained by the project leader or facilitator; and 3) asked questions and provided suggestions to improve the projects. The two-way dialogue benefitted project leaders and facilitators as much as the citizen scientists! [External evaluations conducted by Arizona State University,  including interviews with project scientists and surveys among participants, will be shared once completed.]

Sampling of Events Hosted by Libraries: 

Introductions to Citizen Science. The National Library of Medicine, SciStarter, and Arizona State University introduced new audiences to an online, interactive tutorial to describe the Who, What, Where, When, and How of Citizen Science. Following these fun, participatory introduction events, we engaged everyone in SciStarter affiliate projects, together, online! Community partners from the Girl Scouts, to senior citizen organizations, to underrepresented in biomedical resource communities and more tuned in. Several project leaders noted significant increases in data contributions as a result of these online events, so we have committed to continue to host these events on a regular basis. 

Libraries as Community Hubs for Citizen Science. Public librarians hosted programs ranging from Storytimes (reading from citizen science books!) to meet-ups for patron online engagement in projects; professional library associations (including the National Library of Medicine) hosted professional development events to help other librarians discover resources to bring citizen science to their communities; and academic librarians hosted events for students to learn about citizen science and engage in real-time citizen science organized through formal learning management systems, complete with assessments and a new microcredential! 

The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) system leveraged Citizen Science Month and integrated citizen science projects into virtual STEM programs through at-home activity demos, tutorial videos to highlight the projects’ relevance to the communities they serve, and online events covering topics of interest to the community, including virtual citizen science storytimes, interviews with local subject experts, and more. LAPL will continue promoting citizen science this summer with local school districts, who will be hosting a four-week virtual STEM summer camp for students K-12 and their parents/guardians. Learn more by following LAPL’s Neighborhood Science Program.

Libraries in Phoenix, Carson City, Princeton, Seattle, and more also hosted virtual events

Sampling of Events Hosted by Science Centers:

The Chicago Botanic Garden invited its members and the world to learn about Phenology and the BudBurst project.

The New York Botanical Garden hosted an online “Take Action with Citizen Science” workshop explaining how to get involved with their online citizen science programs and view/classify specimens in their collections.

As part of a NOAA-supported program (led by the Museum of Science, Boston, and in partnership with SciStarter, Arizona State University, Northeastern University, and the National Informal Science Education Network) to engage public participants in citizen science and resilience planning on four climate hazards (extreme heat, extreme precipitation, sea-level rise, and drought), the Museum of Science, Boston hosted events on citizen science and environmental hazards, including extreme heat and sea-level rise. The Museum of Life + Science in Durham, North Carolina also facilitated a citizen science roundtable and discussion

The Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio hosted a live participatory tutorial on how to participate in a BioBlitz. A growing number of science centers are integrating citizen science into their virtual programs.

Sampling of Events Hosted by Educators:

At the request of educators and parents seeking resources for at-home science during social distancing, SciStarter created a page of curated, age-appropriate projects with step-by-step instructions and educational resources. 

Environmental educators from the Izaak Walton League, EarthEcho International, and North Carolina State University hosted webinars and Q&As with SciStarter during Citizen Science Month.

Jill Nugent, Associate Dean of Science at Southern New Hampshire University, hosted a 5-part web series for educators. These webinars focused on sharing citizen science projects and related assessments that are a great fit for the science learning environment, with an emphasis on projects that distributed and remote learners can engage in at home, in the backyard, or online. The series concluded with a Zoom party co-hosted by National Geographic Education.

Interested in learning more about Citizen Science in Higher Education? Register for the Citizen Science Association’s happy hour series, “Using Citizen Science in Higher Education.

Free, customizable event resources were useful.

By creating The Introduction to Citizen Science module and spotlighting a variety of citizen science projects, such as those featured here for educators, as the base for the virtual programs, SciStarter and its partners provided librarians, museum professionals, and educators with turnkey, customizable, and replicable resources to engage local and/or global communities. 

Many event hosts expanded their audiences through these virtual events. The virtual events also presented the opportunity to engage the project scientists and subject matter experts who no longer needed to travel to an in-person event. 

Participants showed up to the party!

In April, there was a 375% increase (compared to April 2019) in the number of people who JOINED citizen science projects on SciStarter!  In addition, thousands of people — from the United States, Ireland, Nigeria, Canada, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Australia, and more — tuned-in to the events through Zoom, YouTube livestreams, and Facebook.  

The brand new @CitSciMonthTwitter account had more than 350,000 impressions (not including the awesome retweets and tags the account received from Discover, National Geographic, Astronomy and many others!), thanks, in large part, to all the people who volunteered to take part in our weekly Social Media Takeovers on Twitter and Instagram. Not only did this approach help spread the word about #CitSciMonth to new communities, but we all learned from each other through news and resources posted by the @CitSciMonth guest hosts.  This approach was so successful that we are continuing the practice indefinitely. If you’re interested in participating, claim your week here.

Here’s a sampling of @CitSciMonth Tweets:


GIF link: 

If you are planning a citizen science event, feel free to use any of our resources, including the CitSciMonth social media graphics. Many can be repurposed for other citizen science initiatives.

Citizen Science Month caught the eye of the media.

The New York Times, Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, Science Friday, and many other online, broadcast, and print media outlets featured Citizen Science Month events. Several even co-hosted online events with SciStarter, expanding awareness of citizen science, Citizen Science Month, and citizen science projects and resources to reach millions of people.  

Examples include:

Citizen Science is global.

The Citizen Science Association, the European Citizen Science Association, the Australian Citizen Science Association, and CitizenScience.Asia participated in big ways this year by hosting the @CitSciMonth social media accounts and organizing outstanding online events. 

Our biggest take-away is…

We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you! 

Thanks to you, the citizen science community, and our partners at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, Science Friday, National Geographic, Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, the Citizen Science Association, and particularly to the National Library of Medicine for providing support to make this all possible.

Recordings of events are available on the SciStarter Citizen Science Videos page. 

Let’s build on the momentum of Citizen Science Month to grow and sustain engagement in your projects, programs, and events. We are committed to continue to assist you. Our collaborative events on Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook have been more successful than anything we imagined. We will extend our open, weekly calls, indefinitely. And you can count on us to help you with your online events to promote your resources and engage communities for many months to come. SO….

  • Call in to our open calls hosted by Caroline Nickerson at SciStarter every Thursday to share ideas, request support, or offer support to others (8 AM and 11 AM ET). 
  • Add your events/projects/resources to SciStarter and find lots of Citizen Science Month resources!

And we have a request for you. If you’re on Facebook, will you use our new profile frame to help others discover ways to get involved in citizen science?

You know where to find us. Stay well. Thank you for what you do for citizen science.

Join the Citizen Science Association’s Citizen Science Month Working Group! Email cochairs Vivienne Byrd and Darlene Cavalier for information on how to get involved (citscimonth_cochairs[@] The CSA Citizen Science Month working group serves to connect Citizen Science Month organizers (SciStarter and partners) to CSA member practitioners and researchers to build and share best practices and catalyze new research and evaluations.

About the Authors

Vivienne Byrd

As Librarian III/STEAM Librarian in the Exploration and Creativity Department at the Los Angeles Public Library, Vivienne has led programs like the DTLA Maker Faire and the Neighborhood Science program. She also serves as a Climate Reality Leader for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. 

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene is a Professor of Practice at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, a founding Board Member of the Citizen Science Association, a Fellow and advisor at National Geographic, and a coauthor of The Field Guide to Citizen Science (Timber Press: 2020). Darlene is the founder of SciStarter, founder of Science Cheerleaders, Inc., (a non profit organization of more than 300 current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers), and cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks producing public deliberations to enhance science policymaking).

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline is a Program Manager at SciStarter where she manages the Citizen Science Month Program, SciStarter’s Corporate Volunteer Programs, and other programmatic and outreach efforts, including working with SciStarter’s Syndicated Blog Network, which encompasses the Science Connected, Discover Magazine, and SciStarter platforms. She is a Master of Public Policy graduate from American University with a focus on environmental and climate change policy. She is also affiliated with the UF-VA UNESCO Bioethics Unit, the Christensen Project, the DC Gator Club, and the Commission on Local Debates. Caroline is a William K. Reilly Environmental Policy Scholar and the 2019 Cherry Blossom Princess representing the state of Florida. 

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