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83 Free Tools and Resources for Your Citizen Science Projects

83 Free Tools and Resources for Your Citizen Science Projects
What is citizen science? Citizen science uses the collective strength of communities and the public to identify research questions, collect and analyze data, interpret results, make new discoveries, and develop technologies and applications – all to understand and solve environmental problems. Citizen science is sometimes described as “public participation in scientific research,” participatory monitoring, and participatory action research whose outcomes are often advancements in scientific research by improving the scientific community’s capacity, as well as increasing the public’s understanding of science.

Around the world ordinary people of all ages engage in citizen science—participating in projects in which volunteers and scientists work together to answer real-world questions. Much of this work is conducted close to home, sometimes in our own backyards or even in our living rooms and kitchens, with guidance from professional scientists and using established science protocols and tools. Regardless of the location and process, citizen science brings everyone into the important work of learning more about and protecting our planet.

Below is a curated list of awesome software and other resources to enable those who want to use scientific tools to empower communities and/or practice various forms of non-institutional science. All of the digital softwares and tools on this list are either free or open-source, so you can use them right away.


Citizen Science Theory

  1. Citizen Science: Probing the Virtues and Contexts of Participatory Research
  2. Buckets of Resistance: Standards and the Effectiveness of Citizen Science
  3. The Potentials and Limitations of Civil Society Research: Getting Undone Science Done
  4. Citizen Engineering: Disrupting Expertise in Classroom and Community
    A paper introducing the concept of “citizen engineering” as a companion to citizen science
  5. Institutions for Civic Technoscience: How Critical Making is Transforming Environmental Research
  6. Citizen Science as an Ecological Research Tool: Challenges and Benefits
  7. Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition
  8. The Science Wars and the Future of the American Academic Profession
    Caltech chemistry professor Jay A. Labinger’s paper about the need for scientists to engage with critical science studies scholars.
  9. Science for the People
    A late 1960s/early 1970s radical science movement whose literature has been organized on a website by UMass Amherst.
  10. From the March for Science to an Abolitionist Science
    An article that offers several historical and current critiques of science that propose alternative ways of doing scientific work.

Citizen Science Practice

  1. Lead Concentrations in Inner-City Soils As a Factor in the Child Lead Problem
    A 1983 pharmacology paper detailing a low-cost, low-tech method of doing soil heavy metal testing.
  2. How to Run a Feminist Science Lab Meeting
    A guide by the Civic Laboratory in St. John’s, Newfoundland


  1. Light and Matter
    Benjamin Crowell’s free-to-download, cheap-to-buy open source physics textbooks.
  2. OpenStax
    Repository of open-licensed and collaboratively-edited textbooks on many basic subjects. You can download them as ebooks or order print copies.
  3. PhET Simulations
    CU Boulder interactive physics and chemistry simulations.
  4. United Diversity Co-op Library
    A vast library of interesting textbooks and other resources in PDF form on such topics as permaculture, agriculture, economics, crafts and activism.
  5. Microbe Wiki
    A large student-edited multi-institutional wiki for microbiology.
  6. OpenWetWare
    A site that maintains a list of bio lab protocols as well as an electronic lab notebook for team use.

Publishing and Doing Research

  1. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice
    An open-access, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to discussion about methods in citizen science.
  2. Scholar Subreddit
    A great place to request help getting access to scientific papers that are beyond paywalls.
  3. Library Genesis
    An online tool for gaining access to scientific articles that are normally beyond paywalls.
  4. Public Library of Science (PLOS)
    Nonprofit organization that publishes open-access journals and also advocates for openness and tranparency in science.
  5. arXiv
    A Cornell-supported site for sharing and discussing early drafts of scientific papers (mostly physics and math).
  6. Directory of Open Access Journals
    Over 9000 journals listed.
  7. Investigative Dashboard
    A tool for researchers, especially journalists, to share documents and findings.

Publishing , Collaboration and Organization

  1. Zotero
    Open-source citation management software.
  2. TiddlyWiki
    Easily create your own wikis to organize information.
  3. Evergreen ILS
    Software for managing a library of books (and the loaning process).
  4. GanttProject
    Productivity tool for scheduling tasks and making Gantt charts.
  5. Open Science Framework
    Open-source collaborative project manager for scientific research.
  6. Calibre
    eBook management software.
  7. LibraryThing
    An online platform for organizing your library.
  8. PECE
    The Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography. This project provides an online platform for academic collaboration that helps keep track of complex attribution of credit. It is geared toward anthropologists but is expanding to become more broad.

Tools and Equipment

  1. Global Village Construction Set
    Open-source farm equipment and other civilization-building tools.
  2. Farming Concrete Data Collection Toolkit
    Methods for measuring the outcomes and impacts of community gardens and urban farms.
  3. Generic Lab Equipment
    Wiki with instructions on building DIY lab equipment.

Funding and Support

Financial Resources

    A science crowdfunding platform.
  2. The Awesome Foundation
    A nonprofit that funds awesome projects with microgrants $1000 at a time.
  3. Endeavorist
    A “curiosity network” for science and technology that combines a social network with crowdfunding.
  4. EPA Environmental Education Grants
    Grants available for small community organizations.

Other Types of Support

    An online community for DIY biologists.
  2. CollabFinder
    A place to find collaborators for your project.
  3. Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit
    Maintained by the US government.
  4. Welcome to How To Grow (almost) Anything in GaudiLabs – Switzerland
    A guide to setting up a basic microbiology lab.


Lab Equipment Software

  1. Grafana
    Create a dashboard (online if you wish) that visualizes your experimental data.
  2. mMass
    Open-source software for mass spectrometers.
  3. Stellarium
    Open-source planetarium software.

Modeling and Computation

  1. OpenSCAD
    3D modeling software.
  2. GNU Octave
    Free software numerical computation program, similar to MATLAB.
  3. Dia
    Open-source software for making diagrams.
  4. Gephi
    Open graph visualization platform.
  5. QGIS
    Open GIS software.
  6. Mineways
    A tool for turning Minecraft model files into 3D-printable .stl files
  7. ALOHA
    A piece of software disributed by the EPA that models the threat zone for various types of chemical spill and explosion hazards.
  8. vegan
    R package for statistical work in community ecology.

Citizen Science Spaces and Projects

Genetics / Biohacking

  1. BioCurious
    The first biohacking space in the world, located in Sunnyvale, CA
  2. HiveBio
    Seattle community bio lab.
  3. SynthTechBio Network
    Latin American biohackers’ network.
  4. Four Thieves Vinegar Collective
    A group working on DIY pharma-hacking projects, such as a $30 alternative to $600 epi-pens.


  1. The Community Science Initiative
    A nonprofit water testing and environmental data organization in Ithaca, NY.
  2. Sanctuary for Weedy Species
    A Brooklyn-based urban ecology project.
  3. The Bucket Brigade
    A Norco, LA – based citizen science group fighting for environmental justice.
  4. Rainforest Connection
    Project sing old smartphones as sensors to combat illegal logging.

Other Spaces & Projects

  1. The Citizen Science Lab
    A community science lab based in Pittsburgh, PA.
  2. BioBus
    A mobile science education lab.
  3. Hillsboro Library of Things
    A library for physical objects based in Hillsboro, OR. Includes some science and tech supplies.
  4. Farm Hack
    A project for producing open farm tools.

Art and Science Spaces

  1. Coalesce: Center for Biological Arts
    A bioart studio-lab at SUNY Buffalo.
  2. MIT Media Lab
    An interdisciplinary art, science and technology research center that is part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  3. Interspecifics
    A Mexico City-based collective working on projects at the intersection of art and science, especially related to biologically-generated sound.
  4. Center for Science and the Imagination
    A collaboration between artists and scientists at Arizona State University.
  5. STEM to STEAM
    An initiative out of Rhode Island School of Design to bring more art and design into STEM education.
  6. The Waag Society
    An institute for collaborative art, science and technology based in the Netherlands.

Conferences and Events

  1. iGEM
    Student synthetic biology competition with connections to many DIY bio labs.
  2. Biofabricate
    A design-focused annual conference that focuses on biotechnology-affiliated design, materials, and techniques.
  3. Biodesign Challenge
    Student design competition that concentrates on envisioning the future application of biotechnology.

Other Resources

  1. MOST
    The Pearce Research Group at Michigan Tech in Open Sustainability Technology.
  2. OSGeo
    The Open Source Geospatial Foundation, which offers a lot of open tools for working with GIS data.
  3. Open source engineering software
    A large list maintained on Appropedia.
  4. The Open Source Hardware Association
    A resource for all things open hardware, including designs and legal considerations.
  5. Biocanvas
    A collection of biological images as art.
  6. The Powercube
    Some literature and workshops by community organizers for understanding power and mobilizing.
  7. Detroit Future City: A Field Guide to Working with Lots
    Guides for urban agriculture from Detroit.