Are you looking for ways to broaden your horizons, learn something new and have fun?
Zooniverse, an online “platform for people-powered research,” may be just the opportunity that fits the bill. The site brings together hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world to help professional researchers with a variety of projects.
You’ll find a long list of available projects across a wide range of disciplines, including nature, social sciences, space, arts, history, biology, physics, language and more.
How Does Zooniverse Work?
The largest and most-used platform of its kind, Zooniverse allows volunteers without any special background or training to participate in academic research projects. If you choose to volunteer, you’ll do so on your own time — with no commitment necessary — and on your own computer from home.
Work completed on Zooniverse has resulted in new discoveries, along with the creation of many publications and datasets used by an array of scientists.
Zooniverse notes that anyone can become a researcher by participating in the platform, and it’s easy to make a contribution at your convenience. As part of your volunteer research, you can expect to review authentic scientific source materials that professional researchers gather. For example, images of remote galaxies, in-habitat animal videos and historical diaries may be among the items you study.
You’ll answer simple questions about the materials to help researchers better understand the universe and human history. The site explains that work conducted on Zooniverse helps researchers cope with the massive influx of modern data by using skills like pattern recognition — an area in which humans still excel over computers.
With assistance from volunteers on Zooniverse, researchers can complete analysis work with better speed and accuracy than if they relied on computers for the same tasks. Many people review the same data, allowing researchers to estimate the reliability of the conclusions.
How Can You Get Involved?
If volunteering on Zooniverse sounds appealing to you, get started anytime you want by selecting a project. Volunteer opportunities typically involve classifying data, serving as a beta tester on projects that have not yet launched, or moderating a project.
Most volunteers work on individual projects, and the site notes that volunteers are always needed to classify data. If you decide to volunteer, you won’t need to commit to a minimum amount of time; you can do any amount of work that suits you at any given time.
You also can choose to assist in beta testing projects before they officially launch by searching for bugs and filling out questionnaires. Beta testers help the site organizers identify any problems as they determine the suitability of projects for Zooniverse.
Whatever project you choose — whether it’s helping computers understand animal faces, exploring Mars, modeling Earth’s climate using historical ship logs, or many others — you’ll no doubt have fun as you learn and assist researchers.