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Anyone can participate in science!

Participatory science is a collaboration between scientists and public volunteers to gather new knowledge about the world. Participatory science includes community science, citizen science, community-based monitoring and other types of research that depend on knowledge, insights or observations from the public.

Participatory science can transform communities, advance research and help people across the globe. For example, over the last 10 years, 31,000 volunteers have classified 350,000 images of space! You don't have to be an expert to get involved in a project. With a wide variety of topics to choose from, there’s something for all ages. You can also join in as frequently as you're able.

How can I get involved?

Here's a stellar program: check out the Black Hole Hunters as your next participatory science project!

On this project, scientists are asking for help finding some of the Milky Way Galaxy’s millions of missing black holes. Using data from the TESS satellite, you’ll look at graphs of how the brightness of stars changes over time, looking for an effect called gravitational microlensing.

This lensing effect can indicate that a massive object passed in front of a star, its gravity bending and focusing the star's light. We hope to use this to uncover the existence of otherwise invisible black holes.

You might wonder why they need you to do this instead of getting a computer to do it. The short answer is that computers are good at some things and humans are good at other things. By combining the work of humans and computers, we can do a better search than we could with either one on its own. We can train computers to find all the most obvious examples, but people—you!—will be better at finding the harder ones to spot. What would be very hard for a computer should be pretty easy for you.

The project gives you all the information and training you need to be successful and help scientists discover more black holes!

Ongoing Participatory Science Opportunities

There’s no shortage of discoveries left to be made. Visit scistarter.org, zooniverse.org and citizenscience.gov to check out dozens of other participatory science opportunities. There’s something for everyone!

Community members viewing the solar eclipse through telescopes on the Green at the Science Museum of VirginiaJPG

Participatory Science at the Science Museum

The Science Museum’s 2017 project Throwing Shade mobilized volunteers and partners from around Richmond to evaluate urban heat vulnerability. Data collected helped show that temperatures in the city during a heat wave can vary as much as 16 °F from the coolest to the warmest places.

From 2019 through 2023, volunteers helped the Science Museum collect data about hyperlocal air quality as part of RVAir. Funded in part by the Institute of the Museum and Library Services, RVAir worked with community collaborators to help measure particulate matter in Richmond neighborhoods.

Using portable AirBeam devices, community members collected air quality data on over 600 walks throughout the Richmond area. Additionally, over 35 permanent Purple Air sensors were installed across the city and are continuing to collect air quality in real time.