Citizen-science jobs

1/30/2018 12:09:47 PM

Are you interested in a career that integrates both science outreach and research components? If so, you may want to look at opportunities to work in citizen science, which is the ultimate form of public engagement with volunteers engaged as active participants in the scientific research enterprise. And science greatly benefits from these volunteers, by expanding the capacity to collect and analyze huge amounts of data to bringing fresh and diverse perspectives into the research process.

The origins of citizen science date back as far as the turn of the 20th century with projects like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and traditionally have focused on addressing conservation issues (e.g., testing water quality). But there’s been an explosion in the number of projects that now employ citizen scientists in biomedical research. Some popular web-based projects include Mark2Cure that uses volunteers to mine the biomedical literature for research relevant to rare genetic disorders and EteRNA where volunteers design unique RNA structures for potential use in biomedical applications.

Thus, there’s a need for scientists to coordinate these citizen-science programs, from project design to volunteer training, to ensure the quality of these programs. And with the ease-of-access to technologies (e.g., gene-editing tools), there’s been a rise in citizen bioscience; whereas, independent scientists can now design innovative biomedical solutions in basement laboratories, but research mentors are still needed to provide technical guidance and ensure responsible conduct (i.e., make sure no Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde experiments are going on).   

To help you explore career options, here are some ideas and resources on how to gain more experience in citizen science, stay updated on trends in the field and learn about upcoming job opportunities.  

  • Get involved with citizen-science projects, especially in a role as a volunteer supervisor or other leadership position. You can find projects in your area by searching databases, such as SciStarter and Or consider the feasibility of adding a citizen-science component to your current research or outreach efforts.  
  • Consider joining the Citizen Science Association, which offers a number of useful resources (e.g., journal, blog) to stay connected to the citizen-science community of practitioners and also maintains a job board.  
  • If you already are engaged in citizen science, find opportunities to share your experiences with others and get your name out there. For example, the Narrative Inquiries in Bioethics journal is seeking personal stories about citizen science for an upcoming special issue entitled “When Citizens Do Science: Stories from Labs, Garages, and Beyond.”  
  • The National Institutes of Health and its related centers are involved in many biomedical citizen-science initiatives. For example, I previously wrote about open-science competitions (e.g., NIH-sponsored Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge) that crowdsource science solutions from the public. Here are some additional NIH resources to check out.
    • is a biomedical citizen-science hub sponsored by several research divisions in the National Cancer Institute. The hub was created as an online collaborative space for researchers to share best practices and resources for citizen science. You can sign up for the hub’s newsletter, which includes information on upcoming funding opportunities, jobs and related resources.

    • The NIH is undertaking a massive effort called the All of Us research program (previously known as the Precision Medicine Cohort) to collect lifestyle, health and related data from one million volunteer participants to inform future biomedical studies. Currently, the program is crowdsourcing input on research priorities from the public (due Feb. 23). I also assume there will be associated hirings at program sites as the initiative is set to start collecting data this spring (see job posting below for an example). The website lists the participating institutions.

Weekly jobs roundup

Here are some interesting jobs I found this week related to citizen science. I have to admit that identifying keywords for job searches is a little more difficult because citizen science is called so many different things. For the jobs below, I did some searches on one generic and one academic-specific job board with several keyword combos (i.e., “citizen science”, biomedical + research + volunteers). You also can try searches using some of the following keywords and iterations thereof: citizen bioscience, public science, participatory science, volunteer science, DIY science, biohacking, etc.  

  • The University of Arizona is hiring a program coordinator to oversee operations for the All of Us–Arizona research program and will be located within the Phoenix metro area. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and two years of administrative experience. Review of applications began Jan. 8, but the position will be open until filled.  
  • The Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan is hiring a program development manager to create engaging public programs for the opening of the museum in 2019 at its new location. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (master’s degree preferred) and three to five years of formal and/or informal education experience. The job posting has an end date of Feb. 7, but the job may be filled after the minimum posting period of seven days.  
  • The Adler Planetarium in Chicago is looking for a part-time summer instructor for the Citizen Science Ambassadors program to engage high-school students in citizen-science projects. Minimum qualifications are for a STEM undergraduate student (bachelor’s degree preferred) and one year of experience working with teens. No application deadline is provided.  
  • The College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University has openings for one master’s and one Ph.D. assistantship researching the human dimensions of citizen science to enhance overall capacity and volunteer-recruitment strategies. Interested applicants should refer to the website to initiate the application process by directly contacting the PIs as indicated. Applications received by Jan. 15 received full consideration, but positions will remain open until filled.   
  • Several National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates sites are recruiting undergraduate researchers to work this summer on citizen-science initiatives focused on ecological and urban health. These opportunities include the University of Central Florida’s Citizen Science GIS program with an international REU site in Belize (deadline March 2) and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies’ Baltimore Ecosystem Study REU program (deadline Feb. 12). See the respective websites for application information. 

Author’s note: As an ongoing reminder, consider checking on the hiring status of these positions before applying, as many listings do not include an application deadline. I have included links above to the respective project websites where there is contact and social-media account information provided so as to help you find ways to reach out. 

Bonus job posting. If you are interested in an amazing science-outreach job working with the best professional-science society out there (OK, maybe I’m a little biased), check out this education and public-engagement coordinator position with the ASBMB. If you have any questions about qualifications or the position, you can reach out to ASBMB’s Danielle Snowflack on Twitter or by email. No application deadline is provided. 

Donna Kridelbaugh is the ASBMB careers blogger. Connect with her on Twitter (@science_mentor) or at her website (