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CITIZEN SCIENCE:Citizen Science at the White House

Published April 2015


Nolan Doesken, founder of the CoCoRaHS Network, proudly displaying a rain gauge at the 5th White House Science Fair (credit: Darlene Cavalier/SciStarter).

NOAA’s Office of Education is excited to have partnered with the White House and the National Park Service to install a rain gauge in the First Lady’s Kitchen Garden to help recognize contributions of citizen scientists to our Nation. This installation was part of the 5th White House Science Fair and measurements from the gauge are being shared as part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network, the largest source of daily precipitation data in the United States.

CoCoRaHS is a citizen science network that has received two NOAA Environmental Literacy Grant (ELG) awards and is a Weather Ready Nation Ambassador™. The Network engages thousands of people (currently over 20,000 active volunteers) of all ages in measuring and investigating precipitation. Participants use low-cost, high-capacity rain gauges along with rulers and foil-wrapped Styrofoam "hail pads" to accurately measure rain, hail and snow. More information on this exciting project, including how to join, is available from their web site.

As a science mission agency, NOAA has a rich tradition of supporting citizen science. Today that tradition is being carried on with citizen science projects fostered and supported across the Agency. There are currently over 65 active such projects, many of which began within the past few years. A NOAA Citizen Science Community of Practice was launched in the fall of 2013 to help foster sharing and collaboration among these projects. The Community of Practice is facilitated by NOAA's Office of Education and in the spirit of the citizen science field, relies on grassroots participation from community members throughout the Agency.

Through citizen science, millions of volunteers across our Nation actively contribute valuable time and expertise to help advance our understanding of the world around us. The ability to empower a single individual or local community to contribute to a much larger initiative makes citizen science a powerful concept. The contributions of citizen scientists are valued, and the power of the concept is recognized. In the 2013 Second Open Government National Action Plan President Obama called on agencies to harness the ingenuity of the public by accelerating and scaling the use of open innovation methods such as citizen science and crowdsourcing. A blog post from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy provides more details about the CoCoRaHS rain gauge at the White House and federal support for citizen science.

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