• University of Dundee logo
  • WeObserve logo

Citizen Science Projects: How to Make a Difference

Discover how to build your own citizen science project to address global challenges and create positive change.

2,958 enrolled on this course

Project logo
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Learn to capture and analyse data and use the findings to take action

Would you like to understand the environment and other global challenges to help create change? Citizen science projects and citizen observatories are the ideal way to explore big issues, take action and become a changemaker.

On this course, you’ll discover many different types of projects and how to get involved. You’ll find out how to lead a project, including the best practices for community building, question forming and data collecting.

You’ll also learn how to interpret the information you collect and use your findings to educate others about important universal concerns.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds [PROTESTERS CHANTING]

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 seconds [ELECTRONICA MUSIC PLAYING]

Skip to 0 minutes and 32 seconds [CELL PHONE CHIMES]

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 seconds SPEAKER 1: What can I do? [CELL PHONE CHIMES]

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds [DIGITAL NOTIFICATION SOUNDS] What can I do? [CELL PHONE CHIMES] (SHOUTING) What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?


Skip to 1 minute and 13 seconds [CHILD LAUGHING]

Skip to 1 minute and 18 seconds What can we do?

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds Sign up for the course to learn how we can come together, gather data and take action for the environment. WeObserve is creating an ecosystem of citizen observatories that can address environmental challenges and help to move citizen science into the mainstream


  • Week 1

    Getting started with citizen observatories

    • Welcome to Week 1

      In this activity, we'll welcome you to the course and introduce citizen science and citizen observatories.

    • Getting started with citizen science

      In this activity, we'll find out what experience you have with citizen science so far, and look at some best practices for getting started in this exciting field.

    • Understanding the issue or problem

      In this activity, we'll explore how your observatory or campaign team can begin to understand an environmental issue you are concerned about, and we'll show you a mapping technique that you can try.

    • Choosing a question

      In this activity, we'll explore how to choose a question – a centra part of any observatory or citizen science campaign. You'll hear about how our observatories did this, and we'll also explore campaign design.

    • Forming a team

      In this activity, we'll look at how to form an active and engaged team as part of your observatory or campaign. You'll get some advice from our observatories and we'll talk about wider community-building.

    • Week 1 summary

      In this activity, we'll close the week and check your understanding of what we've learned so far.

  • Week 2

    Observing your environment

    • Welcome to Week 2

      In this activity, we'll introduce Week 2 and explore one type of environmental challenge that you could work on – land use and land cover.

    • Deciding what data to collect

      You might be wondering how you know what data to collect, so in this activity, we'll find out! We'll also take a look at community-level indicators, and reflect on the types of data you already collect without even realising it.

    • Developing protocols for data collection

      There are many tools and kits out there that can help you with data collection – you don't have to invent your protocol from scratch! In this activity, we'll explore what's available and help you get set up for data collection.

    • Training for data collection

      You'll need to show your participants and team how to collect the data you want, so in this step we'll explain how you can give this training.

    • Capturing or generating the data

      In this activity, we'll look at DIY and crowdsourced options for data collection, and find out how technology can help with this core part of your project.

    • Week 2 summary

      In this activity, we'll review the week and check your understanding so far.

  • Week 3

    Analysing and visualising your observations and results

    • Welcome to Week 3

      In this activity, we'll introduce you to Week 3, and put a spotlight on biodiversity – a big environmental issue that citizen scientists are working on.

    • Collecting quality observations and data from your environment

      In this actvity, we'll explore how to successfully manage your data.

    • Understanding the data

      In this activity, we'll share ways to help everyone understand and interpret the data you're collecting.

    • Analysing the data

      In this activity, we'll look for simple ways to analyse data you have on hand.

    • Visualising the data

      In this activity, we'll look at creative and impactful options for visualising your data to spur wider action.

    • Week 3 summary

      In this activity, we'll close the week and check your understanding of what we've learned so far.

  • Week 4

    Sharing results and creating change

    • Welcome to Week 4

      In this activity, we'll introduce you to Week 4, and put a spotlight on soil moisture – a critical climate issue that one of our observatories is working hard to tackle.

    • Disseminating results

      In this activity, we'll look at how to share your results. As a starting point, we'll think about who the audience is, what outcome you are trying influence, and how to communicate this effectively.

    • Change-making and planning action

      In this activity, we'll look at some examples of how citizen science has impacted policy and social change.

    • Course summary

      In this activity, we'll summarise the course and give you some tips for action going forward. Well done!

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Investigate what citizen science and citizen observatories are.
  • Explore current projects happening around the world, what they do and how to get involved.
  • Engage with the general process of a citizen science project, the tools used and where to find them.
  • Model the steps to create your own citizen science project.
  • Collect and analyse data on relevant issues such as environmental challenges and disaster management, and discuss the results of your findings.
  • Evaluate the potential of citizen science in bringing about change.
  • Discuss how citizen science is contributing to current global challenges.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in citizen science and citizen observatories, and learning about how to design a citizen science project.

Who will you learn with?

Mel is Professor in Creative Intelligence at University of Dundee. Her research focuses on designing to support people with future technologies, societal and environmental challenges and change-making

I'm a research scholar at IIASA, interested in participatory approaches to science and understanding systems, currently playing serious games and working on several EU citizen science projects.

Coordinator of the Citizen Science Lab at Leiden University - previously a member of the WeObserve and LandSense projects on behalf of ECSA, and Science Community Manager at the Natural History Museum

Interested in the social innovation potential of Citizen Science. Project Director of various Citizen Science projects (H2020, ESA) which include case studies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Who developed the course?

University of Dundee

The University of Dundee is one of the world’s Top 200 universities and was named Scottish University of the Year for both 2016 and 2017. Dundee offers one of the UK’s best student experiences.


WeObserve is an H2020 Coordination and Support Action (CSA) which tackles three key challenges that Citizens Observatories (COs) face: awareness, acceptability and sustainability.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #CitizenScienceMOOC to talk about this course on social media.