The site recruits individuals to aid projects in fields such as physics, astronomy, zoology and the social sciences.
It’s crowdsourcing on a huge scale. Individuals can scour through large data sets, collect and classify data and make scientific contributions that computers cannot. They can also connect with researchers in discussion forums, where their opinions and observations fuel further research.
The site has more than 1.7 million registered users who have so far classified over 439 million pieces of data. One popular project is Galaxy Zoo, where volunteers classify telescope images of far-off galaxies. Bash the Bug, another volunteer favorite, is helping researchers figure out which antibiotics can treat different strains of tuberculosis in an attempt to fight new drug-resistant strains.
From 2012 to 2014, another project, the Cell Slider, looked much closer to home, and proved how crowdsourcing might be able to help in the fight against cancer. In that time, volunteers classified more than 180,000 microscopic images of human cells — and proved as accurate as trained pathologists at identifying cancerous cells and tumors.
It’s easy to get started: Just pick a project, complete a quick training and begin contributing on your computer or mobile phone. Get started at Zooniverse.org.