How Citizen Science Can Help Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Calvin Cupini

Each day brings a new understanding of the challenge we face with COVID-19. Here at Clean Air Carolina, we are washing our hands, working remotely, and unfortunately canceling a few events, like in-person Citizen Science Month activities in April. We continue to work toward a healthy atmosphere for all from a safe distance.

Citizen science, however, doesn’t need in-person events to be impactful. In fact, there are many projects you can contribute to without ever leaving home! Clean Air Carolina has been working with a worldwide team of citizen science pros to compile a list of ways everyone can lend a hand to COVID-19 research.

Citizen Science Opportunities and Information


Eterna is a crowdsourcing puzzle game, built to help everyday people join the fight against the novel coronavirus. The team behind Eterna recently launched its mRNA design challenge. Sign up and help researchers design an mRNA encoding a potential vaccine to fight COVID-19!


Early detection and early response are key to preventing the spread of any disease. That’s why COVID NEAR YOU is letting individuals report symptoms in real-time, to complement traditional tracking while providing useful information directly to the public. Sign in and provide accurate information about your location and symptoms to help researchers better understand the spread of COVID-19.  You can also log in to take a look at the results in your area.


Foldit is run by academic research scientists. It is free to play and not-for-profit. To get started, download and play Foldit and you can help researchers discover new antiviral drugs that might stop coronavirus! The most promising solutions will be manufactured and tested at the University of Washington Institute for Protein Design in Seattle.

They recommended that new players start with the Foldit Intro Puzzles. After some practice, move on to the Science Puzzles and try out the Beginner: Coronavirus puzzle.

Even More Citizen Science Resources!

U.S. Digital Response for COVID-19 (volunteer your skills)
CrowdsourceRescue Coronavirus Campaign – (CrowdsourceRescue)
Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center – (Newsguard)
Folding@home Distributed Computing Project for Coronavirus – Similar to SETI@home – Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
COVIDbase – (Eri Gentry – Co-founder of COVID Accelerator and Negative)
COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19) – (Semantic Scholar)
COVID Tracking Project (Staff Writer at Atlantic)
Calling All Makers to Sew Fu Facemask (FreeSewing)
Crowdsourced PPE Donations (Sohan Murthy)

Data Resources

Need a nerdy fix on the data? Here are some things to keep you occupied:

COVID-19 Dashboards (see GitHub to contribute) – (Hamel Husain – Github)
COVID-19 Interactive Jupyter Notebooks – (Friedrich Knuth)
COVID-19 Watch Heat Map – (PhD candidates from around the world)
COVID-19 – Genomic Epidemiology of Novel Coronavirus (hCoV-19) – (Nextstrain)
ICU Ventilators for COVID-19: Design and Manufacturing Challenge – (Ennomotive)
CoVent-19 Challenge – Open Innovation Effort to Design a Rapidly Deployable Mechanical Ventilator – (Massachusetts General Hospital)
Open Source Respirator and Low-Cost Ventilator Efforts to Fight COVID-19 (Ennomotive & MGH projects)
COVIDbase – (Eri Gentry – Co-founder of COVID Accelerator and Negative)
COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19) – (Semantic Scholar)
COVID Tracking Project (Staff Writer at Atlantic)

Resources For Educators and Those Currently Homeschooling

Zooniverse has hundreds of projects that enable young people to collaborate on real scientific research.

QuestaGame is offering to create a free QuestaGame team (in-game clan) for every school, anywhere in the world. Contact the team to register your school. Your kids don’t need to be at school to play for their school — and they’re participating in citizen science at the same time.

The National Science Foundation has also created a list of seven NSF-supported STEM Resources Perfect for Home Learning.

Discover Magazine has shared several articles with ideas for homeschooling during periods of self-isolation, including ‘Cooped Up at Home? Seven Ways to Take Part in Online Science Projects’ and ‘These STEM Resources Can Help with At-home Science Learning.’

Globe at Night is an international citizen science program that people can do from their own backyards. It is now preparing for virtual involvement with the International Dark Sky Week (April 19 – 26), Citizen Science Month and Global Astronomy Month (both in April), and the International Day of Light on 16 May.

More Information About COVID-19

American Public Health Association: Coronavirus

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus

NC Division of Public Health: Coronavirus

WHO COVID Tracking Dashboard

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