Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click on 'Find out more' to see our Cookie statement.

The citizen science platform, Zooniverse, is 10 years old; it boasts a community of over 1.9 million volunteers and has supported 229 citizen science projects.

Image of a galaxy from the Hubble Telescope

Over the last decade volunteers on Zooniverse projects have performed a wide range of tasks, including classifying over 1.7 million galaxies, transcribing a quarter of a million pages of text, and they even watched 74,016 videos of nematode worms! Their amazing effort has led to the production of over 200 research publications. 

The Zooniverse was launched on 12th December 2009 following the success of an initial 2-year project, Galaxy Zoo, that harnessed people power to classify a million galaxies. Initially featuring a small collection of astronomy projects, and one involving the transcription of old ship’s weather logs, it quickly started attracting projects from other disciplines. Zooniverse offers a unique resource for researchers, allowing them to engage volunteers worldwide who want to collaborate and help with their big data problems – like counting penguins in millions of pictures from Antarctica, or transcribing text written on ancient scrolls. 

Zooniverse founder, University of Oxford astrophysicist and co-presenter of BBC’s The Sky at Night, Professor Chris Lintott, said: ‘Zooniverse was one of the first initiatives to realise the potential of people-powered research on such a large scale. Our volunteers want to play their part in today’s scientific discoveries and help to change the world they live in. Our platform allows them to contribute in a meaningful way to science and, importantly, it provides researchers with an invaluable resource.’

Chris Scott, who heads up the Solar Stormwatch project, said: ‘After the STEREO spacecraft were launched in 2006, I soon found myself with thousands of images of faint and fluffy solar storms. The Zooniverse came to the rescue by putting me in contact with tens of thousands of volunteers whose careful scrutiny of the data has enabled, and continues to enable, far more scientific advances than my small team could have ever have achieved on their own.’

Elisabeth Baeten, a Zooniverse volunteer and moderator, said: ‘If you would have told me 10 years ago that clicking on some galaxies would lead to me being a co-author on a couple of papers or doing interviews or getting to accept awards or even getting a mention in a Danish book on exoplanets, I would have laughed and shrugged it off as some fantasy. And while those things are really amazing, they are not the reason why I keep on classifying on completely different projects (most are space related, but there is also fighting Tuberculosis, or helping out with disaster relief - the list is really long). It's because I am doing something useful and it's fun at the same time (except for the disaster relief obviously) . Not to mention that I'm learning so much about the world around me. I just feel privileged to be part of the Zooniverse.’ 

How it works

Volunteers sign up to the platform and can choose which projects they want to get involved from disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, ecology, the humanities, and biomedical sciences. By answering simple questions about what they see in front of them – from images of faraway galaxies to historical records or videos of animals – volunteers are helping to contribute to our understanding of the world, our history, our Universe and more.

By getting multiple people to give an answer for each question the Zooniverse harnesses the wisdom of the crowd to ensure that the data is as accurate as that which would be produced by an individual expert. By utilising the effort of the crowd in this way they can produce in a matter of weeks results that would previously have taken years.

2 Millionth Volunteer Competition

In celebration of reaching this milestone the Zooniverse team is running a competition to reach 2 million registered volunteers. The 2 millionth volunteer who signs up and takes part in a project on the platform will be awarded a prize, and all other volunteers who take part in any Zooniverse project on the same day as the 2 millionth volunteer joins will be entered into a prize draw for a signed copy of Into the Zooniverse, the new book highlighting some of the best bits from Zooniverse projects in 2019.

To learn more about Zooniverse, and join the effort, visit

Story courtesy of the University of Oxford News Office

Similar stories

CO2 removal is essential to achieving net zero

An article by Dr Steve Smith, executive director of the Oxford Net Zero Initiative and the CO2RE hub, which is focussed on greenhouse gas removal.

Eight Oxford researchers win top UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships

Five of the new Fellows are from MPLS Division. The Fellowships have been created by UKRI to help develop the next wave of world-class research and innovation leaders in academia and business.

Oxford climate scientists: No doubt about climate change

Leading Oxford climate scientists today insisted there can be no doubt that human-driven climate change is a fact and urgent action is needed, as the IPCC’s report is released showing emissions are driving up temperatures.

Beautiful clouds, Mr Bond: Philip Stier and why you shouldn't look up the same way again

A Science Blog interview with Philip Stier, now at the forefront of climate science as a leading researcher into clouds.

Binks Trust gift to boost photovoltaic research

The Department of Physics is delighted to have received a significant philanthropic donation from the Binks Trust, which will be used to enhance its solar energy research over the next few years.

Global Jet Watch: discovery of jets in classical novae

Scientists at the University of Oxford have discovered that classical nova explosions are accompanied by the ejection of jets of oppositely-directed hot gas and plasma, and that this persists for years following the nova eruption. Previously, such jets had only been encountered emanating from very different systems such as black holes or newly collapsing stars.