Citizen Science Quality Assurance Toolkit Logo

​​Citizen science—also known as community science, volunteer monitoring and public participation in scientific research, among other terms—uses the collective strength and knowledge of the public to gather and analyze data to answer environmental and public health questions. 

Answering these questions has long been the responsibility of federal, state, local and tribal agencies and laboratories, but citizen science provides a gateway for the public to do this independently, or to contribute to and collaborate with these and other organizations. Meanwhile, government agencies are recognizing that citizen science can help to maximize resources and community knowledge while expanding public engagement and scientific knowledge. Collaborative citizen science projects can be initiated by either the agency or citizen science groups.

The Importance of Collaboration and Quality Assurance in Citizen Science​​​

EPA QA HandbookFor citizen-generated data to have a meaningful impact, quality assurance during data gathering is critical. Citizen science groups need to systematically plan, carry out and document their project through project plans. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Quality Assurance Handbook and Guidance Documents for Citizen Science Projects (EPA QA Handbook) to help meet this need. 

​The EPA QA Handbook provides a framework for citizen science groups to follow, but the project is best positioned to reach its goals when it is conducted in collaboration with environmental and scientific professionals. When citizen science groups develop and follow a project plan in collaboration with government and other professional scientific organizations, the chances are increased that the data will be of known quality and the projects will meet their goal of informing environmental education, research and policy in their community.​

Citizen Science Quality Assurance ​​Toolkit Resources

To make project plan development more straightforward, APHL and EPA have developed several resources to facilitate the use of the EPA QA Handbook by both citizen science groups and state and local environmental and public health agencies and laboratories, known collectively as the Citizen Science Quality Assurance Toolkit.

​​​Resources for Government Agencies​

Wo​rking Together to Improve Citizen Science Data Quality: A Guide for Government Agencies

Citizen science provides an opportunity for government agencies to expand data collection efforts in collaboration with community members to answer environmental and public health questions. Citizen science encompasses a wide variety of projects—from community science activities to public participation in scientific research. One of the best ways government agencies may contribute to these projects is to provide quality assurance guidance so the project data can be used for their intended purpose. Use the resources below to help make this possible.​

Resources for Citizen Science Groups

Make Your Data Count Video Series

  • Make Your Data Count Video Series
    In 18 minutes, these training videos walk citizen scientists through the main concepts of the EPA QA Handbook to help them develop a project plan—a key step to producing quality data that can answer environmental and public health questions. ​​​

    1. Public Service Announcement​ (0:51)
    2. Overview (3:00)
    3. Six Key Questions (5:12)
    4. Building a Team (2:23)
    5. Documenting Your Data (2:25)​
    6. Developing Your Project Plan (4:23)
Essential Elements Fact Sheet



​Contact Us

Please email Sarah Wright, environmental laboratories manager, at sarah.wright@aphl.org with any questions or feedback on this toolkit.  

​​​​Toolkit Funding​

EPA LogoThe US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works to protect public health and the environment. Production of this toolkit​​ was supported by EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). ORD is the scientific research arm of EPA. Its leading-edge research informs Agency decisions and supports the emerging needs of EPA stakeholders, including the Agency’s state, tribal and community partners.​​

Toolkit Ack​now​l​e​​dgements

APHL appreciates the ​advice and review of these products by the following individuals who volunteered to participate in this project:

Jill Carr, Sarah Kirn, Anna Farrell, Henry Leibovitz, Andrew Steffens, Linbin Zhong, Nancy Sanchez de Coste, Yulia Carroll, Jordan Davis, Jake Adler, Kristyn Sylvia, Daniel Friedman, Yen-Chia Hsu, Sandra Mueller, Alexandra Mauer, Michelle Oakes, Kyle Spangle, Larry Yocom, Monica Ospina, Caren Cooper, Calvin Cupini, Marc Rumpler, Mark Tolbert, Nora Conlon, Sierra Hylton, Karin Skipper, Jessica Patronis, Christina Yoka, Jason Treutel, David Terpstra, Mary Robinson, Bonnie Buthker, Taryn Hurly, Juan P Maestre, Hunter Adams, Saeid Dindarloo, Jayson Prentice, Danelle Haake, Michael Ogletree, Eleanor Ojinnaka, Mike Sword, Darlene Cavalier, Dan Stanton, Kathryn Wangsness, Kelly Torres, Joe Guzman, Camila Rodriguez-Rojas, Vanessa Galaviz, Deldi Reyes, Ana Mascarenas, Abraham Zhan, Sung Choi, Virginia Tarango, Dan Johnson, John Clark, Daniel Johnson, Florence Gignac, Anna Berti Suman, Samantha Rowbotham, Ann Borda, Elizabeth Kudlacz, Devanshu Jha, Michelle Henderson,  Karen Mongoven, Sue Ann Sarpy, Maryann Dugan, Tony Russo, Kuki Hansen, Carolyn Hansen, Sarah Grace Longsworth, and Miguel Montoya.​​​