Earth Challenge 2020: Research Questions to Help Citizen Science Scale

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN), the U.S. Department of State, and The Wilson Center are launching Earth Challenge 2020 (EC 2020) as the world’s largest ever coordinated citizen science campaign. EC 2020 will collaborate with existing citizen science projects and build capacity for new activities as part of a larger effort to grow citizen science worldwide.

As a global call to action, Earth Challenge 2020 can become a nexus for collecting and harmonizing one billion data points in any research areas that impact environmental and human health. At the same time, EC2020 seeks to identify a small set of “core” research questions as practical opportunities for communities to converge around. For each research question EC2020 will recruit a team of scientists, educators, and others to help design a coordinated approach to “answering” the question through citizen science and related activities, including by identifying

  1. What existing data we can leverage towards answering these critical questions
  2. What additional data we can collect through an Earth Challenge 2020 mobile application released in April 2020

Each research team should help leverage and bring together existing projects, data sets, and communities, while also identifying high value opportunities for new tools and other resources that can advance work in this area.

Results of the Earth Challenge 2020 public call

A public call asking about “the most important issues impacting environmental and human health” was launched through the project website, social media, and in-person meetings between October and December 2018. EC2020 conducted an initial analysis of these responses, and it shows seven broad themes that the public are concerned about, and how many questions related to these themes were submitted:

  • Pollution
  • Climate
  • Water Quality
  • Air Quality
  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Energy
  • Hazards and Natural Disasters

Call to action: EC2020 partners asked to evaluate the research questions

Building on this work, partners of the EC2020 are invited to help evaluate research questions that should:

  • Help meet a critical research need in environmental or/or human health.
  • Represent an opportunity for citizen science to add significant value to traditional research approaches, and/or information from other sources like Earth observations.
  • Align with opportunities for people to leverage the citizen science research process and data to drive change through education, empowerment, and/or action.

EC2020 is now asking for help evaluating these suggestions and choosing concrete questions that will help achieve geographic diversity, global impact, strong partnerships with existing citizen science projects, and are feasible to answer through citizen science and related sources of information.

EC2020 will be sending out additional materials soon, but in the meantime wanted to assess the availability of its partners to participate in a group listening/feedback session on Friday February 1, 2-3pm ET or Monday Feb 4th 9-10am ET. EC2020 is also happy to set up an individual time to talk in late January or early February, or receive written feedback either instead of, or in addition to, these calls.

Please contact to express your preference on how you want to give your feedback.

For more information about Earth Challenge 2020, please see this web page on the Earth Day Network website.

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