Citizen science projects use the time, abilities and energies of a distributed community of amateurs to analyse scientific data. In doing so, such projects further both science itself and the public understanding of science. The National Maritime Museum helped develop Solar Stormwatch and Old Weather.

Solar Stormwatch won the Innovative category in the Best of the Web awards, presented at the Museums and the Web conference 2010, and I co-authored a paper for Museums and the Web 2011, Bringing Citizen Scientists and Historians Together.

Launched in February 2010, Solar Stormwatch is a website that invites members of the public to spot explosions on the Sun and track them across space to Earth, using video data from NASA’s twin STEREO spacecraft. Solar storms have the potential to interfere with communication satellites, upset GPS navigation systems and pose a health risk to astronauts on the International Space Station. Stormwatch volunteers mark any visible solar storms in the STEREO videos, and then trace the progress of a storm through composite images to calculate an accurate speed and direction. This feeds into a user-generated space weather forecast on Twitter.


Launched in October 2010, Old Weather is a website that asks the public to help improve reconstructions of past weather and climate across the world by finding and recording historical weather observations in handwritten Royal Navy ship logs. The work will influence future climate model projections and improve the database of weather extremes, risks and impacts.

Solar Stormatch was produced in-house at the Museum, in collaboration with the Citizen Science Alliance and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Illustrations by Alex Jarvis
Films by Mike Paterson
Game design consultancy by Six to Start

Old Weather was a collaboration with the Citizen Science Alliance, Met Office, The National Archives, and others.
Design by Vizzuality
Films by Mike Paterson and Beakus

My role? I oversaw my Museum’s contribution to the collaborative projects and chaired the board of the Citizen Science Alliance for its first two years. The Citizen Science Alliance is an international collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop projects that further scientific research and the public understanding of both science and the scientific process. The founding organisations were Oxford University, Johns Hopkins University, the Royal Observatory Greenwich and Adler Planetarium.