Hello and welcome to Public Lab! 🎈 We hear these questions a lot, so we wanted to collect them together on one page!
On this page:
How do I join Public Lab?
Why ask questions on Public Lab?
How do I do Public Lab stuff near me?
Who else is doing what I’m doing?
How do I contribute or collaborate at Public Lab?
Where can I find information on methods and tools?
Where can I get a kit or equipment for environmental monitoring?
How do I use the Public Lab website?
What is community science?
What other things might help when getting started with Public Lab?
## How do I join Public Lab?
Everyone is welcome to reach out or participate in our network, and "joining" can start with [signing up on this website](/signup) and creating a profile, or [attending an event](/events) like one of our [weekly Open Calls](/opencall).
Find more ideas on how to get started on our [Welcome page](/welcome).
## Why ask questions on Public Lab?
We're here to help connect you with the broad Public Lab network. Really -- any question is welcome, from environmental issues to troubleshooting or finding collaborators. We'll help connect your question to other related topics.
Check out our [Question and Answer system here](/questions), and [post your own question here](https://publiclab.org/questions/new?title=&tags=question%3Ageneral&template=question&redirect=question). For more information on how to post questions and why they're a great way to get involved, visit our page [About Public Lab Questions & Answers](/wiki/public-lab-q-and-a).
## How do I do Public Lab stuff near me?
Public Lab's strength comes from the thousands of people and communities we connect across the globe. Whether you're looking for local help, wanting to organize an event, or to join or share a project, you can start by looking for nearby people on PublicLab.org.
Find your region on this [map of people, posts, and pages on Public Lab](/map). Visit the [Public Lab Places](/places) wiki to see a gallery of local groups and gatherings around the world. Browse posts and wiki pages tagged to different continents on the [Locations](/locations) wiki. Or try searching for your city in the search bar at the top of any page on PublicLab.org.
## Who else is doing what I'm doing?
We organize questions and information on this website under topic areas, like air quality, land use, law and policy, and many more. People asking questions or doing work related to a particular topic make up a topic-based community. These topics are represented by words and short phrases called ‘tags’, which connect content on PublicLab.org. Find your topic of interest and people in the topic-based community by [browsing the tag pages](/tags), or from the [Topics](/topics) wiki page.
## How do I contribute or collaborate at Public Lab?
Public Lab is an open community -- you're welcome to simply start contributing in a variety of ways. Visit the [Contribute](/contribute) wiki page to see some examples of how to contribute and get started with any that interest you. Whether you’re looking to connect with people at public events, ask or answer questions, develop and test tools or software for environmental research, or write about community science, there’s something for everyone!
## Where can I find information on methods and tools?
Browse and search for various hands-on, do-it-together methods for investigating the environment on our [methods page](/methods).
Public Lab also manages several web-based tools for environmental research, including [MapKnitter](https://mapknitter.org/), [Infragram](https://infragram.org/), and [Spectral Workbench](https://spectralworkbench.org/).
## Where can I get a kit or equipment for environmental monitoring?
The [Public Lab Kits Initiative](/kits) creates, assembles, and distributes kits from the open research designs of the Public Lab community to foster and develop the reach of open, accessible science. You can purchase kits from the [Public Lab Store](http://store.publiclab.org/), where revenue directly supports the Public Lab nonprofit.
Also, many of the [methods and tools](/methods) described on PublicLab.org are open source and publish a parts list or a bill of materials, which you can use to shop around and source equipment yourself if you prefer.
## How do I use the Public Lab website?
PublicLab.org includes a variety of features that help the Public Lab community work together on environmental research, activism, technology design and documentation, and community organizing.
If you’re new to Public Lab, you can find out more about using the website on our [Website Basics](/website-basics) wiki page. There’s information on the website’s purpose, its major areas, and kinds of pages. You can also find more information about posting for the first time at our [First-Time Posters](/first-time-poster) wiki page. For more information on key features of the website and a directory to website-related resources, visit [How to use and improve this website](/website).
## What is community science?
At Public Lab, community science is science for everyone. It strives to use accessible and adaptable research tools and share data. It values a variety of lived and learned experiences in addressing issues with environmental health. It centers people with environmental concerns in their local community, where they define research questions, plan studies and collect data, and use that data to pursue accountability. And all kinds of people collaborate! People with experience in science, hardware and software, law and policy, education, grassroots community organizing, and more–various kinds of knowledge and practices come together in community science to work toward a healthier environment for all.
In an essay published in 2017, @Shannon and @gretchengehrke defined community science as
>“…collaboratively-led scientific investigation and exploration to address community defined questions, allowing for engagement in the entirety of the scientific process. Unique in comparison to citizen science, community science may or may not include partnerships with professional scientists, emphasizes the community’s ownership of research and access to resulting data, and orients towards community goals and working together in scalable networks to encourage collaborative learning and civic engagement.”
_[Civic Technology and Community Science: A new model for public participation in environmental decisions](https://revista.ibict.br/liinc/article/view/3899/3217)_
## What other things might help when getting started with Public Lab?
+ [Glossary](/glossary): for more information on words and terms that come up a lot around Public Lab.
+ [Sitemap](/sitemap): find out about some of the main pages on this website.