- By Adam Mazmanian
- Nov 30, 2014
Analyst Zach Scott decided to open the data collected through the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory to university-based projects using Challenge.gov. The first TRI University Challenge in 2013 ended up with eight projects and was successful enough to merit repeating in 2014.
Scott was inspired to turn to academia for ideas after his experience as a graduate student at Cornell University's Institute for Public Affairs, where students were encouraged to work on projects with public service organizations. As a platform for engaging the public in providing solutions to the government, Challenge.gov was "a great mechanism to use," Scott added. "It helped us reach more people than we would have left to our own devices."
One of his favorite projects is an educational game called "Toxic Release!" in which participants take on the roles of various stakeholders in an environmental crisis. The EPA's data helps make the game more realistic for the players, who act as health officials, industry professionals, regulators and more. The game and more than a dozen other projects that use TRI data were developed without any funding or grants from EPA.
In addition to conceiving and administering the TRI University Challenge project, Scott is responsible for IT support for the TRI Data Exchange, a voluntary program through which TRI data is disseminated to the states. Participation has grown from 18 to 48 states during his tenure as the program's leader. The work involves sharing data with a variety of systems, each with its own configuration.
Scott has also represented the EPA on governmentwide open-data policy committees and collaborated on the agency's Strategic Data Action Plan. And he has recently moved into enforcement work in the EPA's New York City office.
Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.
Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.
Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.