Crowdsourcing

GSA builds hub for agency citizen science projects

Shutterstock image (by Makkuro GL): crowdsourcing innovation.

The General Services Administration has launched a companion site to Challenge.gov that centralizes all the resources agencies can use for crowdsourcing and citizen science projects.

The new site, CitizenScience.gov, is intended to be a central hub for agencies running both crowdsourcing and citizen science resources and initiatives. It features a catalog of agency-sponsored projects; a toolkit with resources on how to organize and manage those projects; and access to a community of hundreds practitioners across the federal government. A post on the White House blog said the new site brings together the Office of Science and Technology Policy, GSA, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and employees from across federal agencies.

"Challenge.gov and CitizenScience.gov are different but complimentary programs in the federal government's efforts to increase open innovation and public engagement while addressing critical issues," Kelly Olson, senior innovation advisor and Challenge.gov director, said in an email to FCW.

Organizations submit an open call for voluntary assistance from a large group of individuals for online, distributed problem solving, according to a DigitalGov blog post. Citizen science, on the other hand, asks the public "to participate in the scientific process to tackle real-world problems."  Volunteers can ask research questions, conduct experiments, collect and analyze data, interpret results, make new discoveries, develop technologies and more, GSA said.

Listing projects in the CitizenScience.gov database is voluntary, she said, and no prizes are offered as  there are on Challenge.gov. However, Olsen said some citizen science projects already have helped agencies secure significant help from citizen volunteers. For instance, said the National Archives' Citizen Archivist Dashboard allows people to help classify historical records and documents much faster than could be done otherwise. More than 170,000 volunteers indexed 132 million names from the 1940 Census records in just five months, she noted.

Challenge.gov, meanwhile, is the official listing for all federal crowdsourcing challenge competitions, she said. Agencies can use Challenge.gov at no cost, beyond that of any prizes offered.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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