2017 Finalist
Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science
March 30, 2018

The Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (CCS) developed a collection of resources, designed by and for federal practitioners, focusing on two approaches to open innovation. Both approaches--crowdsourcing, in which organizations submit open calls for assistance from large groups of volunteer problem-solvers, and citizen science, in which public participants engage in any part of the scientific process--promote public engagement as a mechanism to address complex problems. These approaches represent new types of collaboration and engage members of the public, many of whom might not otherwise be consulted, in research and solution development, thus allowing researchers to gain valuable data and insights. Such open innovation in the federal government often faces challenges of awareness, culture, and institutional understanding. CCS initiatives help the federal government produce these new types of collaboration. CCS meetings and events have connected practitioners and built new capacity to develop broad federal understanding of the value of these approaches, as well as specific resources to support their implementation. Through a partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Commons Lab at the Wilson Center, and the General Services Administration, CCS delivers these resources to the federal community and public through a centralized, high-profile site at CitizenScience.gov. The site contains three dynamic components: a portal to CCS for federal workers, a how-to toolkit, and a catalog containing over 300 federal projects.

CCS mobilized 125 of its members to develop the toolkit, which offers guidance to federal practitioners on every aspect of a crowdsourcing or citizen science project from design through data analysis. Complemented by case studies, the toolkit provides the resources needed to pitch, launch, maintain, and scale projects. The catalog follows up on the toolkit and gives agencies the opportunity to detail the opportunities, results, and benefits of projects ranging from tracking weather to transcribing historical records. These resources are continually updated and improved by federal citizen science and crowdsourcing project managers to reflect the most current information. CCS also worked closely with the White House to shape a memo providing federal agencies with high-level support and guidance to further expand their use of crowdsourcing and citizen science. After five years of momentum-building by CCS and others, on January 6, 2017, President Obama signed the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which for the first time gives clear, broad authority to all federal agencies to conduct citizen science and crowdsourcing projects. This bi-partisan bill points to an even brighter future for these approaches in government.