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Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People

On September 30, the White House will host a live-webcast forum on citizen science and crowdsourcing.

Only a small fraction of Americans are formally trained as “scientists.” But that doesn’t mean that only a small fraction of Americans can participate in scientific discovery and innovation.  Citizen science and crowdsourcing are approaches that educate, engage, and empower the public to apply their curiosity and talents to a wide range of real-world problems. To raise awareness of these tools and encourage more Americans to take advantage of them, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Domestic Policy Council will host Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People,” a live-webcast forum, on Wednesday, September 30th.

The forum will bring together citizen-science professionals, researchers, and stakeholders from local, state, Federal, and Tribal governments, as well as representatives of the academic, non-profits, and private sector to celebrate the contributions of crowdsourcing and citizen science to enhancing agencies’ missions, and scientific and societal outcomes. A smaller workshop later in the afternoon will also provide an opportunity for cross-sector discussions to spur bigger, better, and bolder citizen-science and crowdsourcing utilization across a number of important challenges, such as the preservation of pollinators, monitoring drought conditions, recovering from coastal flooding, and low-cost health instrumentation.

In addition, the forum fulfills the commitment made by the Obama Administration as part of the 2015 White House Science Fair to convene a forum to co-develop a vision for cross-sector scaling of citizen science and crowdsourcing. It also builds on the President Obama’s call-to-action in the 2013 Second Open Government National Action Plan for Federal agencies to harness the ingenuity of the public by accelerating and scaling the use of open innovation methods such as citizen science and crowdsourcing in a variety of national priority areas.

Citizen Science at the 2015 White House Science Fair
Tiye Garrett-Mills, 17, a citizen scientist from Denver, Colorado, shows her leaf-scanning concept to Astronaut Leland Melvin at the 2015 White House Science Fair. She also demonstrated her project to President Obama during the event. (Photo credit: Jenn Gustetic)

The Federal government has led a number of successful citizen science and crowdsourcing efforts, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) mPING Project for crowdsourced weather data. Since its launch in 2012, the mPING Project has received over 860,000 weather reports containing information on a variety of weather-related events, including rain, snow, ice, wind, tornadoes, floods, landslides, fog, dust storms, and more. These reports are used to improve weather computer models, forecast ground icing that could impact road maintenance and aviation operations, and predict the potential for in-flight icing. Many National Weather Service offices also display the data on large monitors and use the reports to fine-tune their forecasts.

The mPING Project is just one of the many case studies documented in the forthcoming Federal Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit, which will be released at the forum. And just as we’re excited to share our stories of citizen science and crowsourcing with you, we’re eager for you to share your stories with us! Tell us about your citizen-science and crowdsourcing projects and experiences here.

We hope that from 8 AM-12 PM EDT on Wednesday, September 30, you’ll tune in to to follow the livestream of the forum, and that you’ll participate by sending in your thoughts, comments, and questions to @WhiteHouseOSTP using the hashtag #WHCitSci.

Learn More

Jenn Gustetic is the Assistant Director for Open Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Kristen Honey is an ORISE Fellow in the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Lea Shanley is a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and co-Chair of the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science.