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Collaboration Gives Federal Government Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing a New Home on the Web

This week, the White House announced the launch of, the new hub for citizen science and crowdsourcing initiatives in the public sector.

Yesterday, in conjunction with the 6th White House Science Fair, the White House announced that the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has partnered with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS), a Trust instrumentality of the U.S. Government, to launch as the new hub for citizen science and crowdsourcing initiatives in the public sector. screenshot
Screenshot of provides information, resources, and tools for government personnel and citizens actively engaged in or looking to participate in citizen science and crowdsourcing projects. This new site represents a collaboration among the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), GSA, WWICS, and employees from across Federal agencies to deliver a powerful approach to scaling citizen science and crowdsourcing approaches in the Federal government. serves as the connecting point to three resources for the Federal community: (1) the first official catalog of government citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, (2) the Federal Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing toolkit, and (3) two important Federal communities including the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (CCS), and the agency citizen science and crowdsourcing coordinators.

  1. The Catalog: This database, developed in response to a memorandum from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to the heads of Federal departments and agencies, provides a government-wide listing of over 300 citizen science and crowdsourcing projects supported by 25 Federal agencies. The catalog is designed to improve cross-agency collaboration, reveal opportunities for new high-impact projects, and make it easier for members of the public to find projects in which they can participate. Projects submitted to the catalog are validated for agency involvement by Federal employees. Consistent with open data and open government principles, GSA and WWICS are making the underlying data in the catalog available through an Application Programming Interface (API).
  2. The Toolkit: The Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit, released in September 2015, helps Federal employees use crowdsourcing and citizen science to advance the missions of their agencies. The toolkit provides a step-by-step guide for planning, designing and carrying out a crowdsourcing or citizen science project. It also provides case studies, including success stories and some of the challenges that developers faced in designing and carrying out citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, a library of external resources, and suggestions for legal and policy considerations. The toolkit was developed with the support and collaboration of more than 25 Federal agencies in collaboration with OSTP, the CCS, and GSA’s Open Opportunities Program.
  3. About the Federal Community: The CCS comprises representatives of more than 35 agencies and hundreds of Federal employees who meet regularly to share lessons learned and develop best practices for crowdsourcing and citizen science. A second, overlapping community is the citizen science agency coordinators who were appointed as a result of a memo from OSTP to the heads of Federal departments and agencies in September 2015.

Like GSA’s, another program that increases the government’s ability to reach American innovators of every kind, will continue to evolve to meet the needs of its users both inside and outside of the Federal government.

In conjunction with launching, the GSA and Wilson Center are also coordinating an effort to standardize data and metadata related to citizen science, allowing for greater information exchange and collaboration both within individual projects and across different projects, including projects tracked in similar databases outside of This effort, which builds off a number of activities outlined in the 2015 memorandum on citizen science from OSTP to Federal departments and agencies, represents a collaboration among Federal agencies, WWICS, and private sector organizations.

The launch of and the Federal government’s work to standardize data and metadata related to citizen science make it easier than ever before for Federal decision makers to leverage opportunities to use citizen science and crowdsourcing to advance their agency missions, and to connect citizen science work happening both inside and outside of the Federal government. The announcement of these efforts coincides with a number of exciting events in the broader citizen science community, including:

  • Yesterday, on April 13, the White House welcomed students from across the country for this year’s White House Science Fair. The Fair included several student citizen scientists—like Kimberly and Rebecca Yeung, who built a homemade “spacecraft” to collect data about the conditions in the stratosphere.


Kimberly (left) and Rebecca Yeung of Seattle, WA, ages 9 and 11, pose with astronaut Cady Coleman at the 2016 White House Science Fair. (Photo credit: Jenn Gustetic)
Kimberly (left) and Rebecca Yeung of Seattle, WA, ages 9 and 11, pose with astronaut Cady Coleman at the 2016 White House Science Fair. (Photo credit: Jenn Gustetic)
  • On April 16-17, the USA Science and Engineering Festival takes place in Washington, D.C., where several Federal agencies will be on hand to share their citizen science work.
  • The Citizen Science Association, with support from SciStarter, is supporting sites around the country to host events in celebration of “Citizen Science Day”. Events in celebration of Citizen Science Day will kick off on April 16 at the Festival, and will be held throughout the rest of April through the end of May.

Not everyone is a trained scientist, but the use of open innovation allows everyone to contribute to science, engineering, and technology. Citizen science and crowdsourcing are powerful approaches that engage the public and provide multiple benefits to the Federal government, volunteer participants, and society as a whole. Federal agencies and non-governmental organizations have already used these open innovation approaches to mobilize millions of people to accomplish scientific work and other tasks, from improving predictive models for coastal change and vulnerability to extreme storms, to tagging millions of archival records for the National Archives. Better collaboration across sectors, the launching of, and this week’s activities are all signs that citizen science and crowdsourcing will continue to deliver results for government, citizens, and society.

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

Kelly Olson is Senior Innovation Advisor at GSA where she oversees both and

Anne Bowser is the Co-Director of the Commons Lab at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.

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