Wilson Center’s Science & Technology Innovation Program

‘Let Me Google That For You’ Bill Seeks to Abolish the National Technical Information Service Agency

In Commons Lab, Foresight, Governance, News and Events on April 14, 2014 at 4:30 pm

A Google search for the short title of the act, “Let Me Google That For You Act” found 440,000,000 results in 0.75 seconds.


Internet search engines have replaced the need for the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), a federal agency that collects and organizes scientific and technical information derived from government-sponsored research, according to a new Senate bill introduced in early April. The bill, called the “Let Me Google That For You” Act, would strike funding for the NTIS, which is part of the Commerce Department.

The NTIS was created more than 40 years ago as a way to disseminate knowledge from government funded research and reports. The need for NTIS before the onset of the internet age was clear, but today the introduced bill claims, “95 percent of the reports available from sources other than NTIS [are] available free of charge” from a website called, “www.google.com.” Currently the agency receives $67 million dollars in federal funding annually.



Science Magazine Outlines “Next Steps for Citizen Science”

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, News and Events, Reports and Publications on April 10, 2014 at 3:38 pm

As the field of citizen science grows rapidly, multiple factors are emerging to consider and troubleshoot. In a recent article, “Next Steps for Citizen Science,” published in the journal Science, the authors outline a roadmap for the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead as the field begins to emerge.

The authors’ main call is to build capacity in the field through open-source data management and analysis and project management and evaluation services. By fortifying these services, the field can address the skepticism that comes with the nature of non-professional data collection.


Training for data-gathering. Women from Komo (Republic of the Congo) learning to map in the forest, as part of the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) Intelligent Maps project. Photo Credit: Gill Conquest, EXCITES, University College London.


One of the many benefits of citizen science are the dual scientific and social goals that can be realized through community-driven research, according to the article. These initiatives capitalize on “under-utilized local knowledge to uncover or regulate air and water quality, deforestation, and rare species distribution questions.” Building infrastructure capacity to maintain these partnerships will strengthen the role science plays in society.

The authors say another challenge is the growing number of citizen science projects. As technology empowers and enables communities to begin their own projects we have seen a proliferation and a variety of repeat projects. This results in either repeat data collection or loss of power in large datasets. To avoid redundancy, the field needs to do a careful inventory of existing projects.

The article ends with an introduction to the newly formed international Citizen Science Association which aims to promote and support best practices in the field. This association could manage a network of regional “Citizen Science Centers” which would aid local projects in data collection, protocol development, data management, analysis and sharing, the authors say.

Check out the full article here:  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6178/1436.full


Digital Humanitarian Technology and Knowledge Politics

In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Governance, Guest Blogger, Reports and Publications on April 8, 2014 at 11:32 am

Technologies are usually developed to accomplish a handful of tasks, while mapping technologies are usually made to represent only a limited number of things. While they are being developed, and afterward when they evolve,developers make decisions to allow some things to be mapped – and, by consequence, others to be excluded. These decisions are usually made after some deliberation. These are knowledge politics: The struggle for how knowledge will come to be included or excluded in technologies. This line of thinking has a long tradition that shows how values, biases and norms come to be embedded in technologies.

In my article in the January issue of Geoforum, “Moments of Closure in the Knowledge Politics of Digital Humanitarianism,” I examine four moments when digital humanitarian technologies took one such development path over any others. I explore when there was a deliberation about how digital humanitarian technology should develop/evolve and look at the possible effects of those decisions.

These moments often occur in passing, without people considering the full impacts of such everyday decisions. After looking at these four moments, I argue that digital humanitarian technologies right now privilege a particular worldview that reflects the contexts in which the technologies evolve. This inclusion/exclusion is contested by those seeking more comprehensive inclusion of knowledge.


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