Wilson Center’s Science & Technology Innovation Program

NASA Launches New Citizen Science Website

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Governance on October 28, 2014 at 4:26 pm



NASASolve debuted last month as a “one-stop-shop” for prizes and challenges that are seeking contributions from people like you. But don’t worry, you need not be a rocket scientist to apply. The general public is encouraged to contribute to solving a variety of challenges facing NASA in reaching its mission goals, from hunting asteroids to re-designing Balance Mass for the Mars Lander, there are multitudes of ways for you to be a part of the nation’s space program.

Crowdsourcing the public for innovative solutions is something that NASA has been engaged in since 2005. But as NASA’s chief technologist David Miller points out on the agency’s website, “NASASolve is a great way for members of the public and other citizen scientists to see all NASA prizes and challenges in one location.” The new site hopes to build on past successes like the Astronaut Glove Challenge, the ISS Longeron Challenge and the Zero Robotics Video Challenge. “Challenges are one tool to tap the top talent and best ideas. Partnering with the community to get ideas and solutions is important for NASA moving forward,” says Jennifer Gustetic, Program Executive of NASA Prizes and Challenges.

In order to encourage more active public participation, millions of dollars and scholarships have been set aside to reward those whose ideas and solutions succeed in taking on NASA’s challenges. If you want to get involved, visit NASASolve for more information and the current list of challenges waiting for solutions.

Why Citizen Science and Public Media Need to Get Together

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Foresight, Guest Blogger on October 3, 2014 at 4:47 pm

lilybuiThis is a cross-post, originally published in Medium, by Lily Bui. She is ​a researcher and M.S. candidate for MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. Most recently, she has been a STEM Story Project Associate at the Public Radio Exchange (PRX); the Executive Editor at SciStarter, PLOS CitizenSci, and Discover Magazine’s Citizen Science Salon. In her spare time, she ​tinkers with electronics and t​hinks of cheesy science puns.


Broadcasting, believe it or not, comes from farming.

In modern vernacular, “to broadcast” means to transmit information by TV or radio, but the verb’s original definition meant “to scatter (seeds) by hand or machine rather than placing in drills or rows.” It may or may not come as a surprise to you that broadcasting has just as much to do with farming and media as it has to do with citizen science.

[For this context, let’s regard citizen science as public involvement in inquiry, discovery, and construction of scientific knowledge, typically in the form of data collection, classification, or documentation.]

In 1792, Robert B. Thomas started the Old Farmers’ Almanac, a periodical circulated widely and regularly to farmers. Still in publication today, the Almanac serves two important purposes: (1) It acts as an objective reference for weather and astronomical predictions, sourcing its observations from the farming community. (2) It facilitates a space where the community can share advice, anecdotes, recipes, and more with each other.

(But what does this have to do with citizen science?)

Dear Colleagues and Friends of Commons Lab

In News and Events on September 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

Dear Colleagues and Friends of Commons Lab,

As many of you know, Lea Shanley has left the Wilson Center to begin a new position. She helped build Commons Lab to where it is today and we want to ensure the continued success of this work, which is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation.

Commons Lab is an important part of the portfolio of the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program, so I will be taking over as interim director for the next 4-6 months as we work through existing projects and explore new directions.

Elizabeth Tyson, whom many of you know, will remain and take on a role as New Projects/Technology Scout. At the beginning of November, Anne Bowser will return from her stay at Microsoft Research and assume a part-time position as Researcher, Data Science and Visualization.

Stay tuned and stay engaged with us. We want to hear from you regarding what we are doing, how we are doing, and where we need to go. Please feel free to contact me directly with ideas.


Dave Rejeski


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