Wilson Center’s Science & Technology Innovation Program

Archive for the ‘News and Events’ Category

Tracking a Changing Climate Workshop Summary

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Governance, Guest Blogger, News and Events on December 15, 2014 at 3:40 pm

How can Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing play a role in tracking our changing climate?  The Commons Lab collaborated with US Global Climate Research Program and the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science to find out how a system like this could work.  The vision for the sustained National Climate Assessment involves identifying a set of indicators – or physical, ecological, and societal variables – that track climate changes, impacts and responses.  We held a public roundtable (November 18th) and an invitation-only workshop (November 19th) to explore the following questions:

  • Which indicators could benefit from the incorporation of citizen science—10 years from now, five years from now, and today?
  • What existing citizen science projects can be leveraged? Are there opportunities for new uses of citizen science?
  • How can citizen science and indicators be used together to help a range of audiences better understand climate change?

A graphic recording of the roundtable discussions. (Credit: Emily Cloyd)

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Reports From the Field: European Citizen Science Association

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Governance, News and Events on December 10, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Berlin, Germany


Photo Credit: Hwa Ja Goetz / Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Last week in Berlin marked the third official convening of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) hosted by the Museum für Naturkunde. Project managers, academics, policy makers and technologists met to discuss the state of the field in the EU, funding opportunities, governance issues and share projects. The vision for the ECSA is to advance and promote a Europe where citizens are valued and empowered to take a key part in the growth of knowledge and sustainability.

The group defined challenges like respecting cultural differences, maintaining volunteer interest, avoiding redundancy, closing the gap between projects and policy and the appropriate use of technology.  Opportunities were highlighted in the overwhelming interest in creating and maintaining ECSA, strong core organizations and a wide diversity of citizen science topics. Questions left to be addressed were how to:

  • Accelerate current progress
  • Support national citizen science communities across Europe
  • Provide tools and solutions but also guidance
  • Close the gap between north-south participation in political engagement and attitude

The second day focused on how to best integrate citizen science data into the existing European Union Biodiversity Observation Network.  The 1998 Aarhus Convention by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, outlines the rights of citizens to participate in environmental decision making. The EUBON  plays an important role in providing citizens with access to environmental data collected by the government and partner organizations. Majority of the talks focused on what the architecture of a system like this would look like and culminated in breakout sessions addressing the User Experience needs of citizen scientists and database interoperability.

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EVENT: Tracking a Changing Climate with Citizen Science

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Governance, News and Events on November 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm


Tuesday, November 18th 2014, 2:00-4:30pm, 6th Floor Auditorium 

The vision for the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) includes creating a set of indicators – measures of key physical, ecological, and societal variables and values – that would inform and support decision-making about climate changes, impacts, vulnerabilities, and responses. This round-table will explore ways in which crowd-based approaches, such as citizen science and community-based monitoring, are and can be used to support indicators or indicator systems of climate change, impacts and response.



Dr. Virginia Burkett, Acting Associate Director, Climate and Land Use Change, US Geological Survey


Dr. Richard Spinrad, Chief Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Panel Discussion

Dr. Julia Parrish, University of Washington

Dr. Jennifer Shirk, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Dr. Tim Watkins, National Park Service

Dr. Duncan McKinley, US Forest Service

Moderator: Jenn Gustetic, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Please RSVP here.

This event will be live streamed during the keynote and panel discussion; registration is not required for online participation. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Startup Government Challenge Festival

In Governance, News and Events on May 20, 2014 at 2:53 pm


Handup, is a “tech startup with a social mission” according to their website. The startup partners with homeless organizations in San Francisco to deliver resources to homeless and at risk people in the community.  They also walked away with $150,000 in seed funding after winning The Challenge Cup Festival hosted by the incubator 1776dc.

The Challenge Cup: Startup Government, hosted by 1776dc, brought together government employees and 64 startup companies to showcase how startups could aid government. These startups were competing with each other to win the cup, which awarded the startup seed funding and provided entrepreneur guidance. The event was sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association and held at the US Chamber of Commerce.

Dan Tangherlini, administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, and Cathy Lanier, Chief of Police for the District of Columbia, both noted the need for innovation, but said startups must approach their pitches with policy in mind. This disconnect indicates a larger issue at the nexus of technology and government:  Technology moves at exponential speeds, while the regulatory and policy frameworks are designed to move slowly.  The challenge lays in reconciling the two.

Others pointed out  that federal agencies tend to be risk averse, while startups are inherently risky, moving quickly and iterating different solutions to a problem.

Jessica Rosenworcel, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, put forth the example of “sandboxes” in software development — experimental parts of an application that allow developers to play with different solutions to problems and see which one is most successful without disrupting service.  Rosenworcel mentioned that agencies should adopt this model as a compromise to their risk-averse tendencies.

The event ended with advice from government employees on the panel to startups: Technology is never enough to solve a problem; startups need to help agencies think through how they would scale their ideas in order to see them adopted.

EVENT: New Terrorism Meets New Media

In Commons Lab, Governance, News and Events, Uncategorized on May 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Hamas Advertising on Twitter. Source: Weimann, Gabi 2014


The Internet proves to be a useful instrument for modern terrorists who use it for a wide range of purposes – from recruitment, radicalization and propaganda to data-mining and online instruction and training. However, cyber-savvy terrorists found the need to update their online presence. There is a clear trend of terrorist “migration” to online social media, including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Moreover, this trend is expanding to the newest online platforms such as Instagram, Flickr, and others. Rephrasing von Clausewitz, the new media should be regarded as “an increasing continuation of war by other means.” This new arena of open and social systems presents new challenges and requires dramatic shifts in strategic thinking regarding national security and countering terrorism.

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EVENT: Data Journalism – Principles and Pitfalls of Turning Data into Stories

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on April 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm
Noah Veltman

Noah Veltman, WNYC Data News 

WNYC Data Journalist Noah Veltman will discuss the principles and pitfalls of turning data into stories, including how it relates to citizen science efforts.

Topics that will be explored:

  • Finding/cleaning data
  • The different flavors of bad data
  • How newsrooms design visualizations
  • What not to do when making a map
  • How to lie with charts

Noah Veltman is a developer and datanaut for the WNYC Data News Team. He builds interactive graphics, maps and data-driven news apps, and spends a lot of time spelunking in messy spreadsheets. Prior to WNYC, he was a Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow at BBC News in London.  Other projects by Noah can be found here: http://noahveltman.com/sandbox.

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Friday, May 2, 2014
9:00-11:00 am
6th Floor Conference Room
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004

Directions to the Wilson Center: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/directions

EVENT: Environmental Information – The Roles of Experts and the Public

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, News and Events on April 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm
Muki Haklay, University College London

Muki Haklay, University College London

Access to environmental information and its use in environmental decision-making are central pillars of environmental democracy. Yet, not much attention is paid to the question of who is producing it, and for whom? By examining the history of environmental information, since passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, three eras can be identified: information produced by experts, for experts (1969-1992); information produced by experts to be shared by experts and the public (1992-2011); and information produced by experts and the public to be shared by experts and the public. At the same, there has been unprecedented change in information is accessed and shared.

Please join us for a discussion with Muki Haklay about how this information informs environmental decision-making, with special attention to the role of geographical information and citizen science. Haklay is a professor of Geographical Information Science at University College London and he co-directs the Extreme Citizen Science group. More information can be found here.


April 29, 2014
10:0-11:30 am
5th Floor Conference Room
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
RSVP here: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/environmental-information-the-roles-experts-and-the-public
Directions to the Wilson Center: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/directions

The event will be live webcast, for which you do not need to RSVP.  To watch during the event follow this link here: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/environmental-information-the-roles-experts-and-the-public

This event is co-hosted with the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Wilson Center.






‘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.




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