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.
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.
In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on April 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm
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
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
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.
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
In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on March 6, 2014 at 8:37 am
Imagine a world where all people are able to understand, value and participate in science. This is the vision that inspires the Citizen Science Association (CSA), an emerging organization that will support organizers advancing scientific research that involves the public. It isn’t so hard to do. There are many prominent ornithological programs that engage bird watchers in research. These are not the only ones. There have been many scientific contributions of amateur astronomers. These are not the only ones. Right now, you could look at almost any scientific discipline, and if you look deeply enough and carefully enough you’re going to see some aspects of citizen science happening.
As announced at a February 16th AAAS meeting:
“The CSA is offering free inaugural membership for 2014 to grow, unite, and guide this global community of practice focused on public participation in citizen science. The CSA recognizes all forms of citizen science and focuses on building the community of practice involving those who organize volunteers. Whether organizers are scientists, educators, data managers, technology specialists, evaluators, or enthusiastic volunteers, the CSA welcomes those who want to benefit form a network based on the diverse practices of citizen science.”
The work of building the association is just beginning. While four committees have begun to coordinate planning, the CSA is soliciting the involvement and leadership of future members. Membership requires no financial contribution at this point, and people receive complementary membership by completing a short survey. According to the CSA, this survey will help the association understand the diverse needs, interests and expertise of the citizen science community; gauge the energy, initiative and commitment to CSA activities; and inspire potential funders. Read the rest of this entry »