Wilson Center’s Science & Technology Innovation Program

Posts Tagged ‘Crowdsourcing’

Map For Ebola with American Red Cross

In Citizen Science, Crowdsourcing, Disaster Management on August 19, 2014 at 12:51 pm


The American Red Cross presents another opportunity to help First Responders on the ground through Open Street Map!

Will you be our crowd? We are mapping in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Multiple aid organizations, including the Red Cross, have deployed medical teams to identified sites in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and additional detailed base map data is needed to assist in the response. We will focus on mapping the Joru area, covering parts of southeastern Sierra Leone and western Liberia. No prior experience is necessary, but we recommend that you sign up for an account ahead of time at www.openstreetmap.org, if you do not already have one. You can learn more about the task beforehand here.

Not familiar with OpenStreetMap or the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team? Check out the mapping tutorials and watch the video “Why Map?” to learn more about crowdsourced mapping.

When: Friday, August 22nd, 2014    2pm – 6pm

Where: American Red Cross’s Board of Governors Room at 430 17th St. NW, Washington, DC

What: Bring your laptops if you are planning to map, and a mouse if you have one (we will bring extras if you don’t have a mouse). Food will be provided. If you can’t make it in person, you can map the task with us on any computer with internet access.

RSVP: For further information and to RSVP visit our Meetup page here.

Potential Benefits and Challenges of Crowdfunding in Mexico

In Crowdsourcing, Governance on June 12, 2014 at 3:03 pm

This is a guest post by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Borrowing from formal banking institutions in Mexico requires high securities and involves high interest rates. As a result, it’s difficult for entrepreneurs, and small and medium enterprises to establish and grow businesses via the traditional financial system. There is a need to fill this gap with affordable capital to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and ultimately, economic growth.

In this regard, crowdfunding can help to close the financing gap that has prevented innovation and entrepreneurism. Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people. Supported in recent years by increasing internet access, crowdfunding has been gaining momentum. Even when it has been out there for hundreds of years (e.g. church’s alms or tandas) new technologies now allow larger numbers of potential donors or investors.


Saint Barbara Almoloya Church, San Pedro Cholula, Puebla state, Mexico. Source: Wikimedia.

This year the Multilateral Investment Fund, member of the Inter-American Development Bank, published a report titled Crowdfunding in Mexico: The Power of Digital Technologies to Transform Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Economic Inclusion which analyzes the opportunities and challenges that Mexico faces to foster this practice. The document highlights signs of optimism for the success of crowdfounding like the country’s entrepreneurial culture, the independent creation of the Mexican Crowdfunding Association, economic reforms pushed through the current administration, and proximity to the U.S. capital markets.

Read the rest of this entry »

SciCast, Crowdsourcing Science and Technology Forecasting For Policy

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Foresight, Governance, Guest Blogger on May 23, 2014 at 10:03 am

SciCast is a crowdsourced forecasting platform for science and technology run by George Mason University. It is based on the idea that the collective wisdom of an informed and diverse group is often a better predictor than the judgment of a single expert.


Part of the Forecasting Science and Technology (ForeST) Program funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), SciCast questions are generated by its participants, as well as ForeST teams at Inkling Markets, George Mason University, BAE Systems and SRI International. KaDSci LLC helps scientists and policymakers formulate questions for SciCast, and Gold Brand Software, LLC is the systems integrator.

SciCast is the largest S&T forecasting effort we know of, crowdsourcing in real-time from a pool of thousands of scientists and enthusiasts.  Popular topics include Bitcoin, the search for MH370, chess, alternative energy, space sciences and honeybee colony collapse.  We also have a richly connected set of questions on Top500 computer speeds, and another set on open problems in theoretical computer science.

Read the rest of this entry »

DEBRIEF: Environmental Information – The Roles of Expert and the Public

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Governance, Uncategorized on May 13, 2014 at 11:00 am

This is a cross-blog post written by Muki Haklay, Professor of Geographic Information Science in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College London and Director of the UCL Extreme Citizen Science group.

On April 29th I gave a talk on, ‘Environmental Information – the Roles of Experts and the Public’ which is based on a forthcoming chapter in a book that will be the final output of the EveryAware project.

The talk (and the chapter) are building on the themes that I discussed in a presentation during the Eye on Earth user conference in Dublin in 2013, and earlier talks in Oxford Transport Studies UnitUCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and at University College Dublin School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Policy in 2010 (see also my reflection from the Eye on Earth summit in Abu Dhabi in 2011). In the talk I discussed the three eras of environmental information that can be identified: information produced by experts, for experts (1969-1992); information produced by experts, to be shared by experts and the public (1992-2012); and finally, information produced by experts and the public to be shared by experts and the public.  I covered some of the legal frameworks about production and use of environmental information, including laws and international agreements, as well as using specific demonstrations of the information systems themselves, as to demonstrate the practice. I also tried to suggest the trends that are behind the changes in the eras, and levels of education is quite central.

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Appiro Testifies Before Congress on Crowdsourcing, Innovation and Prizes While Wearing Google Glass

In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Governance, Technology and the Law, Uncategorized on May 1, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Mr. Singh wearing google glass while testifying.

As Congress moves forward with integrating more prizes and challenges for crowdsourcing scientific research, one expert from Silicon Valley raises important issues in the government’s approach.

Narinder Singh, the co-founder and chief strategy officer at Appiro, a cloud based Technology Company that uses crowdsourcing to solve problems, was invited to speak before the House Science Committee’s research subcommittee earlier this month. Singh addresses the lawmakers in a hearing on “Prizes to Spur Innovation and Technology Breakthroughs.” Singh, addressed the committee while wearing Glass, a new wearable lens from Google that allows the user to take images, record and retrieve information using voice commands.

After an introduction to Appiro, Singh described the company’s [topcoder] program, which is a community of 600,000 designers, developers and data scientists who serve as an exclusive “crowd”  for crowdsourcing client problems. Using this group, Appiro breaks down complex problems into smaller projects, presenting them to the crowd to solve and awarding cash prizes for the best solutions. To date Appiro has partnered with NASA, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Institutes of Health to design and implement a variety of challenges and prizes using the topcoder crowd.

Read the rest of this entry »

BirdReturns: Citizen Science Data Prioritizes Conservation of Bird Migration Habitat in California

In Citizen Science, Crowdsourcing, Governance on April 21, 2014 at 11:09 am



Waterfowl arriving in California’s Central Valley in the fall. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The dry Central Valley of California seems like the last place that would be rich in wetland bird habitat, but the region is a critical part of the Pacific migratory flyway, containing critical fragmented pockets of foraging grounds. A variety of shorebird species, with their adapted long legs and beaks, poke around in flooded lands to search for their meal that will sustain them till the next stop on their journey North.

A new initiative called BirdReturns, financed by The California Nature Conservancy, uses eBird citizen science bird observation data to collect information about habitats frequented by threatened species along the migratory pathway in the Central Valley. eBird is a successful citizen science program run out of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and asks participants from all over the world to submit bird observations online or via a smartphone application.  This eBird data is overlaid with satellite imagery of existing wetlands, allowing experts to target agricultural areas that are critical habitats for bird migration.

This image is taken from eBird’s website. It displays citizen science observations for the Central Valley of California.

Using this the data the BirdReturns program asks farmers to auction off their land to the Nature Conservancy for a couple weeks, agreeing  to keep it flooded to a level suitable for bird foraging (usually a couple inches will do). This model is called, “Payments for Ecosystem Services,” a popular economic approach to valuing nature for the regulatory services it provides like clean water and air.

Eric Hallstein, an Economist with the Nature Conservancy, recently told the New York Times that the data-intensive initiative is “disrupting the conservation industry by taking a new kind of data, crunching it differently and contracting differently.”

The BirdReturns program demonstrates the incredible value that large scale citizen science datasets can provide for critical conservation programs.


How to Stop a Pest Invasion

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing on April 1, 2014 at 10:58 am
Oak Processionary Moth

Oak Processionary Moth

The Oak Processionary Moth, or Thaumetopoea processionea, is a pest. Large populations can strip bare even the mightiest of oak trees as the moth’s caterpillars devour a tree’s leaves, while also posing skin and respiratory issues for human and animals.

The moths’ eggs reportedly arrived in the United Kingdom on young oak saplings imported in to West London from Continental Europe in 2006. Some say the moth’s range is also growing as climate change warms temperatures throughout Europe.

So what can you do when these pests come to town? In the United Kingdom, the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) conducts a Tree Health Survey, which engages interested citizens to alert scientists when pests like the Oak Processionary Moth are first sighted. OPAL’s citizen science effort extends the reach of the limited number of official forestry and plant health inspectors, giving them an early warning and the best opportunity to stop the pests. Read the rest of this entry »

Deadline Nears for Presidential Innovation Fellows Program

In Commons Lab, Foresight, Governance, News and Events on March 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm

The deadline is looming for the third round of Presidential Innovation Fellows! The third round of the program is focused on addressing three initiatives:

1) Making Digital the Default: Building a 21st Century Veterans Experience

2) Data Innovation: Unleashing the Power of Data Resources to Improve Americans’ Lives

3) By the People, for the People: Crowdsourcing to Improve Government

“This highly-competitive program recruits talented, diverse individuals from the innovation community and pairs them with top civil servants to tackle many of our nation’s biggest challenges, and to achieve a profound and lasting social impact,” according to the White House. Since August 2012, fellows have teamed up with those in government to develop new solutions to all manner of problems.

Think you’ve got what it takes? Applications are due April 7, 2014 — you can start the process here.

And be sure to check out our report on citizen science and government here.


Calling all Supporters of Citizen Science! A New Association Wants YOU!

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on March 6, 2014 at 8:37 am

sam poster_update

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 »

Commons Lab on Boston Public Radio

In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on February 24, 2014 at 11:16 am

With 4,464 votes, Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece, Houses at Auvers (1890), was the most popular painting selected for the crowdsourced exhibition. Credit: Open Source

With 4,464 votes, Vincent van Gogh’s Houses at Auvers (1890) was the most popular painting selected for the crowdsourced exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Photo credit: Open Source

Visitors to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts recently stepped into the role of curator by voting on their favorite Impressionist artwork for inclusion in an exhibit called “Boston Loves Impressionism.” Amanda Beland, a reporter for Boston Public Radio’s show “You Are Here,” covered the exhibition’s opening as part of a Feb. 9 segment dedicated to crowdsourcing and citizen science. For the show, Beland interviewed Anne Bowser, a research assistant at the Commons Lab, to better understand the motivations of volunteers who contribute to crowdsourcing projects.

Bowser explained that volunteer motivation is complex and changes over time. “At least initially, citizen science is usually connected to people’s existing hobbies,” she said. “So for example, somebody may start monitoring avian populations because they have a birdfeeder in their backyard and they like to look at birds. And then different motivations come into play as people continue, or look at different projects, or transform their participation from just gathering data, to doing some form of analysis or interpretation, or posing new questions with data sets, or becoming project leaders.”

Check out the full segment on Beland’s Soundcloud page.


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