White house highlights citizen science (1 of 3)

The Commons Lab will publish a three part blog series in celebration of the White House Event on Open Science and Open Innovation. Each article will highlight a different initiative announced during this forum. The first article in this series is an announcement of Citizen Science Day reposted from the Citizen Science Association.

The Citizen Science Association launched their new website today. Congratulations to all who worked on the white house forum, and also the CSA. 


Citizen Science Day announced

In conjunction with today’s White House forum, “Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People,” we are pleased to announce efforts of the Citizen Science Association (CSA) to coordinate a nationwide Citizen Science Day.With support from SciStarter and in partnership with numerous national organizations, CSA will provide planning resources and promotional materials for sites around the country to host events to bring attention to citizen science impacts and participation opportunities.A major celebration will be held on April 16th, 2016, in conjunction with the National Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. This will kick off a series of citizen science “open houses” and activities to be locally-sponsored by science centers, museums, libraries, universities and schools, and federal agencies around the country.Imagine such activities as:

  • Zoos hosting a series of guest speakers addressing wildlife-related project research;
  • Parks conducting a bioblitz;
  • Festivals engaging visitors in citizen science and crowdsourcing activities;
  • Libraries displaying SciStarter on a kiosk to connect people with projects;
  • Science centers hosting a forum to discuss the implications of a project’s findings.

Already interested in hosting an event? Add your activities to SciStarter’s online calendar.

We are pleased to partner with the following organizations in planning and promoting Citizen Science Day celebrations:

Federal Community of Practice for Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC)
Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA)
Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE)
Astronomy Magazine
Discover Magazine


Citizen Science & The Law: A New Web-Enabled Policy Tool

court-house-25061_640Navigating legal and administrative barriers while implementing citizen science and crowdsourcing projects at the federal level can be complex and confusing. The Commons Lab published a report earlier this year, Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science and the Law: Legal Issues Affecting Federal Agencies, which examined in depth the legal issues, such as the Paperwork Reduction Act and Antideficiency Act, that federal citizen science initiatives will have to comply with. This excellent research produced a wealth of knowledge on the topic.

In order to make it more accessible we condensed the 116 page report into a web-enabled policy tool which allows federal project managers navigate and understand these issues before they embark on citizen science initiatives. The tool is hosted on the Wilson Center website and may be accessed here.

Science Hack Day DC Summary

PoliConnect, the Policy Award winners. In 31 hours the team created a platform to facilitate connection between policy makers and experts advice.


We are happy to announce an incredibly successful first-ever DC Science Hack Day!

Quick Statistics:

  • Over 100 people attended
  • Around 15 hackers stayed through the night
  • 13 hacks were produced — details can be found on the wiki here: http://sciencehackday.pbworks.com/w/page/96114032/dchacks2015
  • Incredible gender, age and race diversity. Ages 10 – 80!
  • Government employees were highly represented — with lightning talks from EPA, NIH, State Department, NASA and participants from Department of Commerce, different branches of the military, OMB and NARA

Commons Labs favorite hacks (but they were all so incredible….):

  • LickitySplit — citizen science to the rescue! This team 3D printed the casing for a spectrometer to analyze your spit instantly and visualize the data.
  • If no one hears it — NASA scientists and arts team up to bring you an sound landscape of deforestation using freely available landsat data. Each tone represents a different type of deforestation.
  • PoliConnect — a platform to anonymously connect policy makers with policy experts. The Commons Lab has invited this team to come back to the Wilson Center to demo their hack to a policy audience! Test it out here: http://www.policonnect.org/

Worthy social media streams to check out:

In the coming weeks we will be putting out a publication highlighting each hack and why these types of open participation models are important to every field, not just to science and technology. Stay tuned.

Our amazing judges for the event (L-R): Lakita Edwards, NEA; Steven Kostant, TidePool Media; Ariel Waldman, Founder Science Hack Day; Beth Beck, NASA; Greg Godbout, EPA


REPORT RELEASE: Crowdsourcing and Legal Issues Affecting Federal Agencies


The Commons Lab is excited to announce a long-anticipated publication by Privacy Lawyer Robert Gellman on Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science, and the Law: Legal Issues Affecting Federal Agencies.

This report reviews the legal and regulatory issues that federal agencies face when they engage in citizen science and crowdsourcing activities. It identifies relevant issues that most federal agencies must consider, reviews the legal standards, suggests ways that agencies can comply with or lawfully evade requirements, and discusses practical approaches that can ease the path for federal citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, including procedural activities, cooperative actions, legislative changes, and regulatory adjustments.

The Commons Lab plans to print a policy memo based on the key points in the report, to be released this summer during a Wilson Center event. In addition we will be digitizing the legal work flow that federal practitioners must undertake to comply with federal regulations when beginning a citizen science or crowdsourcing effort. Check back with us soon!

To download the whole report: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/crowdsourcing-citizen-science-and-the-law-legal-issues-affecting-federal-agencies

Event: DC Science Hack Day


The Commons Lab is excited to announce Washington DC’s first ever Science Hack Day, to be held May 16th & 17th at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Science Hack Day a free, 48-hour event where civic minded and creative people come together to prototype innovative ideas using government data, problem sets, tools, design, and SCIENCE!  Science Hack Day has been 46 times in 17 different countries, but never before in Washington, DC. It is time for the brilliant and passionate people of this nation’s capital came together in the same physical space to see what they can prototype in 48 consecutive hours. Designers, developers, scientists and anyone who is excited about making things for and with science are welcome to attend – no experience in science or hacking is necessary, just an insatiable curiosity.

The mission of Science Hack Day is to get excited and make things with science! People organically form multidisciplinary teams over the course of a weekend: particle physicists team up with designers, marketers join forces with open source rocket scientists, writers collaborate with molecular biologists, and developers partner with school kids. By collaborating on focused tasks during this short period, small groups of hackers are capable of producing remarkable results.

If you would like to join DC’s Science Hack Day, or would like to know more about this exciting event, please visit the official website at: dc.sciencehackday.org


Sat May 16 9:00am – Sun May 17 4:00pm

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004

RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dc-science-hack-day-2015-registration-15898702447
Directions to the Wilson Center

This event was made possible through the generosity of our sponsors, including the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, and the collaborative power of the Kennedy Center. SHD was created by Ariel Waldman and is an “open source” event, to be replicated in any city!

White House Recognizes Citizen Science, CSA Commitments, at Science Fair

This post is re-blogged from the Citizen Science Association. The original post can be found here

Washington, D.C. ­­(March 23rd, 2015)– Citizen science received some high level attention today when plans were unveiled to install a new rain gauge in the First Lady’s Kitchen Garden.

This rain gauge represents far more than just a Pennsylvania Avenue data point for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS), a citizen science network of over 20,000 active participants who serve as the largest source of daily precipitation data in the United States. Announced in conjunction with the White House Science Fair, this commitment points to high-level recognition of citizen science as a powerful platform for science education.

CoCoRaHS founder, Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken, was on hand for the White House Science Fair. Doesken, also a member of the Citizen Science Association Board of Directors, says: “This fair clearly shows how the youth of our national are exploring the frontiers of science.  But people of all ages and backgrounds are also helping advance scientific research, education and discovery.  Today, opportunities abound for any of us to be “citizen scientists” — contributing through our own back yard and neighborhood observations or helping scientists analyze and interpret complex systems.  There are so many opportunities and they help make science very real and relevant.”

The Citizen Science Association (CSA) is leading the charge to support excellence in education through citizen science. As outlined in a document released today by the White House, CSA is creating resources to help citizen science projects excel at supporting education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“Citizen science represents a transformative opportunity for both formal and informal science education,” says Sarah Kirn, from Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Co-Chair of CSA’s Education Working Group. “Through citizen science, educators have the opportunity to design experiences that immerse learners in the practices, concepts, and knowledge of science, but these experiences must be carefully constructed to achieve both scientific and learning outcomes.”

To this end, the CSA will work over the coming year to highlight projects representing exemplary practices in education through real-world research. CSA will also work withSciStarter to align 500 projects with standards for educational practices in science and engineering.

Some exemplary work is already receiving attention by the White House. In addition to CoCoRaHS, citizen science efforts highlighted in White House Science Fair exhibitions andannouncements include:

  • Work by 17-year old Tiye Garrett-Mills, a Teen Science Scholar at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, to develop low-cost instrumentation for leaf vein scanning and identification
  • Commitments by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to distribute Quest materials to help 4th graders and their families use eBird to connect to nature as part of President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park
  • An announcement of a new Citizen Science Tool lending library organized by SciStarter and Public Lab
  • The National Ecological Observatory Network’s “Project BudBurst” will offer a new online course to support citizen science at wildlife refuges
  • Esri will release a free open crowdsourcing app designed to help teachers, students, and youth groups easily create their own projects, report observations, and explore them on a dynamic map

Everyone is also encouraged to add their own young scientists’ citizen science projects to the White House Science Fair map:https://crowdsource.storymaps.esri.com/stories/science-fair

President Obama, commenting on the White House Science Fair, said: “There’s a reason so many young people love science.  It’s fun, it’s fascinating, and it helps us solve the mysteries of our world.   I want more boys and girls across America to get the chance to study science, technology, engineering and math – and maybe have the opportunity to go on to careers in those fields, too.  So I’m glad so many organizations are stepping up to support STEM education.  When we invest in our young people, we invest in our future.”

Want to get involved?

  • To find a project to participate in, check out a list of over 1000 projects on SciStarter.
  • To help advance education through citizen science, consider joining (for free) theCitizen Science Association.


Today’s event will be livestreamed, beginning at approximately 10am:www.whitehouse.gov/live

Follow on Twitter: #WHScienceFair

Tracking a Changing Climate Workshop Summary

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)

Continue reading “Tracking a Changing Climate Workshop Summary”

How Do You Communicate Your Science?

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3 49 47 PMDoes the media you use  change depending on the audience?  Would you like to  know how to reach your target audiences (e.g.,  resource managers, the public, policy makers) more  effectively?

The Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia is seeking participants for an academic study.  They have created an online survey that asks how participants learn about current scientific studies, which resources they prefer and trust (like journals or newspapers vs. radio programs), and from which resources they would like to see more information.  The goal is to take the results and publish a paper that informs scientists about which methods are best for reaching specific target audiences, as well as identifies gaps in communication between scientists and these targets.

If you would like to participate in the survey, it only takes about 10 minutes to complete online, and does not require any identifying information so your answers are completely anonymous.

The link to the survey is: http://UBCSciComm.questionpro.com/.  (They are especially interested in getting input from policy makers, governmental and NGO scientists, and natural resource managers, so please pass this on to anyone in those groups.)  If you do fill out the survey, it works better on a computer than a smartphone, due to the survey software. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email them at: science.survey.ubc@gmail.com

Citizens and Scientists: An Engaging Relationship

Watsonville Wetlands Watch

While it is clear that citizen science has revolutionized the methodology behind collecting and analyzing data, how have these processes impacted the traditional nature of scientists whose conduct of research is often socially detached and highly sophisticated? As the relationship between citizens and scientists continues to evolve, their collaborative role in the production of knowledge has become the topic of new research by Jennifer Shirk and Scott Peters at Cornell University.

Peters and Shirk are exploring the complex social relationship between the interests of scientists and their engagement with the public during the conduct of citizen science. By examining the work done by nine PhD scientists, who have significant involvement in citizen science projects, they found that this relationship goes well beyond aggregation and interpretation of data. In fact, the relationship of scientists and their citizen counterparts has developed into one that combines diverse perspectives to facilitate an integrated dialogue for learning and action. The results of the study will be presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2015 Annual Meeting in February.

Dr. Shirk will be panelist at the Tracking a Changing Climate: Citizen Science Contributions to the National Climate Assessment event at the Wilson Center on November 18th. As Program Manager for CitizenScience.org at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Dr. Shirk supports a community of practitioners who lead, manage, implement and research citizen science projects. Continue reading “Citizens and Scientists: An Engaging Relationship”

NASA Launches New Citizen Science Website



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. Continue reading “NASA Launches New Citizen Science Website”