Wilson Center’s Science & Technology Innovation Program

Posts Tagged ‘Crowdsourcing’

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

 

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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 Governance, Foresight, News and Events, Commons Lab 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

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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.

House Bill Raises Questions about Crowdsourcing

In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Governance on February 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm
source: Wikimedia Commons

source: Wikimedia Commons

A new bill in the House is raising some key questions about how crowdsourcing is understood by scientists, government agencies, policymakers and the public at large.

Robin Bravender’s recent article in Environment & Energy Daily, “House Republicans Push Crowdsourcing on Agency Science,” (subscription required) neatly summarizes the debate around H.R. 4012, a bill introduced to the House of Representatives earlier this month. The House Science, Space and Technology Committe earlier this week held a hearing on the bill, which could see a committee vote as early as next month.

Dubbed the “Secret Science Reform Act of 2014,” the bill prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from “proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.” If the bill is passed, EPA would be unable to base assessments or regulations on any information not “publicly available in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis.” This would include all information published in scholarly journals based on data that is not available as open source. Read the rest of this entry »

Commons Lab is Hiring!

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on January 17, 2014 at 5:45 pm

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The Science & Technology Innovation Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center is looking for a new Program Assistant to support the Commons Lab. This position will serve as the principal administrative support and research assistant to the senior associate who leads the Commons Lab. PDF of Vacancy Announcement

All qualified candidates may apply. Please visit the Wilson Center jobs page to review the full vacancy announcement for duties, requirements, and application procedures. The position announcement closes JANUARY 24, 2014.

EPA Launches New Citizen Science Website

In Citizen Science, News and Events on January 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

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Editor’s note: This is a re-post of an EPA news release initially published on January 9th, 2014.

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revamped its Citizen Science website to provide new resources and success stories to assist the public in conducting scientific research and collecting data to better understand their local environment and address issues of concern. The website can be found at www.epa.gov/region2/citizenscience.

“Citizen Science is an increasingly important part of EPA’s commitment to using sound science and technology to protect people’s health and safeguard the environment,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The EPA encourages the public to use the new website as a tool in furthering their scientific investigations and developing solutions to pollution problems.”

The updated website now offers detailed information about air, water and soil monitoring, including recommended types of equipment and resources for conducting investigations. It also includes case studies and videotapes that showcase successful citizen science projects in New York and New Jersey, provides funding opportunities, quality assurance information and workshops and webinars. 

The EPA Region 2 Citizen Science Program, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight federally recognized Indian Nations within New York State, welcomes the efforts of citizen scientists to better understand and protect the environment. By providing the tools to increase the quality of the data collected and assist in its interpretation, the EPA is helping the public achieve greater levels of environmental protection.

Visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/citizenscience today to explore the new Citizen Science website and sign up for our mailing list to receive regular updates on Citizen Science from EPA Region 2.

Critical Mass? How the Mobile Revolution Could Help End Gender-Based Violence

In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Guest Blogger on January 8, 2014 at 4:20 pm

GBV-mobile-phones

Editor’s note: This blog post is by Christopher Burns, the senior advisor and team lead for mobile access in the Office of Innovation and Development Alliances/Mobile Solutions at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and was originally posted at New Security Beat, the blog of the Environmental Change & Security Program at the Wilson Center.

The past three years – and more pointedly the past 12 months – have laid witness to monumental, if not heartbreaking, incidents of gender-based violence. The gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi last December; the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl left for dead in a pit latrine in Western Kenya last June; the mass sexual assault of women in Tahrir Square during the 2011 revolution in Egypt and since; all were high profile atrocities that ignited outrage around the world.

In the aftermath of each of these, mobile technology solutions and internet-based advocacy campaigns surged. It’s almost like clockwork: violence happens, a technology response follows. And 2013 has seen an explosion of new efforts.

This isn’t by coincidence. These web- and mobile-based technological retorts, from applications that make it easy to report and view information about attacks to “panic buttons,” are made possible by the mobile revolution and increased internet adoption, which bring stories of gender-based violence to more people than ever before and give us the ability to fulfill our visceral need to react, to do something, to drive change. Read the rest of this entry »

Connecting Grassroots and Government through the 2013 Open Government National Action Plan

In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Governance on December 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Have you ever wondered what the weather is like on Mars? Now you can find out — Sol, the galaxy’s first interplanetary weather application, integrates weather data collected by the Curiosity Rover on Mars with earth data, displaying weather on both planets in real time.

This app, used by astronauts and space enthusiasts alike, was developed for a challenge hosted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Founded in 2012, the annual Space Apps Challenge asks volunteers to solve real-world problems using open data. NASA’s Space Apps challenge was founded in response to the President’s 2011 Open Government National Action Plan, designed to engage the public in government activities.

The White House renewed the plan earlier this month, issuing The Open Government Partnership: Second Open Government National Action Plan for the United States of America. This report outlines 23 action points for supporting open government to increase public integrity, effectively manage resources, and improve public services. This final category includes a commitment to “Promote Innovation through Collaboration,” by creating an open innovation toolkit, offering new incentive prizes and challenges, and generally increasing crowdsourcing within the federal government. Read the rest of this entry »

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