On July 20, the General Services Administration partnered with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to host the Open Innovation Forum. The event was themed around building equitable partnerships and it celebrated OSTP’s biennial report to Congress that covers the federal government’s prize competitions, crowdsourcing and citizen science initiatives in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 (the report is known as Implementation of Federal Prizes and Citizen Science Authority).
GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan and Dr. Alondra Nelson, the head of OSTP, spoke at the event, which was attended virtually by people both in and outside government who have been engaged in prize competitions and citizen science efforts. Together, they celebrated public engagement, the role of community-led partnerships, and equitable forms of participation in innovation and scientific discovery.
GSA is the home of Challenge.Gov and CitizenScience.gov —two platforms that directly engage the public to contribute ideas and input to address some of our nation’s pressing problems. Over the past decade, GSA has invested in developing these platforms that federal agencies are increasingly using to directly engage the public in prize competitions and citizen science.
Carnahan emphasized how good ideas can come from anywhere, saying “In a democracy, citizens have both rights and responsibilities, and governing isn’t something done to you, it’s something we’re all engaged in. But it’s the job of those of us working in government to create easy and impactful ways to engage the public and generate new ideas.”
Dr. Nelson emphasized how valuable prize competitions, crowdsourcing, and citizen science are for creating new ways for the public to partner with the federal government.
“These tools can help us to better understand both what science is capable of and what its limitations may be. Those are both equally important. Citizen science, prize competitions, challenges, and crowdsourcing also can change communities' relationships to science and innovation for the better. These tools create two-way streets of communication where communities can raise what's important to them and figure out solutions that work for them. Scientists and technologists can make their work relevant and rounded in those communities, increasing the reach and impact of our science and innovation, and thus providing benefits to everyone.”
Dr. Jedidah Isler, Principal Assistant Director for Science and Society at OSTP, summarized the report, which featured a record 172 prize competitions and challenges and 97 crowdsourcing and citizen science activities.
The event concluded with a practitioners’ panel, facilitated by Dr. Jarah Meador. The panel featured five projects included in the biennial report that exemplify the theme of building equitable partnerships:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Forecasting Hub (Epidemic Prediction Initiative)
- Department of Transportation (DOT) - Inclusive Design Challenge
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Partnerships for Environmental Public Health
- United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - RISE Challenge
Federal employees can join the Challenge & Prize Community of Practice or the Federal Crowdsourcing & Citizen Science Community of Practice to join dedicated and passionate civil servants encouraging innovation in government.
Be sure to subscribe to receive new GSA blog alerts.
E-newsletter: Challenge.Gov News