Federal Catalog of Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Projects Hits 352 Projects and 26 Agencies

How do federal agencies engage the public as partners in accomplishing their diverse missions? To understand the role of the public in federal science, one could turn to the Federal Catalog of Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science projects, which now hosts 352 projects that engage the public in useful and creative ways. 

Last year the U.S. Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science launched at the final Science Fair hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Included in is the Federal Catalog of Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Projects and two other resources: a toolkit for designing and planning projects and a community page describing how to join the community. At the time there were 301 projects in the inventory from 25 agencies.

This year the Catalog reached 352 Projects from 26 Agencies, thanks in part to the addition of the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The Catalog now hosts 64 projects sponsored by NSF including Cyanotracker, which encourages local people to look for harmful algal blooms on inland waters and report them using wireless sensors installed strategically around lakes and ponds in the state of Georgia. Another NSF funded project called the ECLIPSEMOB is crowdsourcing the August 2017 solar eclipse to detect low-frequency radio wave propagation.

The Catalog was created by the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center, and over the years U.S. Federal Agency Citizen Science Coordinators, working in conjunction with OSTP, populated the Catalog to make sure it reflected Federal Agency initiatives and projects accurately. Currently it is managed in collaboration with the General Services Administration (GSA) as part of their Innovation Portfolio. This year the GSA is hosting a full-time federal employee to help develop and iterate on the existing resources on and the Catalog.

Beyond being a place of discovery and coordination the Catalog can also serve as an important reporting instrument for the OSTP, should it be reinstated by the current Executive Administration. In December 2016 the Senate passed S.3084 the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which requires all Federal Agencies, under pre-established annual reporting by OSTP, to now report on their citizen science and crowdsourcing activities within two years of its passing. The Catalog can serve as an excellent way to provide Federal Agency Coordinators with a way to communicate and characterize their initiatives to OSTP for this now mandatory reporting.

In the years to come, the catalog will continue to showcase the work of the Federal government, including the GSA and the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, in this continually evolving citizen science and crowdsourcing space.