Article published in the Policy forum of Interactions Magazine. Citizen science projects must protect the privacy of volunteers by informing them about potential threats and implementing safeguards. Privacy laws, policies, and standards exist to guide developers of citizen science applications toward best practices.
Published by the Commons Lab, "New Visions in Citizen Science" showcases seventeen case studies that offer a mosaic view of federally-sponsored citizen science and open innovation projects, from in-the-field data collection to online games for collective problem-solving. This report offers a sampling of different models that support public contribution, potential challenges, and positive impacts that projects can have on scientific literacy, research, management, and public policy.
Leaders in disaster response are finding it necessary to adapt to a new reality. Although community actions have always been the core of the recovery process, collective action from the grassroots has changed response operations in ways that few would have predicted. Using new tools that interconnect over expanding mobile networks, citizens can exchange information via maps and social media, then mobilize thousands of people to collect, analyze, and act on that information. Sometimes, community-sourced intelligence may be fresher and more accurate than the information given to the responders who provide aid. This report explores approaches to the questions that commonly emerge when building an interface between the grassroots and government agencies, with a particular focus on the accompanying legal, policy, and technology challenges.
The growing use of social media and other mass collaboration technologies is opening up new opportunities in disaster management efforts, but is also creating new challenges for policymakers looking to incorporate these tools into existing frameworks. The Commons Lab, part of the Science & Technology Innovation Program, hosted a September 2012 workshop bringing together emergency responders, crisis mappers, researchers, and software programmers to discuss issues surrounding the adoption of these new technologies. This report discusses the key findings, policy suggestions, and success stories that emerged during the workshop.
Hackathons offer an opportunity to achieve innovation-oriented goals with limited resources, but require careful planning and organizational commitment to sustain engagement over the long term. This brief provides an overview of hackathons and offers strategies from previous successful events.
This white paper describes a groundbreaking system of citizen science projects by the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientific institutions to detect and monitor earthquakes and engage the public in scientific research about seismic events. These approaches seek to provide a more robust earthquake alert network and generate more real-time motion data. The paper also looks at how future efforts could be improved. Successful crowdsourcing projects at the federal level must navigate a web of practical, legal and policy considerations. This paper identifies some of these hurdles and provides lessons learned so that others may apply them to their unique missions.
Individuals and organizations using social media and crowdsourcing need two key sets of information: a systematic assessment of the vulnerabilities in these technologies and a comprehensive set of best practices describing how to address these vulnerabilities. This report identifies certain vulnerabilities and provides a guideline to develop best practices necessary to address a growing number of incidents ranging from innocent mistakes to targeted attacks that have claimed lives and cost millions of dollars.
Social media is responsible for much positive change in the world. But these new tools can be used by bad actors to foment strife and undermine stability, as seen during violent incidents in the Assam state of northeast India in July 2012. Cybersecurity efforts must take into account the growing potential for cyber-attack using social media, where hoax messages are incorporated into a stream of otherwise legitimate messages, and understand how quickly mobile apps and text services can disseminate false information.
By harnessing the collective power of citizens and engaging communities in their own response and recovery, social media have the power to revolutionize emergency management. Yet, many challenges—including guidelines for use by response agencies, demonstration of value, and characterization of reliability—must be addressed if the potential of social media is to be fully realized in emergency response and relief efforts in the United States.
A white paper on the policy and technology behind the National Broadband Map, an open-source geographic information systems application allowing users to access detailed statistics on internet connectivity. This project demonstrates the value of transparency, collaboration, and cooperation in government projects.