Obama Administration Urges Trump to Continue Progress on Crowdsourcing

Federal crowdsourcing community started with five federal employee members, and now includes 300 from 59 different organizations.

The Obama administration is imploring President-elect Trump to build upon its legacy with incorporating more crowdsourcing into federal agency operations, saying the practice helps the government “better understand our society and the world we inhabit.” 

The General Services Administration made its pitch through a blog post by Kelly Olson, the acting director of the innovation portfolio at GSA's Technology Transformation Service. Citing research and recommendations by the Wilson Center, Olson highlighted the work agencies have done with the public at large and said it should be expanded -- and built more explicitly into agencies’ missions -- in the years to come. 

GSA’s plug came after federal employees from agencies across government gathered last month to discuss how they could grow crowdsourcing and “citizen science.” The Obama administration created the Federal Community of Practice on Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing three years ago and issued a 2015 presidential memorandum requiring agencies to create coordinators for those programs. Olson echoed a Wilson Center recommendation that the coordinators should take a more proactive role in facilitating discussions with the public and among federal agencies. 

The administration’s crowdsourcing “federal community” started with just five federal employee members, and now includes 300 from 59 different organizations. Twenty-five different federal agencies are currently supporting more than 300 different government-funded crowdsourced and community science projects, as cataloged by GSA on CitizenScience.gov. The vast majority of funding -- about $44 million per year -- comes from the National Science Foundation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Defense Department also allocate significant resources to those projects. 

The Wilson Center in its report called on Trump’s Office of Management and Budget and Office of Science and Technology Policy to issue new guidance on citizen science policies. It also recommended the president-elect collect additional information from the public, increase GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovation Technologies’ budget and build crowdsourcing priorities into federal agencies’ strategic plans. 

Crowdsourcing, Olson said in her post, will help the “federal workforce expand its solutions base.” She added GSA is “committed to growing these efforts across the federal government.”

Olson noted several examples of success stories from crowdsourcing projects, including monitoring mosquitoes carrying Zika, determining the mysterious cause of death for Oak trees near San Francisco, Calif., and “BioBlitzes” that have brought 80,000 volunteers to National Parks to monitor and discover species. 

“GSA and our partners will continue to work so that citizen engagement is a tool that any agency can apply to any problem,” Olson said. 

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